Historians of the London theatre have long argued for the wonderful inventiveness and vitality of the Restoration stage; more recently, critics have begun to remind readers that plays written and performed between 1660 and the late eighteenth century (like other forms of literary expression in this period) fused parochial and domestic concerns with themes and plots located overseas. Over the course of the century, the stage became home to characters and socio-economic types who represented the enormous energies and anxieties that accompanied commercial and colonial expansion. In many ways then, the gratifications theatre offered its patrons and audiences were inescapably tied up with its ability to dramatize the coming into being of “Great Britain”—an imperial state possessed of a national culture and a people adequate to its needs.
The syllabus will feature plays representative of the various forms of drama in this period, and will cover a great deal of literary-historical ground, while focusing on the relations between drama and cultural and socio-economic transitions. We will also examine the key categories (e. g. `Restoration Drama', `heroic tragedy', `sentimental comedy') that literary critics use to describe the English drama of the later seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.