‘Madam, You have done Exemplary Justice’: Comedy, 1695–1700
On April 1695, for the first time in over twelve years, London found itself with two rival theatrical companies, for the oppressive tactics of the new manager of the United Company, Christopher Rich, had driven a group of senior actors under the leadership of Thomas Betterton to set up a breakaway company at the old Lincoln's Inn Fields theatre. The renewal of competition hugely increased the demand for new plays, and between the secession and the end of 1700 over ninety premieres are recorded. In any circumstances, such a glut of new plays would have contained much that was mediocre or incompetent, but matters were made worse by the slump of the mid-1680s, during which many established dramatists fell silent without being replaced by new talent. The only significant new dramatist to appear in the 1680s was Thomas Southerne.
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