BASIS FOR UNDERSTANDING DRAMA
OF THE RESTORATION PERIOD
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO
DEGREE OF DOCTOR
Of the many
but he has exemplified
me are the best
me in Restoration
for his helpful
at the University
on my Supervisory
for all his help
and for his time
to thank Professor
J. Ben Pickard.
to thank my
eful to my wife,
at the typewriter,
and her interest
be little more
TABLE OF CONTENTS
INTRODUCTION....... ........................ ........... .... .....
THE CRITICAL GROUNDS--NO NEED TO SHIFT THEM
CHAPTER II............. .........................................
ARTISTRY AND JUDGMENT: TEACHING VIRTUE BY EXPOSING
Notes...... ........................ ..................
PERSUASION OF THE UNKNOWING: THE SUCCESS OF COLLIER'S
Notes.... ... ............................ .............
CHAPTER IV...... ..................a ....... ........................
THE STAGE/WORLD METAPHOR: MORAL DESIGN OR PATTERN FOR
BIBLIOGRAPHY...... ............ ............... ... .. .. ..............a
of the Universi
tv of Florida i
to the Graduate
Fulfillment of t
for the Degr
Joseph J. Popson,
on the Restoration
of the Restoration
us a very
of the stage,
of the drama,
of its artistic
in their views
of the plays,
of it still
did in his Platonic
for all whose
as a judge
of the morality
in the plays.
in reading and
in his reasoning,
for a clergyman
and a basic misunderstanding
of the effects
on a Christian
of others which
or to the strength
due to the changing
of the societies
saw the Restoration
as a "little
s The Poor Man's Plea
of the Town
and in the midst
of all this
s A Short View of the
was in one
and a reflection
of the reformation
at the end of the
all the fury
of the fire
of A Short View
of this divine's
at Stow Qui
as a member
of the clergy.
and a linguist,
on to receive
and a priest
in the follow-
for a short
at the Countess
for six years.
for in his later moral
of the profession,
led to his
for the clergy
in his anti-stage
he was made
as a devoted
and outspoken non-juror.
His "Desertion Discuss 'd
to communicate with
to accept it because
of his friends,
on the London
and Sir William
at this w
The feeling was
and the other
of his life.)
him from publishing
on the day
of the three
to the laws
in the thin
he had already
and The Great
of his works,
in his abilities.
see him as
A Short View
a warrior who
out to battle,
at once most
of the living writers,
of his "unconquerable
as a warrior may
to his vision
as a steadfast moral
in his Moral
is the Guard
and the Being
for a Coward
on the nature
" In his
of the changes
in the first
a new view
in the second
to be cruel.
was an ineluctable
a moralism mas
Iv of exhortations
on the freedom
of the human
sin as a condition
to be treated
as a condition,
to in Collier,
and his potential
f he willfully
was not corrupt
two of Collier's
on to explain
of the soul
in the Knowledge
of the Soul
be all reduced
to the Understanding,
in the most
of the will
of the Will
a Man is born
, yet '
to the other.
. in his
of the Fall
" She cites
. r -_ -.--
,TTU I, ^ C-C-.-A
was not supply'd
SL rL L
r oar, "19
not the Fall,
as a "Divine
and a deemphasis
to view man
not to be over-awed
to be Possessed
is to live
as if the Millennium was
or the Gates of Paradise
The Poor would
be no such
be the S
and the Sport
their Swords i:
in our Stree
wnt l r1
r would they learn War any more. Then
rim rdnrnm 1-flcc WPtcn1 nin -tfchrtn nl cc 'c.
to the Fall)
not surprising when
a good man:
to the Rule
but be lov'd
for the Gods
To do this,
be in effect
the Gods is
of how man
and the Greatest
but one Advantage,
to God Almighty,
in the same Actions
for a Return .
we are thus affected,
can no more
out in her study.
and his deemphasis
of the Fall
-Cl~~~~~~-, -' -- --- ---2 --hI -------
1 A- -t J A1 1
r i _
_ ^ ..
for keeping man
out of the way
his basically virtuous
is only necessary
see in a mimetic
of the strongest
in the field
and the knowledge
in so many
as an incessant
and seeming pleasures,
and good must
s fallen state
-~~~~~~~~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ .-: ar -.e. -- a--C- .naa C l c- -4\
- -, n a 9 -
I I- -I
in his fancied
of the playwrights
to recognize man's
as a preservation
and the necessity
of all that
A Short View
and in his later
In his remarks
us sorry we
are of the
In A Defence
of the Short View
off in Generals.
of the Stage
the side of
and to encline
are false Notions,
am not at all forced
an ill Thing,
is out of
He is Master
of God ma
, and brin
is not at all consistent
for great minds
out of the way
and to know
" The contradiction
and his desire
to keep men
his free will)
(by those a
for a society
virtue. But in
to his Platonism,
out the faults
as an authority.
in his Ion
s use of
to the drama
of Dramatick Justice:
But when he is su
at their very
to not to hear
in some measure
"is all along
at the evil
see and hear
to the ability
of the wicked
and language merely
as a form
and other men
cut off enough
of the world.
to envision a
of view while
of a moralism
A Short View of the
(1698): A Critical
r in The
See A Short View of the
English Stage (London,
the Short View of the
(London, 1699), pp. 70
83-84 & 127
) and A
to the DNB,
this attack was
and the defeat o
7Lives of the Poets,
Octagon Books, Inc.
8The Works of Lord
, IX, 378.
and the 2nd edition
the 6th edition
t part 3
out at those
iThe Rise of
to Baxter (
ation of the
I / <
of the other
Of the Value
of the Apostles
in the highest
, to bring
in their best
the Soul of
ch a Prize han
it? Who would
and is worthy
gs in View, w
16 and to the danger
ate in Moral
in A Short View,
27The Works of John Milton,
Columbia University Press,
29A Short View,
2 fl n r~ -
his own will,
and "the Ass
as in the Moral Essays
o remain innocent.
has a similar
cal Works of John
t in The Antient
, ed. E
38A Short View,
for the "'holy
out that Jeremy
of the Restoration
the controversy which
be of little
not show most
as an element
is not even
art and morality,
"if a play
, to recommend
not only what
was the intention
of their vision
of the world
is my position
of the plays
issue at the heart
concerns of all tho
can be obtained
of the Collier
in the art of
for it reflects
of the modern
a Christian world-view,
on the workings
and the destiny
out in his
of the world
era and redu
of the Royal
of this world-view have
to the best
in the "Christian
and with a
as a maker
as a moral
in the nature
not only points
out the influence
on the educated
to be treated
as a branch
of the sermons]
to be distorted.
was the reli
and the Scientists
of the London
to the scientists
of the period
of the world.
of all these
vision of human
and the ways
in writing which
but it does
it is related
to his salvation
and the role
in man' s
and the workings
of the intention
of their plays.
rules for criticism,
to his attack
, for example,
a competent d
of the dramatist"
with no mention
of John Dennis's
s The Antient
s A Defence
and A Farther
on the evaluation
not the aim or
art is fashioned
in the heat
it is t
of a morals
t to improve
is his [the
not his object.
" He also
to the morality
of the artist's
not the intention.
" His statements
" In fact,
to be doing what
he has accused
at the drama
as the seventeenth
as a way
it is certain
for all of the plays,
us the most
in the late
as in the earlier
of the moral
as he begins
his Short View,
is to recommend
4-4 -4 4 .
* 9 1
Ir MW 4
on to condemn
as he wrote his
the purpose of
of the Restoration
of the anonymous writers
to attack Otway
But in all of these
in the lat-
all of Collier's
for as G.
