“Scene: Virginia”: America and Heroic Drama on the Restoration Stage
The Afterword explores commercial drama from the interregnum and early Restoration periods, when colonies and colonizers began to be staged in the London playhouses. These staging practices were innovative and also show the persistence of certain New World memes that we first see in drama pre-1642: talk of cannibalism, of Indian display and the futility of the religious mission, and of the prodigal Virginia adventurer. Here also we find a genre shift to “heroic drama.” Yet when drama represented the English in the New World, it either prophesized their arrival in some imagined future or fell back on London comedy typologies: Aphra Behn’s The Widow Ranter combines both the Dryden model of drama and the London comedy model. While earlier drama used Virginia as a way of explaining or enhancing certain London types, in Behn’s play London types are employed to make legible a new type of character: the Virginian.
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