This book is a critical study of all the surviving plays which were professionally premièred in England between 1660 and 1700: it analyses individual texts, often in detail, but tries to avoid the perils of isolated close reading by seeing each play in relation to the whole span of theatrical activity. It also attempts, on a more modest scale, to extend understanding of the social, political, and philosophical influences which shaped the dramatists' work. In setting particular texts within the total field, I try to achieve something like a close reading of the entire corpus, tracing recurrent and interacting motifs which often elude the eye when texts are viewed in isolation: examples are the stranger, or the woman falsified by history. My focus thus differs from that of Robert D. Hume's The Development of English Drama in the Late Seventeenth Century, but my intention is to complement rather than to challenge that indispensable work.
I discuss plays which received professional performance, though in this and other matters I have tried to place common sense above rigid consistency. It would, for example, be perverse to omit The Country Gentleman and The State of Innocence, and in some cases it is not clear whether a play was performed or not; here, I have generally given it the benefit of the doubt. A few manifestly unperformable plays have been mentioned because they throw some light on the performed repertoire. Perhaps three other pragmatic inconsistencies should be mentioned: I have given subtitles in my text only when they have some particular significance to my argument, and I have discussed The Rehearsal and The Female Wits in chapters on tragedy, in order to see them in conjunction with the plays which they parody. And, after experimenting with the consistent non-modernization of all play titles, I decided that the path of least inconvenience and anomaly would be to follow the form given in the copy-text.
In conformity with current scholarly practice, I use ‘Caroline’ to mean ‘of Charles I’ and ‘Carolean’ to mean ‘of Charles II’. Because of the very large number of play-texts cited, I have not given an individual footnote citation for each, but have instead followed the example of Hume's The Development of English Drama in the Late Seventeenth Century in documenting copy-texts by means of a separate index of plays. The index is preceded by a bibliography of all dramatic texts cited, other than original quartos, and index entries are accompanied by a parenthetical indication of the text used, a simple parenthetical date being that of a quarto.
Clearly, the fundamental work of reference for a project such as this is Part (p.vii) i of The London Stage, but since its publication there has been further significant work on the dating of premières, the most extensive being Judith Milhous and Robert D. Hume's ‘Dating Play Premières from Publication Data, 1660–1700’ and Pierre Danchin's The Prologues and Epilogues of the Restoration 1660–1700. I have generally followed the most recent authority, which is normally Danchin when a prologue or epilogue survives for the play. It must be emphasized, however, that definite external evidence for première dates is often lacking, and that the brief, parenthetical datings which I supply cannot capture all the nuances of probability or uncertainty. Marked uncertainty has been registered, but I have not distinguished certain dates from highly probable ones.
I should like this book to appeal to as wide a readership as possible, and have therefore briefly explained some things with which specialists will be well acquainted, such as the history of the companies and their theatres. I have tried to indicate all specific points of contact with other scholars, and to make pertinent suggestions for further reading, but I have been very sparing in the explicit expression of disagreement, and considerations of space have made it impossible to rehearse the existing state of critical opinion on every topic. To three scholars, however, I have intellectual debts which cannot adequately be expressed in a curt series of bibliographical references. They are Robert D. Hume, Judith Milhous, and Susan Staves.
Paul Hammond and Rob Hume have, respectively, read part and all of the manuscript, and I am most grateful for their labour and their constructive and detailed comments, on which I have acted to the best of my ability. Nadia Rigaud's invitation to participate on a colloquium on the Stranger in English Literature opened up a line of enquiry whose influence is evident throughout this book. My colleagues Bernard Capp and Robin Clifton have responded patiently to years of questioning about seventeenth-century history, and Sir Brooke Boothby and Michael Hodgetts have given painstaking help in my so far uncompleted research into the identity of Frances Boothby.
My discussion of the Dryden-Davenant Tempest appeared, in different form, as ‘The Dryden—Davenant Tempest and some seventeenth-century images of the stranger’, in L'Étranger dans la littérature et la Pensée Anglaises, ed. Nadia J. Rigaud, Centre Aixois de Recherches Anglaises 9 (Aix-en-Provence, 1989), 83–108. Material from the following articles has also been reworked, in abbreviated or selective form: ‘Play and Passion in The Man of Mode’, Comparative Drama, 15 (1981), 231–57; ‘Dryden's Don Sebastian and the Literature of Heroism’, Yearbook of English Studies, 12 (1982), 72–90; ‘The Unity of Dryden's Marriage A-la-Mode’ Philological Quarterly, 61 (1982), 125–42; ‘The Plain-Dealer: A Reappraisal’, Modern Language Quarterly, 43 (1982), 315–36; ‘Art and Life in All for Love’, Studies in Philology, 80 (1983), 84–107; ‘Otway's The Orphan: An Interpretation’, Durham University Journal, 75 (1983), 45–54; ‘Cibber and Vanbrugh: (p.viii) Language, Place, and Social Order in Love's Last Shift’, Comparative Drama, 20 (1986), 287–304; ‘Vanbrugh and Cibber: Language, Place, and Social Order in The Relapse’, Comparative Drama, 21 (1987), 62–83; ‘Naming and Entitlement in Wycherley, Etherege, and Dryden’, Comparative Drama, 21 (1987), 259–89. In all cases, I am grateful to the original publishers for permission to reuse material.