Its aim was
and the kind
not as concerned
in the moral
4 -s -4 ,- -
I .. I
as to instruct:
'd in a ridi-
so are good People at
the Mock Astrologer
of the dramatist
is to work
and the small
in the play
is in general
of his plays
is an understanding
of the plays
to Dryden' s
as an overzealous
of the drama.
do the argumentative
s The Non-Juror
from the Dead to the
of His Mail
to Jew of
all of these
s A Defence
of the Stage
see for drama
in their critical
to end all drama
of the moral
of the people
and the king,
of his evidence.
is not due
in the late
in his moral
for the dramatist
and the expression
in their plays.
In the epistle
might be of
not only for the
but also for the
in A Discourse
if the English
ful let them be
for a regulated
er, and heartily wish,
and the too frequent
our Comedies, were
nhfl r m 45
L.Jl LeI LJ L/LaLL ra.
And what is
it we pity
, but the
to the Treachery
and by whom
in the Trag4edy,
tI ciif fer H46
V .JAL I. UL L .JAI.LJ
to the ends
of the artistic
of the Restoration
In the same
. for the Follies,
and the Passions
as a "satyrist,
and deprav' d"
to the playwrights
, and Particularly
so far from
had the potential
but for him
and its best
for into what
it is plain
is of Divine
s After the
in the necessity
of the Stage
to the Publick,
but in Three
and the relationship
of the other
as a necessary
of the defenders,
see if they
the world-view which
One problem arises
are not primarily
to be identified
and therefore may
of the period
to his defense
of the remaining works
do all the critics
of the playwrights
of the Restoration.
for the vice
If the Stage
of the Kingdom
to the Theatre,
as the frequenters
nor the Power
but he also
is the expression
as a way
and improve man:
are so far from
, The Stage
use of the dialogue
on the roles
and the pulpit
in providing moral
a A-- I .3_ _
. ... r 1
t- ^ A
the medium is
the message may
are to be avoided,
in the dark what
you the picture
is not instructed
the Stage exposing
r imposition; for
to the life
to the preacher
in the midst
to in later
of them are
to be kept
" For the good
of the individual
and Fear within
how we may
and all this
force its [si
our own Fault
are not lastin
and the insinuating
at the decent r
on the emotions
of the audience,
he has learned
for the lives
of those who
g of tragedy
see and read
are to be Natural;
and the Persons
are to be such
" In making
he has already
in the Enjoyment
Men in order
of the Publick
of the audience,
he was meted
of "the measures
For as the Divine Herbert
may find him who
And Turn Delight
it is to
of the Actor
we are carry'd
see an unfortunate
nd draws a
in a like
us to Judge
we see a small
: it teacher
s us at
in the Manage-
T1t < t
* 1 -
*. 1 I
1 1 iTT '
of the audience,
in the moral
of his Short View of the
a very mean
of the Audience,
all the Poets
so far affect
but he must
on the Stage,
of his Art;
who know nothing
of it can't
are not to be endur
of the Science
but in order
to be expos'd
of the world.
of the defenders,
in his desire
in it self,
on the violent
of his belief
in the moral
of the pl
see the Stage
on the other,
in the Defence
as to be
, for he is still
and tha t
as a Diversion not
a one indeed,
as an artistic
and a characteristic
of the plays
saw for drama
in A Short View
of his evidence,
of the play
as a work
He is also
of the emotional
of the play
those as Subverters
to the establish
- __ -
of the modern
of the Pla
are the Fable, the
Of these the Fable
. and the
of it with
, and submit-
in her Fable,
to the Practices
in the conclusion,
he calls "the
can be made
nd the most
of the Dram
of the tradition
in the plays
He is persistent
it is apparent
in all three
But for the defenders
for the critical
, to be enjoyed,
as no surprise
in his book,
University of Wisconsin Press,
of the moral perspective which
ee in tragedy.
and the Works
ance of Et
: and Willard
), p 4,
S. to Kathl
Drama: A Link in the
.e University Press, 1i
1. L. C. Knights
, after the
RPl i i ntmi
tI l I
to the Age of Reason:
P Church of Enaland 1
A Study of
660 to 1700
, The Term C
based on the
1668-1709 A.D. with a
: Edward Arber, 1906),
of its books
order in human
to the greater world
as a fundamental
see a "new morality"
see as orthodox
an age fundamentally
to fit "into
22A Short View of the
Together with a Sense of
of the Engl
Works of John Dennis,
Hopkins University Pr
ff auf de
of the Re
s, 1956), p.
of the following
in a rather
and the New
of Mr. Collier's
his A Short
and a criti
and epilogue with
eface to Phaeton
of His Mail (L
to The P
of the Stage
in a Blanket
n, 1703), an
md The Stage
on the Operah
T:l 1 _
1 1 'I *
in the dedicatory
Love Makes a N
Love Makes apology
and An Apology
for the Life of Mr.
had Collier in mind
and the preface
I his play
to The Twin
in Letters f
in the epilogue
to The Jew
and A Legacy
in the de
to An Act at
f the E
The Stage Ac
ion of the
of His Short View of the
(London, 1699), Visits
s on the
in his Amendments
s False and
Works of Wi
all the Absurdities
of his defense
preface to The Camp
in his Vindication,
of Sir John
on his plays.
not in his
Poesy and other Critical
:Sons, Ltd., 1962), II,
and interpreted my words
an ing by
in his poetic
and his preface
to the "Battle
and the danger
of Drama in the
8), The Grove or,
act of The Novelty
The Sham Lawyer;
as the fourth
ie London I
act of The
as an anonymo
on as a
is in italics,
to follow nature
and the painter
as for others,
to be entered
sin and turning
we sit in the
us to the
as the Chris-
and to reject
the audience was
, for while
as his corollary
of the nature
and at times
and William Law
of the plays
to Collier, a
of the times)
11 of these reactions
or to dismiss
as an unimportant
the proper moral
of the drama.
of the best
and the strengths,
and the Play-House,
of his specific
"is the distinguishin
as a Guard
on to call
the Mechanism of
as a kind
" To this
of the generality
in the Contexture
no dependence on
But for Collier
he is opposed
he is unable
and clergymen who
as to do "Violence
" and "attack
all the Subdivisions
of the female
sex are disparaged
one of them
As for the clergy
on the ill
and had I
of the Roast,
But the "Relapser"1
to explain Miss
to the audience
of the Audience,
e are not
at the same
to put t
for the ideas
Love for Love
Vj _J- %
or the Affectation of
of understanding his
of the audience will
in A Short View,
in his satiric
of the Ladies,
f our Plays,
But does he
is so very weak,
as to be o'erthrown
as he calls
on the Stage,
so many noble
no manner of
, to strengthen
S. let them,
but at the
can be entertained
Wit and good
of true writ
of the Body,
not all of it fit for
of the Play-House.
of the Reforming
But at the
as to be warm'd
of how people
in the audience
in the audience
can be moved
as a mirror;
on and explain
to the audience,
not in bare
or in your
4 -. 4 4I 4
on the playwrights
to act and speak
is the character
to Rapin' s :
was a notion
and so universally
as if peculiar
If the Poets
the Sex wou'd
the Sex has no Interest
in the Virtues
on the Stage,
or are affected
are not to be imitated;
are to be judged
of decorum and
set off by
1 a .9 1< r. 1
for the audience
on the language
in his plays
is less concerned
of the Nicest
ion and their
to be reminded
to be favorably
of the vicious
no matter what
As he replies
as an Indication
do as well
for the playwrights,
he is above
a Commoner may
to Mr. Collier
the bare Advantage
to add to their
be exposed, t
, as being the
our Nobility more
are such whose
the Order of
n out of
* 1 Irfl
-1 1 n
For as the
we would make
in the exposing
And as the
the Play must
to the Cautioning
ersation of V
f. Thus the
t and Honour,
as [to] th
a Fine Gentleman.
