1st Edition

Printed Drama and Political Instability in Mid-Seventeenth-Century Britain The Literary Politics of Resistance and Distraction in Plays and Entertainments, 1649–1658

By Christopher Orchard Copyright 2023
    346 Pages 2 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Printed Drama and Political Instability in Mid-Seventeenth-Century Britain: The Literary Politics of Resistance and Distraction in Plays and Entertainments, 16491658 describes the function of printed drama in 1650s Britain.

    After the regicide of 1649, printed plays could be interpreted by royalist readers as texts of resistance to the republic and protectoral governments respectively. However, there were often discrepancies between the aspirational content of these plays and the realities facing a royalist party who had been defeated in the Civil Wars. Similarly, plays with a classically republican Roman setting failed to offer a successful model for the new republic. Consequently, writers who supported the new republic and, eventually, Cromwell’s protectoral government, proposed entertainments, based around the concept of the sublime, whose purpose was to create political amnesia in the audience, thereby nullifying any political dissatisfaction with a non-monarchical form of government.

    This volume will appeal to students and scholars of seventeenth-century literature, and of the political history of 1640s and 1650s Britain.

    Acknowledgements; Introduction: The politics of printed drama in 1650s Britain; Chapter 1: The ambivalent political messaging of Royalist drama, 1649-1650; Chapter 2: Poetics as political policy: the republic’s early response to Royalist drama, 1649-1651; Chapter 3: “A floating unbalanced people”: Drama and the instability of the republican state, 1651-1653; Chapter 4: They “always speak things as they would have them”: The failures of aspirational royalist drama, 1651-1653; Chapter 5: Royalist drama, the legitimacy of authority, and social and political unrest in the mid-1650s; Chapter 6: Republics and ethics: The moral probity of protectoral entertainments, 1653-1658; Conclusion: The hijacking of republican poetics; Index


    Christopher Orchard is a professor in the English department at Indiana University of Pennsylvania where he specializes in Renaissance literature, literature of the 1640s and 1650s, and Shakespeare. He has published numerous articles on Milton, Katherine Philips, and writing of the 1650s.