Considering plays by Philip Massinger, Richard Brome, Ben Jonson, John Ford and James Shirley, this study addresses the political import of Caroline drama as it engages with contemporary struggles over authority between royal prerogative, common law and local custom in seventeenth-century England. How are these different aspects of law and government constructed and negotiated in plays of the period? What did these stagings mean in the increasingly unstable political context of Caroline England? Beginning each chapter with a summary of the legal and political debates relevant to the forms of authority contested in the plays of that chapter, Jessica Dyson responds to these kinds of questions, arguing that drama provides a medium whereby the political and legal debates of the period may be presented to, and debated by, a wider audience than the more technical contemporary discourses of law could permit. In so doing, this book transforms our understanding of the Caroline commercial theatre’s relationship with legal authority.
Jessica Dyson is Lecturer in English at the University of Portsmouth, UK.
'... this study will be of interest to scholars of seventeenth-century drama, legal history, and the intellectual history of England's evolution toward royalist and parliamentary polarization.' Seventeenth-Century News 'Staging Authority in Caroline England: Prerogative, Law and Order in Drama, 1625 -1642 is a welcome addition to the growing body of critical work devoted to Caroline drama. ... this book succeeds as a lively exploration of the ways in which Caroline playwrights turned questions of law and politics into character and narrative action.' Renaissance Quarterly 'Jessica Dyson's study on the professional stage's representation and negotiation of the royal prerogative during the Caroline period is a recent and valuable addition to the Law and Literature movement in early modern literary criticism.' Renaissance Studies