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Theatres of OppositionEmpire, Revolution, and Richard Brinsley Sheridan$
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David Francis Taylor

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199642847

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199642847.001.0001

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‘Hear Me!’

‘Hear Me!’

Pizarro and the Politics of Silence

(p.119) 4 ‘Hear Me!’
Theatres of Opposition

David Francis Taylor

Oxford University Press

Building on the preceding chapter’s discussion of the trial of Warren Hastings, this chapter turns to Sheridan’s phenomenally successful tragedy Pizarro (May 1799), a loose adaptation of a German play by August von Kotzebue in which Sheridan recycled as dramatic dialogue several passages from his Hastings trial speeches. Dramatizing the Spanish conquest of Peru, and appearing just a year after the bloody 1798 Rebellion in Ireland (a crisis about which Sheridan spoke passionately), this chapter argues that Pizarro represents a theatrical meditation on the failure of humanitarian rhetoric to prevent colonial atrocity—in India and Ireland. If Sheridan’s play finally stages a redemptive politics then this is to be found not in speech but rather in the organization of space and the performance of silence.

Keywords:   India, Ireland, Pizarro, Sheridan, oratory, rebellion, speech, silence, tragedy, spectacle

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