'A Play in Our Nation'? Can the drama of late seventeenth-century Scotland be considered as restoration comedy, and are these comedies successful?

Wells, Heather Carolyn (2018) 'A Play in Our Nation'? Can the drama of late seventeenth-century Scotland be considered as restoration comedy, and are these comedies successful? MPhil(R) thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Printed Thesis Information: https://eleanor.lib.gla.ac.uk/record=b3308246

Abstract

This dissertation seeks to answer the research question ‘Can the drama of seventeenth-century Scotland be considered as Restoration comedy, and are these comedies successful?’ This question arose after having observed the similarities between late seventeenth-century Scottish drama and English Restoration comedy. The aim is to understand whether the Scottish plays are exactly the same as English Restoration comedies, or whether they have distinctly Scottish features that would prevent them from sharing the genre. Questioning the success of the Scottish comedies was inspired by the fact that modern scholarship usually ignores them, believing that they are poor imitations of English comedy, without giving much attention to their detail. This dissertation examines the plays in their own context and attempts to establish how their contemporary audiences would have responded to the plays, rather than judging them by modern standards as is so often done.
Seventeenth-century Scottish theatre is an understudied area with little existing scholarship, and so the Introduction essentially lays the foundations upon which this study is based. It outlines the socio-political landscape of Scotland during the Restoration period and introduces the three Scottish plays that are the focus of this research: Marciano; or the Discovery, by William Clark (1663), Tarugo’s Wiles; or, the Coffee-House, by Thomas St Serf (1668) and The Assembly, by Archibald Pitcairne (1691).
Chapter One and Chapter Two of this dissertation deal with the first part of the research question: can the drama of late seventeenth-century Scotland be considered as Restoration comedy? Chapter One puts the late seventeenth-century Scottish plays into a Scottish context by outlining the theatrical landscape of Scotland before the seventeenth-century. Due to an absence of established theatre in Scotland until the eighteenth century, Scottish public entertainment and theatrical tradition took a variety of forms. This chapter considers how the seventeenth-century Scottish plays have been influenced by these traditions, particularly the moral and didactic elements found in earlier plays including Sir David Lindsay’s Ane Satyre of the Thrie Estaitis and the anonymous Philotus, attempting to establish if elements of these plays are influenced by the Scottish tradition.
Chapter Two compares the Scottish comedies of the seventeenth century with English Restoration comedy to establish what similarities exist between the two. It shows that the royalist views of the playwrights from both countries are displayed through their positive portrayals of the Restoration of Charles II, which is done within the plays through restoring rightful authorities back to power and portraying socially acceptable marriages to promote the social structures established by the Restoration. It also highlights a number of comic features shared between the Scottish and English plays, especially through the use of placing characters with opposing views together within the plays, and through comic characters such as the fop. These chapters explore whether seventeenth-century Scottish drama does share enough with English Restoration theatre to be considered Restoration comedy in its own right, and if it has a Scottish element that prevents it from being considered purely imitative of English Restoration comedy.
Chapter Three addresses the second part of the research question: are these comedies successful? This chapter considers ‘success’ in terms of how the plays met the expectations of their authors and audiences. Because so little is known about the authors and the plays themselves, this chapter uses prefaces, prologues and epilogues written by the playwrights to speculate about what they hope their plays would achieve. It also considers what a Restoration audience might have expected and speculates about what the response would have been to these Scottish plays by engaging with what little criticism exists from the Scottish Restoration period, and the few references made to the plays by those who saw them.
This study concludes by arguing that the Scottish Restoration comedies, while sharing similarities with English Restoration comedy, are influenced by Scottish traditions, which justifies their place in the Scottish canon. It acknowledges that study in seventeenth-century Scottish drama is still a new field, and highlights the need for further research.

Item Type: Thesis (MPhil(R))
Qualification Level: Masters
Keywords: Restoration comedy, restoration Scotland, seventeenth-century Scottish drama.
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Critical Studies
Supervisor's Name: van Heijnsbergen, Dr Theo
Date of Award: 2018
Depositing User: Heather Wells
Unique ID: glathesis:2018-9028
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 04 May 2018 10:05
Last Modified: 08 Jun 2018 11:05
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/9028

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