Pizarro and the Politics of Silence
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.
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