for as a Christian
on an audience.
of A Letter
is not swept
foolish Peer who
on the Stage"
the Men of Condition":
in a particular
on all who belong
has its end,
And this is
far from serving
it is difficult
how Collier might
the other nobles
a one the
of his Order,
her in her
in the representation,
For he only
If Men of
and the Respect
of the clergy
on the stage,
as a satirical
of A Short View
of the abuses
of the clergy
or foolish men
of the cloth
are fit for such
" As he
in the Intention
of all Moral
gy through a
" But he
did to bring
the drunken Brute
any Play e
as a Priest,
for the office
and with an
of the clergy
Man has in
and the Author.
of it and sin
- -- --
I.--~~J -Ui- f
" .. 1-1
he is subject
to the Penalties
if he plays
of the Law,
he is equally with
are in their
on the S
does it at all
of the pious
Ibi nullius e
to take of-
no matter what
for an apparently
in A Short View
The Men may
a fine way
but he has
of the cloth;
to other men--
are to be represented.
to be judged
of the Short
In his reply
If you make
to be privileg'd
in his Function.
for he later
are so much
as ill with
in the discharge
of the priests
on a defense of
of other men;
on their very
as other men.
of worldly wealth
r it wherever
t Christ a
the wrong Handle;
the Pope and
in the Policy
like St. John,
such an Ass
but to "their
y and tender
in his depiction
of the rights
is not to boa
but to shew
and his Humility,
are still men
to the Deity"
Short View indicates.
for his mind,
and mad that
the shewing any
y, as if thereby
can see 'em
and had rather
and as readily
as a re-
to him a
of the clergy
of God Almighty
in the most
to affect men,
his observations were
and the Laity
has appear 'd
in as differing
a Man might
and guard against
of his faults
see them when
of His Short
not a good
see an ill
not be concerned,
the Bad are exposed
as Sir Tunbelly's,
use of clergymen
all of those who defended
in the Stocks
can he pull
Let a Cler
or a Rake,
or a Coxcomb,
and in many
. and that
to affront the
d it as scandal-
or the shame
wav a nlavwriaht
a le islator work
see the play
as an artistic work,
and the audience
of the characters
he has dis-
is his Platonic
of human nature
In A Defence
of the Short View of the
ity of the
as an excuse,
" He asserts
of the S
a Man Mad,
of understanding of
it may not
to the Per-
be believe' d
all the ugly
and in his Mouth
can it have
it is spoken;
and the characters
and the artist
fit the situations
as if anticipating
as to good
" He notes
or the Royal
and he thus
in the play:
it be urged
not to be
in the Holy
as a pattern
in the characters
to be made
to the deficient
It is in large
in all its deformity
of the artistic
of their works.
in the Comedy
of the Drama.
se posita magis
off the Diamond.
of the impact
if the character
on the struggle
of the stru ele--Amanda'
as an abstract
but in the
d but by
no other way
not be punish'd
as he keeps
^__ __ 51
as far as d
t in the
a character who
to the audience.
in the play
not some p
on what went
and on the Character
can a man
and all that
Has not Milton
in the best
of God Almighty?
holds the T
.ht on this
to his Beauty
in the world
is no necess
for tho they
and the like,
in the Audience;
of the presentation
of the audience
of the society
to the unfolding
and the ultimate
not to be
of the Man,
and the Publick
use of Thoughts
of the Stage,
he represented must
and he mistakenly
to be Examples
or a character,
as the admirable
are not to be fool'd
to the need
not be "judging
was the key
but the basis
on i n nn i n T1 --Ti o i ni 1r n n L ri L I r-1 II I I* I i i ri l I I I I -j i-
nm 1 f -
T^, :e J- 4-1 A-u
.... I t
o t" or
of the Short View of the
of the Ch
th's The Stage
the public with
ts of the Stage
of Stage Plays
1706); A Serious Rem
1719); The G
late in 1698.
ons on the Scandalous
ce in Beh
in the Parish-Church of St.
r's The Absolute Unlawfulness
*ated first appeared in 1726.
in The Lives of the English
ists of the Restoration" and
, and Macaulay,
History of England,
and the Cl
, and the World
of the Immorality
Stage (London, 1698), p.
A Short View,
, 17 &
Works of Sir
Works of Wil
16A Short View,
as a moral
as a de-
had earlier made
as a "Gentleman
of Wit and Honour"
And that th
Reflections on the Stage,
(London, 1699), pp. 65-66.
J. M. Dent
the audience: "
h while i
and is wound
.t is charmed
o a sense
ing the Stage
rks Upon Mr. C
of his Short View
er to A. H. Esq.;
on the drama.
and his followers
is it possible
E. E. Stoll
to the old faith--their
for this disagreement,
of Collier's arguments
an evaluation of
ges in the drama
and his conclusions
And because much
as an expert
as a reformer
and his authority
as a jud
in the drama.
II and the theatre,
can a work
like A Short View
in the theatre
the controversy with
and its taste
of the audience.
is even more
as the most
nts were be
in and around
to the theatres
of the better
in the audience
in A Large
of the Taste in
in Love with
and the delightful
of Jack Pudding
these noble Pastimes
of his letter
in the Reign
is at present.
" In drawing
is among any
a very consid
and when th
alified to judge
are not qualified
few of an Audience
are not rightly
on to state
in another without
of it in himself":
And as for the
and a knowled
s, be requisite
of the Dialogue
if a Poet
to be able
, one had
all of the following
and a solid
of the World
of the audience
of the Restoration
in an Audience"
of the Soul,
of the Body,
do force and
of the pi
in the audience
is not to
but as a developing
they were making
of all merchants
1 __ _~ I
is a Mischief
to be dreaded
to the last
loth, no matt
er his lack
of A Short View would
for the sudden
are the societies
for the refor-
to form shortly
two great waves
of enthusiasm for
the bulwark of
and Mary; it
in the for-
but in the
of the societies
for the reformation
of the Lord's
s in The
in A Short
so far for
as to tell
and in prospering
of the movement
as secretly wicked,
a heavenly mind,
and let their neighbors
as Collier wished
of its vice
to the societies
all of their members
in Foreign Parts,
and the religious
And as Bahlman
and the State,
the laws against
the reform and
the wealthier merchants,
as his acquaintance
and the reform societies.
of Christian Kn
for the Pro-
and the reform societies
in its zeal as a reforming
in the minutes
to be distributed.
t at coffee
all the records
all of their
he has noted
and a considerable
to the propagandistic
c nut f-n 4 t.nT c n r o fhr
nrcc ao or
T.t-i c~hi ri f
rTn 1 ,t
on the existence
and the continued
of Collier's works
of the reform
in his Letters
Dead to the
who are maintained
s noble so
for it in their
of the Crown-
out of plays
, to indict
owe them a
not to be
off all def
In the epilogue
on the reformers,
at once we're
a blessed Age,
as we grow
let each Man's
A--_ r _
-- 1 T-
TF l l1 +-b0 1n1 l f
K T"I *_t^ r
OCa I-' mnr C^T i~r c y _> Tf i
for the reformation
saw as a direct
to the Church
and to invade
air of superiority
on the bles
work of ref
of the devil,
who is empha-
rv r~% 4- ftr w L .
