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The Stage Controversy: Jeremy Collier and the Moral Reform of Politics, 1688–1722

HUANG, CHIH-HSIN (2022) The Stage Controversy: Jeremy Collier and the Moral Reform of Politics, 1688–1722. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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This thesis addresses how the ‘rage of party’ in Britain from 1690 to 1722 was introduced into and reinforced by the Stage Controversy through pamphleteers’ and playwrights’ communication with their audiences. The two parts of the thesis focus respectively on the Nonjuror Jeremy Collier’s works and Reform Comedy. Part I explicates the political meaning of Collier’s anti-stage pamphlets, but not in a straightforward manner. It reconsiders what Collier thought he was doing in the first two decades after 1688 and redefines his works on politics and drama as special types of conduct books. In order to determine the composition and origin of Collier’s conduct writing on drama, the three chapters in Part I are arranged in reverse chronological order, from his anti-theatrical tracts between 1698 and 1708, back through Vanbrugh’s profound criticism of conduct literature in The Relapse in 1696, and further back to Collier’s anti-Revolutionary pamphlets between 1689 and 1696.
Part II goes beyond the widely-accepted definition of the Stage Controversy as a pamphlet war and addresses how reform comedians influenced the audience’s emotions toward obedience when constructing their counter-arguments to Collier’s critique. The three chapters in Part II proceed chronologically, from comic playwrights’ hostile reaction to Collier between 1698 and 1704, to the reversal of Colley Cibber’s attitude towards Collier’s criticism in The Careless Husband in late 1704, and finally to reform comedians’ reflections on the justification of resistance and Arthur Bedford’s condemnation of the impenitence of the theatre from 1705 to the 1710s. By juxtaposing reform comedies with seventeenth- and eighteenth-century conduct books, Part II explores the shift in Whig playwrights’ discourse on contract theory from contractual resistance to contractual obedience. It also re-examines the interrelationship between the stage controversialists.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Stage Controversy, Jeremy Collier, Reform Comedy, political drama, Revolution of 1688–89
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > History, Department of
Thesis Date:2022
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:01 Apr 2022 15:29

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