Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century English Comedies as a New Kind of Drama: A Foucauldian Interpreta (BOK)
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This book opens new ways to study a literary genre that has been neglected far too long, and one misunderstood by many. For centuries the Restoration and its comedy have been ignored and rejected by critics and audiences in general. This study sheds new light on this period of drama by revealing how the general chaos of this passage from a pre-modern to a modern society, its uncertainty and unpredictability also had a deeper social and political message. The 17th century was not an easy time to live through; although the return of the Monarchy to Britain was greeted with great enthusiasm and fanfare, the problems soon stacked: the First Anglo-Dutch war was devastating for the country, with thousands of men dying in battle and with numerous ships sunk by the enemy. This mercantile war had disastrous consequences not just for the precarious economy of Britain, but for its already weak morale. The Great Plague, the largest pandemic in the history of Britain, devastated London in 1665-66; around 100,000 people were killed and most were displaced from their homes. When it seemed that the plague had remitted, a fire started in a bakery on Pudding Lane on Sunday, September 2nd. The fire lasted for three days and burned 13,287 buildings. Many took a cynical and hedonistic approach to these terrible events, including King Charles; indulging in sensual pleasures, he kept a merry court where enjoyment was paramount. Still, this hedonistic attitude is not just a frivolous attempt at forgetting the traumas around, but has a deeper meaning: by adopting a libertine lifestyle based on the Hobbesian principles, these men and women are, in fact reacting against the precepts of the New Order. In this study, the Foucauldian notions of power and resistance are put into use to better understand the true subversive potential of The Man of Mode and The Country Wife canonical masterpieces by Etherege and Wycherley and The Busybody, written by the virtual unknown Susannah Centlivre. These plays are not just mere entertaining pieces, but they offer us a wealth of subversive identities and characters.