By M. Anderson
Aphra Behn, Susannah Centlivre, Hannah Cowley, and Elizabeth Inchbald have been the one 4 lady playwrights in England with a number of comedian successes from 1670-1800. Behn's curiosity within the physique, Centlivre's fascination with written contracts, Cowley's nationalism, and Inchbald's dialogue of divorce emerge within the comedian occasions which are lively through the mental mechanisms of humor. getting to the discussion among those comedian occasions and the performs' extra predictable comedian endings illuminates the philosophical, political, and felony arguments approximately ladies and marriage that involved either girl playwrights and the theatergoing public.
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Extra info for Female Playwrights and Eighteenth-Century Comedy: Negotiating Marriage on the London Stage
Without biographical information, says Addison, readers do not know how to identify with an author, but once they have it, they can relax into a pleasurable relationship of knowledge that enables their reading. The author imbues his or her text with meaning through his or her identity; no reading is, by this logic, autonomous, and no reading can be pleasurable without the information about the author that grounds the reading process. This process of placing a text vis à vis the author has everything to do with finding a comedy pleasurable, and it dominated the reviews and prefatory materials of women writers, such that the gender of the author became the most important “fact” one could know about a play.
The tropes that characterize the comic events of these plays are historically responsive ways to “avoid madness . . [to] choose something . . instead of nothing” in relation to the marriage contract, as in Hannah Cowley’s The Belle’s Stratagem. Once Letitia Hardy has made her betrothed fall in love with her as a continental incognita, she must return him to the realities of marriage, while still retaining some of the erotic content that courtship has produced: Letitia: You see, I can be any thing; choose then my character—your Taste shall fix it.
Purdie makes this point inadvertently when she identifies the exchange of women as one of her three categories of comic exchange, reminding her readers that lack of implicating context requires a male body in most situations. Freud claims that viewers or readers could find a scene or play comic without knowing its author, but the bodies, or at least the gendered identities, of the first female playwrights became a part of their comedies. The fact that the plays can, contrary to the eighteenth century’s fascination with authorship, be enjoyed without knowing the identity of the author contradicts the fact that they usually were not.