SL C L
C: J Lr
and his conviction
in the elections
to the reform societies
of his last
of the Short View of the
of the Stage
not see virtue
of the lucrative
one .. laid
A Short View]
for God and
of the main
but it is also
due to the reform
so did his publications.
to the timing
of his writing
of A Short View,
of the Short
he had countered
of the storm in
to publish Mr.
the Stage in a
to a Lady
A Short View were
the law down
or the authorities
in his reaction
in A Short View:
not for Pomp,
I r S
1 *1 i l
\ n ir n e, n r4 I a SA n n 4 n I.- j- a a n ^- n a a a I n a p. rt a r- *-%
the Laws of
at and despis'd!26
of A Short View who
off the Stage.
to the examples
and Love for Love:
Fire and Brimstone.
the Air to
of Hell with
of it has
to arm all
the Jud ments,
ha CSn, 7
LLL .1-- tea I
is even more
of the Christian
a temper maddened
" She does
as a rhetorical
he is relying
and the catastrophic
are a moral
in the form
he is unquestionably
in his criticism.
he is speaking
on Dryden 's
A fit of
Venus and St. G
and the He
and the Pars
is all this done
one as incredible
for Dryden 's
use of these
but he provides
his questioning until
in the castigation,
is not surprising
c% V r, ln 1 1nr i 4 nli 4- r. n A
AnF n .- A v n r
nnrl n-v^ /I/ ^I /^
n- 4 n i r jn
b" < V it h
is too much
but I am
The zeal of God's house has eaten him
iure it has devoured some part of his
a divine might
me, so it might
in the nastiness
in his preface
of reproving us
us the basest
in the Print.
in a written
all this Passion upon
ous; and Christianity
to St. Chrysostom's
of the mildness
on to suggest
is not unlikely
in A Short View
as an active
as a Christian,
in the minds
of his contemporaries
of His Short View of the
so far from having
in his Book
[A Short View]
or the Humility
he has neither
nor the Style
or a Man of
out of his
of a Man,
and an ho
4-, M^ 36
of a desperate
and a desperate
of any moral
to his authority.
one of the main
use of evidence
and the logic
in the last
s criticism of
in the plays
as a partial
or a misquotation
THE COLLIER CONTROVERSY: A CRITICAL
BASIS FOR UNDERSTANDING DRAMA
OF THE RESTORATION PERIOD
JOSEPH JOHN POPSON, III
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE COUNCIL OF
THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE
DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
Joseph J. Popson, III
Of the many people who helped me prepare this dissertation,
I would first like to thank the Chairman of my Supervisory Committee,
Professor Aubrey L. Williams. Professor Williams not only inspired my
interest in this topic and offered valuable criticism of my work as
it progressed, but he has exemplified what to me are the best qualities
of teaching and scholarship. I would like to thank Professor Melvyn
New, who first interested me in Restoration and eighteenth-century
literature, for his helpful comments on this text and throughout my
stay at the University of Florida. I am grateful to Father Michael
Gannon for serving on my Supervisory Committee and taking time to read
and comment on my dissertation. And for all his help and encouragement
during the research and writing process and for his time spent reading
the manuscript, I wish to thank Professor J. Ben Pickard. Also I wish
to thank Professor Ira Clark for reading the manuscript and sitting in
on my oral defense. I wish to thank my typist, Ms. Oonagh Kater, and
Mr. Robert Cody, whose help in making final deadlines is very much
appreciated. Finally, I am most grateful to my wife, Sandy. Without
her heroic efforts at the typewriter, her help in criticizing my work,
and her interest and encouragement, my dissertation would be little more
now than note cards in a shoe box.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
CHAPTER 1 18
THE CRITICAL GROUNDS--NO NEED TO SHIFT THEM
CHAPTER II 49
ARTISTRY AND JUDGMENT: TEACHING VIRTUE BY EXPOSING
CHAPTER III 78
PERSUASION OF THE UNKNOWING: THE SUCCESS OF COLLIER'S
CHAPTER IV 112
THE STAGE/WORLD METAPHOR: MORAL DESIGN OR PATTERN FOR
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 163
Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate Council
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements
for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
THE COLLIER CONTROVERSY: A CRITICAL
BASIS FOR UNDERSTANDING DRAMA
OF THE RESTORATION PERIOD
Joseph J. Popson, III
Chairman: Aubrey Williams
Major Department: English
In response to Jeremy Collier's attacks on the Restoration stage
came a number of excellent defenses which provide a critical basis for
understanding the drama of the Restoration period. The defenders, incluÂ¬
ding such playwrights and critics as John Dryden, William Congreve, Sir
John Vanbrugh, Thomas D'Urfey, John Dennis, Elkanah Settle, James Drake,
John Oldmixon, and Edward Filmer, have given us a very complete source of
critical information about Restoration drama. Faced with Collier's essenÂ¬
tially Platonic view of the stage, these writers recognized that there were
abuses of the drama, but they also saw therein a moral value which they
maintained was a necessary part of its artistic value. Unlike many modern
critics who have rejected Collier, and with him any consideration of moralÂ¬
ity in their views of the plays, these defenders answered Collier on grounds
that were at once moral and artistic. Historically, then, they were asserÂ¬
ting their beliefs that the drama should (and that the best of it still did)
instruct and delight the audience. In explaining how the stage functioned,
they felt that the representation of "evil" on stage (in the actions and
speeches of characters) was not only proper but necessary if the audience
was to know and value "good." Rather than seeing the dangers of imitation
as Collier did in his Platonic reaction to evil, they felt the plays ofÂ¬
fered just choices for all whose understanding and judgment were not
To counter Collier's apparent influence upon those who did not
understand the plays or even attend the theatre, these critics questioned
his authority as a judge of the morality in the plays. While consistently
maintaining the moral value of most of those plays he attacked, they exÂ¬
posed his gross errors in reading and argument. Among the faults they
noted were: inaccurate and misleading quotations of evidence, logical
fallacies in his reasoning, an improper tone for a clergyman ostensibly
interested in improving plays and playwrights, and a basic misunderstanding
of the effects of drama on a Christian audience which was aware of English
dramatic tradition. The success of Collier's works (and of others which
attacked the stage during the controversy) was not due to poor responses
by stage defenders or to the strength of Collier's moral position, as many
critics have stated. Rather it was due to the changing taste of the
theatre audience and the concurrent activities of the societies for the
reformation of manners, which threatened any citizen whose actions or ocÂ¬
cupations did not exemplify the kind of righteous living they deemed
In their objections to Collier's view of the stage, the critics
and playwrights argued from important critical tenets. Enough evidence is
obvious in their responses to show that they were very conscious of the
roots of English drama and thus saw the Restoration stage as a "little
world" upon which the dramas of man were represented to entertain and inÂ¬
struct. For them, the features of variety, pageantry, and Providential
testing and justice, so important in Elizabethan drama, were still recogÂ¬
nized as parts of those moral designs which Collier could see only as
patterns for vice.
