Shakespeare and Co. "Quite Undone" : English Renaissance Plays as Late Restoration Popular Entertainments



Year of publication 2022
Type Appeared in Conference without Proceedings
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Description As Anna Mikyšková has recently argued, early 18th-century England witnessed a clash over the character of English theatres, with theatre managers on one side, who were the leading force behind the theatres’ commercialisation, and critics and authors on the other, who (at least verbally) combated what they saw as a decline in the theatres’ quality. Indeed, figures such as Nahum Tate, William Hogarth, Richard Steele and many others decried the replacement of old classics by new entertainments on London stages, with one of the contemporaneous satirical prints lamenting, "Shakespeare, Rowe, Johnson now are quite undone, / These are thy Triumphs, thy Exploits O Lun!" The present paper will address the attempts to reconcile Renaissance dramaturgy and the early 18th-century popular theatrical forms, focusing on afterpieces and entertainments such as Susanna Centlivre’s A Bickerstaff’s Burying, Christopher Bullock’s The Slip and The Cobbler of Preston, James Worsdale’s A Cure for Scold and others that took the pre-Interregnum dramatic tradition as their source of inspiration. As Shakespeare and his contemporaries have always been associated with "popular theatre", the paper will address the question of what constituted a popular entertainment at in early 18th-century England and what strategies late Restoration playwrights employed to reconcile the perceived "high" culture with the then current demands of the theatregoing audiences. The time-scope of the paper will be the first three decades of the 18th century, that is, the period just before David Garrick’s first efforts to establish Shakespeare as a national poet and himself as "the true son of Shakespeare’s royal ghost" (Dobson).
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