On January 4, 1698 the Palace of Whitehall burned. One week
later Peter the Great of Russia arrived in England to study shipbuilding
and navigation for several months. As the year progressed, a New East
India Company was chartered, the London Stock Exchange was formed,
Captain Thomas Savery invented a "heat-engine," the first treaty
partitioning Spain was signed, the Tories won a bitter political
struggle for control of Parliament, William Warburton was born, Daniel
Defoe's The Poor Man's Plea was published, Ned Ward started a periodical
called The London Spy; the Vanities and Vices of the Town Exposed to
View, the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge was formed, and King
William delivered A Proclamation for Preventing and Punishing Immorality
and Prophaneness. With the spring, and in the midst of all this
activity, Jeremy Collier's A Short View of the Immorality and Profaneness
of the English Stage hit the presses. Though Collier's book was in one
sense a result and a reflection of the reformation temper which existed
at the end of the century, it also marked the beginning of a critical
controversy about the drama which raged, with all the fury of the fire
at Whitehall, well into the eighteenth century. There were three
editions of A Short View before the year ended (five editions, in all,
were published, plus two reissues by 1740), and one recent scholar
estimates conservatively that "by his death, in 1^26, somewhere between
75 and 100 books, pamphlets, and articles resulted directly from the
influence of the Short View."-*-
To find out what beliefs led Collier to this attack on the
stage, and how those beliefs conflicted with those of his opponents, a
brief look at what is known of this divine's life and writings is in
order. It was probably determined from his birth on September 23, 1650
at Stow Qui in Cambridgeshire that Jeremy would follow his grandfather
and father as a member of the clergy. He was first educated by his
father, who besides being a divine and a linguist, was master of a free
school at Ipswich. Collier went on to receive his B.A. and M.A. from
Cambridge and was ordained a deacon in 1676 and a priest in the followÂ¬
ing year. After officiating for a short time at the Countess Dowager
of Dorset's, he moved on to a small rectory at Ampton in 1679, where he
stayed for six years. His experience there may not have been too happy,
for in his later moral essay "Upon the Office of a Chaplain" (1697) he
points out how the curates and chaplains have suffered from lack of
respect and material benefits. As Kathleen Ressler notes, in this
essay he "advocates higher salaries to improve the learning and status
of the profession, for poverty exposes them to contempt and 'scurvy
temptation.'"3 It also seems logical that Collier's experience at
Ampton may have led to his comments in support of status and material
wealth for the clergy in his anti-stage writings.^ In any case, the
year 1685 found him in London, where he was made a lecturer at Gray's
With the change in monarchs in 1688, Collier began his career
as a devoted and outspoken non-juror. His "Desertion Discuss'd" (1688)
caused such irritation in the government that he was imprisoned at
Newgate for several months, though never brought to trial. The stay in
prison only hardened his opposition to William III, and he continued to
write political pamphlets until his next arrest in 1692, when he and
another non-juring clergyman were accused of trying to communicate with
the exiled James II. Though he could have gone free on bail, he refused
to accept it because that would have meant a recognition of William's
jurisdiction. Thus, until released upon the appeal of his friends, he
spent about a week in jail penning still another bitter attack on the
government entitled "Remarks on the London Gazette.Nothing is known
of Collier again until 1696 when he and two other non-juring clergymen
(Cook and Snatt) granted absolution to Sir John Friend and Sir William
Perkins at Tyburn. Public and governmental outrage at this was almost
universal, for not only had Friend and Perkins been convicted of plotÂ¬
ting the assassination of William, they had made no public confession.
The feeling was that Collier and the other priests, therefore, did not
consider the plotting sinful. While Cook and Snatt were arrested and
eventually convicted and released, Collier went into hiding and was
outlawed. (He legally remained outlawed for the rest of his life.)
His concealment did not stop him from publishing "A Defence of the
Absolution" only six days after the execution. When, on the day followÂ¬
ing the execution "the two archbishops and twelve bishops who were then
in London put forth a 'Declaration' condemning the action of the three
clergymen as 'an open affront to the laws both of church and state,'
and 'as insolent and unprecedented in the manner and altogether irreÂ¬
gular in the thing,Collier needed only two weeks to provide yet a
further reply in his own defense. Quite clearly he had already deÂ¬
veloped that quality of self-assured insistence of his views which
caused Samuel Johnson to say admiringly that "he was formed for a
That Collier felt the need to have his ideas and talents
constantly before the public is also indicated by the more than fifty
worksâ€”ranging from sermons, translations of Cicero and Marcus
Aurelius, and An Ecclesiastical History of Great Britain to political
pamphlets, stage criticism, and The Great Historical, Geographical,
Genealogical, and Poetical Dictionaryâ€”which were published through the
year of his death (1726). From the number and variety of his works, it
seems that he must have been supremely confident in his abilities. But
even more important in understanding his criticism of the stage is his
unbending attitude in controversy. His stubborn persistence in having
the last word in his arguments with the Restoration dramatists causes
his later admirers to see him as a heroic figure. Thomas Babington
Macaulay, for example, says that "we believe him to be as honest and
courageous a man as ever lived" and that "the spirit of" A Short View
"is truly heroic.Johnson, too, sees him as a warrior who "walked
out to battle, and assailed at once most of the living writers, from
Dryden to Durfey," and was victorious because of his "unconquerable
pertinacity."9 Though his stature as a warrior may be questioned, he
certainly seemed to relish the pamphlet wars he fought, and there is no
indication that he ever conceded any point for which he was arguing.
A key to his vision of himself as a steadfast moral crusader
comes in his Moral Essays where he says that "Fortitude is the Guard of
moral Advantage, and the Being of Truth and Justice subsists upon it. .
. . 'Tis not possible for a Coward to be a good man."^ But apart from
his self-righteous confidence (dangerously close to arrogant pride), a
general view of man emerges from Collier's theological writings which
carries over to his criticism of the stage. But before citing his
comments on the nature of man, I must say that I feel he exemplifies
that group of later seventeenth-century divines whom C. F. Allison
calls the "'holy living' school." In his study of the changes in
English Christianity during the seventeenth century, Professor Allison
concludes that "the view of the Gospel held in the first half of the
century," which "manifested a blend of doctrine and ethics, Christian
dogma and morals, justification and sanctification, and produced a deÂ¬
votional literature that was profoundly and functionally pastoral," had
undergone a significant change. Thus, he sees a new view of the Gospel
held by some influential divines in the second half of the century:
The later view rent the fabric of soteriology and split
the elements of religion so radically that doctrine
became almost irrelevant and ethics became so harsh as
to be cruel. There was an ineluctable movement away
from the Christian faith of the earlier divines towards
a moralism masquerading as faith.
The divines who introduced this trend towards
moralism postulated a freedom of will in sinners that
was of Pelagian proportions. Their remedy for sin conÂ¬
sisted largely of exhortations to lead a holy life.H
This emphasis on the freedom of the human will was also coupled with a
Pelagian deemphasis of original sin as a condition of man. Among the
"holy living" divines, then, sin came to be treated almost exclusively
"as an action rather than as a condition," which, since it was willful,
could be controlled by man.12 Obviously, what this could lead toâ€”and
did lead to in Collier, I thinkâ€”was a glorification of man's nature
and his potential for moral living if he willfully avoided sources of
vice and sinful action. Man was not corrupt but corruptible.
Professor Ressler, in her study of Collier's Moral Essays,
finds that "it is Collier's intense interest in the moral life of man
that partially leads him to assert roundly the doctrine of Free Will."12
Citing two of Collier's Sermons (VI, II) she goes on to explain his
belief that "Will, which is stronger than reason, is impelled to direct
motion; plus understanding, it intensifies the power of the soul which
is determined towards good .... [Thus,] when both will and reason
combine to embrace God, man approaches nearest earthly happiness."-*-^
Collier says in his essay, "Of Religious Temper," that "the Essense of
future Happiness will consist in the Knowledge and Love of God. The
Powers of the Soul may be all reduced to the Understanding, and the
Will: When these two Faculties, are fix'd upon the noblest Object,
and exercis'd in the most perfect manner, then the Mind is compleatly
Happy."15 And, while he recognizes the necessity for divine grace, he
diminishes the importance of it:
Now as far as we can guess at the Operations of Humane
Nature, 'tis more entertaining to mount by our own
Motion, than to be altogether passive in our Rise: And
for this reason, 'tis probable, God has allow'd us the
Honour of Cooperating with his Assistances, and having
some little share in making our selves happy.16
The freedom of the will gives man the opportunity to live a happy life
here on earthâ€”"Station and Happiness lies in every ones power: The
Management of the Will determines Precedency"^â€”and to earn his way to
heaven: "For tho' a Man is born into this World with his Mother's
Labour, yet 'tis his own that must carry him to the other."18 Ressler
also points out "Collier's tendency towards a less literal and more
modern [Pelagian?] attitude ... in his treatment of the Fall and the
Devil." She cites a statement in his essay "Of Goodness" which diminiÂ¬
shes the effects of original sin:
"[Adam] was not thrown into a Dungeon, condemn'd to
Darkness, and exposed to Starving and Stench. 'Tis
granted, He was sadly reduced; the Communication with
Heaven was cut off; He lost the honour of conversing
with his Maker; He was not supply'd as formerly without
Trouble; He was under a necessity of Labour; He was obÂ¬
noxious to Pain, brought under the Force of Time, and
Death and Diseases were let loose upon Him. But after
all, this was rather an Abatement of Happiness, than a
State of Misery."19
This essay concentrates on Adam's prelapsarian perfection, not the Fall,
in discussing man as a "Divine Image" which, if kept pure, will "naturÂ¬
ally" draw "God's Favour."^0
This combination of Pelagian tendencies (emphasis on man's
free will and a deemphasis of original sin) leads Collier to view man
as capable of living a righteous life, and even of coming close to perÂ¬
fection. He says, for example, that "there is a Greatness in Human
Nature not to be over-awed by Death. The way to be Possessed of this
Quality to purpose, is to live well. There is no such Bravery as that
of a good Christian."21 If people would "live well" and follow the
"Golden Rule," he imagines perfection could be achieved:
Things would look as if the Millennium was commenc'd,
or the Gates of Paradise set open. What inviolable
Friendship might we then expect, what Exactness in
Commerce, what Easiness in Conversation? Want would
be in a great Measure remov'd, and Envy thrown out
of Society: The Poor would not steal from the Rich,
nor the Rich starve the Poor. There would be no such
Thing as Fraud and Oppression; No Sallies of Ambition,
no grasping at forbidden Greatness, to disturb the
World. What Largeness of Mind, what Harmony of
Humours, what Peace in Families and Kingdoms ....
Christendom would no longer be the Scene of Confusion,
the Field of Blood, and the Sport of Infidels and
Devils: There would be no leading into Captivity;
no complaining in our Streets. Men might then beat
their Swords into Plow-shares, and their Spears into
Pruning-hooks: Nation would not rise against Nation,
neither would they learn War any more. Then Justice
would run down like Water, and Righteousness like a
mighty Stream: Then People would strive for nothing
more than to oblige each other."22
Certainly no Christian humanist could so mistake the natural depravity
of man (due to the Fall) as even to imagine such paradisiacal conditions
for earthly creatures.
With this view of man, it is not surprising when Collier
quotes Plato to help him describe a good man: "'A just Person, who
keeps close to the Rule of Virtue, acts by the best Precedents, and imiÂ¬
tates the Powers above, can't but be lov'd by them: 'Tis impossible
for the Gods to overlook a Man so like themselves: To do this, would
be in effect to neglect their own Nature, and disregard the happy
Qualities they are possess'd of.'"23 This Platonic belief about imitaÂ¬
ting the Gods is very similar to his own view of how man can attain
Now to resemble God, is the Perfection of Virtue;
'tis doing the wisest, and the Greatest Action in
its Kind. To mention but one Advantage, We can't
recommend our selves more effectually to God Almighty,
than by delighting in the same Actions which he does.
Love naturally arises from Likeness of Disposition.
Our Imitation of Another, is an unquestioned Proof
that we value his Person, and admire his Choice; which
lays a kind of an Obligation for a Return .... By
being of the same Temper with God Almighty, we do as
it were, engage his Inclinations to make us Happy.
While we are thus affected, he can no more be unconÂ¬
cerned about our Welfare, than he can deny himself; or
put a neglect upon his own Attributes.
This link to Plato is only part of a more complex connection which ProÂ¬
fessor Ressler points out in her study.^5 She sees Plato, through the
Cambridge Platonists, as the source for Collier's "'inner certitude,'"
his ideas of free will, and his deemphasis of the Fall doctrine with the
corollary emphasis on man's divine essence, rather than the Pelagian inÂ¬
fluences which Allison sees active in the late seventeenth century.
Both sources, it seems to me, can be valid when assessing Collier's
view of the stage, for the Pelagianists, like Plato in The Republic,
would have been for keeping man out of the way of those sources of evil
which could corrupt his basically virtuous nature. Censorship would be
necessary if "good living" were to flourish.
To carry Collier's Platonism one step furtherâ€”that is, to
the danger he sees in man's imitation of evilâ€”it is only necessary to
turn to A Short View of the Immorality and Profaneness of the English
Stage. He cites Plato early in this work (p. 5) to make the point that
men will imitate whatever human behavior they see in a mimetic represÂ¬
entation. This belief that man can only benefit from seeing what is
good runs counter to some of the strongest sentiments expressed by
obvious Christian writers, such as Milton in Areopagitica:
Good and evill we know in the field of this World grow
up together almost inseparably; and the knowledge of
good is so involv'd and interwoven with the knowledge
of evill, and in so many cunning resemblances hardly
to be discern'd, that those confused seeds which are
impos'd on Psyche as an incessant labour to cull out,
and sort asunder, were not more intermixt. ... He
that can apprehend and consider vice with all her baits
and seeming pleasures, and yet abstain, and yet distinÂ¬
guish, and yet prefer that which is truly better, he is
the true wayfaring Christian. I cannot praise a fugiÂ¬
tive and cloister'd vertue, unexercis'd & unbreath'd,
that never sallies out and sees her adversary, but
slinks out of the race, where that immortall garland is
to be run for, not without dust and heat. Assuredly we
bring not innocence into the world, we bring impurity
much rather: that which purifies us is triall, and
triall is by what is contrary.27
Milton feels that salvation can only be won through temptation and trial
evil must be confronted, recognized, and resisted; and good must be
chosen. This recognition of man's fallen state and his necessity for
confronting vice (and therefore, part of his own nature) is certainly
in opposition to Plato's view of man in The Republic, but as Milton
points out, Plato's laws censoring poets were meant "peculiarly to that
Commonwealth which he had imagin'd," and "he knew this licencing of
Poems had reference and dependence to many other proviso's there set
down in his fancied republic, which in this world could have no place.
Collier sees Plato's "fancied republic" as what seventeenth-century
England might be, if censorship of the playwrights were effective. He
refuses to recognize man's fallen condition and thus feels that some
properties of Plato's "imagin'd" world, such as a preservation of man's
purity by banning lewd books and entertainment, were possible without
the other "proviso's" which Plato called for. He seems to oppose those
views of man, expressed by writers like Swift, which emphasize man's
post-lapsarian, flawed nature and the necessity of a struggle toward
salvation. That Collier can argue that "such Entertainment [plays] . . .
does in effect degrade Human Nature, sinks Reason into Appetite, and
breaks down the Distinctions between Man and Beast," only emphasizes his
impression that man is innocent and virtuous before he encounters repres-
entations of vice.
This Platonic rejection of all that is evil from the stage is
repeated throughout A Short View and in his later responses to his
critics. In his remarks about D'Urfey's Don Quixote, for example, he
suggests that "Beastliness in Behaviour, gives a disparaging Idea of
Humane Nature, and almost makes us sorry we are of the same Kind. For
these reasons 'tis a MÃ¡xime in Good Breeding never to shock the Senses,
or Imagination."30 In A Defence of the Short View (1699) he responds
to Congreve by stating that "Lussious Descriptions, and Common Places of
Lewdness are unpardonable.. They affront the virtuous, and debauch the
unwary, and are a scandal to the Country where they are suffer'd. The
pretence of Nature, and Imitation, is a lamentable Plea. . .
Characters of Immodesty (if there must be any such) should only be
hinted in remote Language, and thrown off in Generals.in his ansÂ¬
wer to James Drake he cites Plato again concerning the danger of imiÂ¬
tating what one sees on stage: "Tis Plato's Opinion then that the
Diversions of the Stage are dangerous to Temper and Sobriety; they
swell Anger and Desire too much. Tragedy is apt to make Man boisterous
and Comedy Buffoons. Thus those Passions are cherish'd which ought to
be check'd, Virtue loses ground, and Reason grows precarious."-^ But a
basic contradiction in Collier's view of man is seen when he minimizes
the danger of confronting evil in his essay, "Of an Apostle":
God has furnish'd every one of us with a share of JudgÂ¬
ment and Apprehension: We have a Touchstone against
false Coyn, a Test for Right and Wrong, a natural Faculty
to take Check at a gross Fallacy, and to encline us to
the side of Truth. Suppose I read in a Book in which
there are false Notions, and Lectures of Immorality; I
may lay it aside at my Pleasure: I am not at all forc'd
either to believe the Doctrine, or follow the Advice:
No, nor yet to disquiet myself with the Author's MisÂ¬
behaviour. If I see a Man do an ill Thing, what Necessity
is there either for imitation, or disturbing my Head about
that which is out of my power? A Man has Light in his
Understanding, and Liberty in his Will. He is Master of
his Conduct, and by the Grace of God may preserve himself
in a tolerable Innocence. By the Privilege of this Liberty,
in concurrence with the Assistance of Heaven, we may give
Laws to our Passions, and bring them under Management and
Discipline. So that to keep our selves harmless and
compos'd, there's no need of footing it into the Forest. ^3
To this point in the passage Collier is consistent with his other state
ments about man's potential for leading a righteous life because of his
natural attributes of free will and understanding. He also presents a
very reasonable position on censorship, which is not at all consistent
with his other statements.. To indicate how uncomfortable he probably
was with the idea of free choice in reading matter, his next phrase
hedges and indicates that the power of good judgment may be reserved
only for great minds like his own. He feels that "this design [virtuous
living] will be better pursu'd by staying at Home; by exerting our
Native Strength, by informing our Understanding, and by calling in the
Aids of Religion." Ultimately, then, (except for himself) it is best
to keep out of the way of vice and to know only good if one is to "live
well." The contradiction between Collier's belief that virtuous living
comes easy (through man's free will and natural goodness) and his desire
to keep men from evil (thereby limiting his free will) is never resolved
in his arguments. Indeed, the contradiction only lends credence to the
view that his conception of man as virtuous was possible only with his
concomitant desire for a society like Plato's Republic, where censorship
(by those as wise as himself) would protect the people's virtue. But in
response to his Platonism, many critics and playwrights were quick to
point out the faults in using Plato as an authority. Like Milton, John
Dennis emphasizes that "the Commonwealth of Plato is a mere romantick
Notion, with which human Nature, and human Life, and, by consequence,
Dramatick Poetry, cannot possibly agree.Edward Filmer quotes from
Sidney's Defence of Poesie, in which Plato's veneration of poetry and
poets in his Ion is noted. Sidney feels this attitude reflects Plato's
true feelings. But whatever Plato's true thoughts, certainly Filmer's
notation at least places Collier's use of this ancient philosopher in
The danger of Collier's Platonism to the drama is suggested
by Filmer's observation that Collier would have a character "fix a Paper
on his Forehead" as a label to tell what type of person he was. Filmer
refers of course to Collier's concept of safe dramatic characterization.
Dialogue and actions would mean little in a Collier production; statues
with inscribed messages would serve his purpose, for, in Collier's view,
To say a Man has been Prophane in general, and then to
punish him is somewhat Intelligible; To make him an
Example without Instance, and Particularity, is a safe
way of Dramatick Justice: But when he is suffer'd to
Act his Distraction, and practice before the Company,
the Punishment comes too late. Such Malefactors are
infectious, and kill at their very execution. 'Tis
much safer to not to hear them talk, than to see them
suffer. . . . Some Vices wont bear the naming: They
are acted in some measure when they are hearkn'd to. Â°
This kind of comment leads Drake to state that Collier "is all along a
Platonist in his Philosophy" and that "The whole scheme and strain of
the Platonick Philosophy, is very romantick and whimsical, and like our
Author's works, favours in every particular more strongly of Fancy than
Collier's Platonism manifested itself in expressions of disÂ¬
gust at the evil and corruption he was forced to see and hear on the
stage. He was sensitive only to the ability of the wicked and foolish
characters to corrupt an audience; therefore, he wished their actions
and language merely spoken ofâ€”labelled, not seen or heard. His attempt
to muffle and finally remove plays as a form of entertainment shows that
his understanding of himself and other men presupposed that innocence
not only existed but could be preserved if men were cut off enough from
the evils of the world. Instead of accepting each man as sinful and
capable of redemption, Collier, like Plato, chose to envision a world
(city, country) where men could live in purity, protected from those
things which had gone farthest "in Debauching the Age": "the Stage
Poets, and Play-House."38
With this short view of Collier it may be easier to see how
the critics in support of the stage could see the drama as moral, from
a Christian humanistic (and orthodox Anglican) point of view while
Collier (and others, like George Ridpath, Arthur Bedford, and William
Law) demanded censorship on the basis of a moralism that was both
Pelagian and Platonic.
Ajames Thorpe, III, "Jeremy Collier's A Short View of the
Immorality and Profaneness of the English Stage (1698): A Critical
Edition," Diss. Yale, 1969, p. v.
Most of this biographical information which follows comes
from William Hunt's piece on Collier in The Dictionary of National
Biography, eds. Sir Leslie Stephen and Sir Sidney Lee (1921-22; rpt.
London: Oxford University Press, 1937-38), IV, 797-803.
J"Jeremy Collier's Essays," Seventeenth Century Studies,
second series, ed. Robert Shafer (Princeton: Princeton University
Press, 1937), p. 257.
^See A Short View of the Immorality and Profaneness of the
English Stage (London, 1698), pp. 83-84 & 127-129 and A Defence of
the Short View of the Profaneness and Immorality of the English Stage
(London, 1699), pp. 70 & 117.
^According to the DNB, the subject of this attack was "the
loss of English property on the coast of Spain and the defeat of the
king at the battle of London" (IV, 798).
6DNB, IV, 798.
7Lives of the Poets, ed. George Birkbeck Hill (1905; rpt.
New York: Octagon Books, Inc., 1967), II, 220-221.
^The Works of Lord Macaulay (London: Longman, Green, and
Co., 1898) , IX, 378.
^Lives, II, 221.
10"0f Fortitude," Essays Upon Several Moral Subjects, part
4, 1st ed. (London, 1709). I have used the 6th edition (1709) of
parts 1 & 2 and the 2nd edition (1707) of part 3. Collier says in
his essay "Upon Pride" (part 1, 3) that humility should not keep a
person from striking out at those who are wrong.
â€¢^The Rise of Moralism: The Proclamation of the Gospel
from Hooker to Baxter (New York: The Seabury Press, 1966), p. 192.
12Ibid. , p. 202.
â– ^Ressler, p. 185.
â– ^Ibid., p. 186.
23Moral Essays, part 4, 125.
16"of Fortitude," Moral Essays, part 4, 206.
17"0f Envy," Moral Essays, part 2, 119.
â– ^"Of the Value of Life," Moral Essays, part 2, 27. Some
of the other references in the Moral Essays to the power of the will
are: part 1, 19; part 2, 41 & 132-133; part 3, 171-172 & 276.
â– ^Ressler, pp. 196-197.
^Moral Essays, part 4, 10-11.
21lbid., part 2, 33.
Ibid., part 4, 92-93. Elsewhere, Collier speaks of the
success of the Apostles: "I confess, their Design was noble and
beneficial in the highest Degree: For, what can be greater than to
retrieve the Dignity of Human Nature, to bring the World to a
Paradisiacal State, and oblige People, in their best capacities of
Happiness?" (Moral Essays, part 3, 238-239).
23Ibid., part 4, 49.
2^Ibid., part 1, 175-176. He also states in "Of Fortitude"
that "to stand Adversity . . . is to be great above Title and Fortune.
This argues the Soul of a Heavenly Extraction, and is worthy of the
Offspring of the Deity. Where such a Prize hangs in View, what
generous Inclination can neglect it? Who would not be Ambitious of
such a Blessing, and endeavour to rise up to so great a Perfection as
This?" (part 4, 223).
25pp. 180, 181, 183, 187, 190-193, 195, 197, 222-223, 228,
28He makes references to man's tendency to imitate in Moral
Essays, part 1, 240-241 and part 2, 16 and to the danger of imitating
evil on stage in A Short View, pp. 71 & 204.
The Works of John Milton, ed. Frank Allen Patterson, et al
(New York: Columbia University Press, 1931), IV, 310-311.
2^A Short View, p. 6.
30Ibid., p. 205.
32A Second Defence of the Short View of the Prophaneness
and Immorality of the English Stage (London, 1700), p. 17.
-^Moral Essays, part 3, 273-274. Though Collier mentions
the need for "the Grace of God" and "the Assistance of Heaven" in this
passage, his emphasis, as in the Moral Essays, is upon man's ability,
through his own will, to remain innocent.
^The Critical Works of John Dennis, ed. Edward Niles Hooker,
I (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1939), 169. James Drake
has a similar comment in The Antient and Modern Stages Survey1d (London,
(London, 1699), pp. 34-35.
->->A Defence of Plays (London, 1707), pp. 70-71.
-^Defence, p. 16.
Drake, p. 97.
A Short View, preface.
Allison points out that Jeremy Taylor, the leading spokesÂ¬
man for the "'holy living' school," had a tremendous impact on Law
THE CRITICAL GROUNDSâ€”NO NEED TO SHIFT THEM
To understand the drama of the Restoration it is necessary
to examine carefully the controversy which raged over the morality of
the plays and which found its most prolific and vocal spokesman in
Jeremy Collier. The controversy would be of little importance if it
did not show most convincingly the importance of morality as an element
which must be considered in any serious critical examination of that
art. There was (and still is) much disagreement about whether the drama,
and especially the comedy,-*- is moral or immoral, but many recent critics
seem to feel the moral issue is not even important in understanding the
plays. Eric Rothstein calls Restoration comedy "one of the most obÂ¬
vious bastions of aristocratic amorality."^ John Palmer, in a confusing
attempt to divorce art and morality, says that "art is not primarily
concerned with morality" and that Congreve "foolishly" argues with
Collier on moral grounds. Norman Holland redefines morality in his
own terms by saying that "if a play is true to its purpose, the pleasure
of understanding, then I think it cannot be called immoral."^ Thus, he
can examine the plays without taking into account the moral attitudes
of the contemporary playwrights and critics toward the drama. Rose A.
Zimbardo sees the issue of morality in Restoration comedy as "an extraÂ¬
literary question."'* Joseph Wood Krutch claims that in contrast to
literary tradition, Restoration "poets were not interested in morality
either one way or the other." Though he does not believe, as Collier
does, that they are "actively engaged in any systematic attempt to
destroy" morality, "neither were they engaged in any attempt through
the employment of satire, or by any other means, to recommend it."6
To see the plays basically as amoral, however, is to miss
not only what the playwrights felt was the intention of their plays,
but that aspect of their vision of the world which helped provide the
very structure or pattern of those plays. It is my position that no
complete understanding of the plays can be obtained without considering
the moral issue at the heart of the Collier controversy, for it reflects
the moral concerns of all those interested in the art of writing plays.
What many of the modern critics have failed to emphasize (or, perhaps,
do not believe) is that late seventeenth-century England was still
dominated by a Christian world-view, focused on the workings of ProviÂ¬
dence and the destiny of human souls. As G. R. Cragg points out in his
historical analysis of religious thought during the Restoration period,
The view of the world which had been fashioned in the
early centuries of the Christian era and reduced to
perfect logical precision by the great schoolmen was
still widely current. "This strange medley of fact
and fable, of truth and falsehood, of good and evil"
represented the world view of the vast majority of the
contemporaries of Newton. For many of them Copernicus
might never have lived, and even fellows of the Royal
Society could retain strange fragments from the older
The ethical perspectives of this world-view have been related to the
Augustan humanists by Paul Fussell, certainly many of these same perÂ¬
spectives also apply to the best post-Restoration writers. Fussell sees
the sources of eighteenth-century humanism in the "Christian humanism of
the English Renaissance," including Milton and Locke. To see the best
writers of the Restoration as humanists--with an "immoderate love of
'humane learning,'" with a belief in the paradoxical and flawed nature
of man, with an assumption "that ethics and expression are closely
allied," and with a vision of "man not primarily as a maker or even a
knower, but rather as a moral actor"Â®â€”seems not only reasonable but
obvious with a proper understanding of their works. Evidence for this
ethical perspective among the writers may be seen in the nature and
number of publications concerned with God's relationship to man and the
universe.'*'Â® Besides the works of Milton and Bunyan, the sermons of
Barrow, Tillotson, South, Stillingfleet, Burnet, and Bentley and the
scientific and theological writings of Ray, Boyle, and Newton were
among the most popular and influential works of the age. Irhne Simon
not only points out the influence of sermons on the educated public
well into the eighteenth century, but also shows how "the printed
versions alone have a right to be treated as a branch of literature"
and how "any account of the temper or intellectual climate of the age
that ignores these facts [about the importance of the sermons] is thereÂ¬
fore bound to be distorted."â– *â– "*" Edward Arber also points out that "it
was the religious people first, and the Scientists next, that made the
fortunes of the London Book Trade.When Arber speaks of "Writers on
Pure and Applied Science," he is referring to the scientists Cragg
discusses: "The leading scientists of the period were for the most part
earnest Christians, and they continually related their discoveries to a
religious interpretation of the world." The works of all these
writers share with the best Restoration drama what Aubrey Williams
calls "the Renaissance Christian vision of human experience, however
pale and faint it may have turned."'*'^ To say, as many critics have,
that the drama, and especially the comedy, lacks any moral concern,
denies the existence of the Christian ethic as basic to the lives of
the Englishmen of the age. Such views also place the Restoration playÂ¬
wrights, who, as poets, traditionally have been seen as especially senÂ¬
sitive to man's nature and the ways it might be improved, outside the
spirit of the times, engaged in writing which does not interest itself
with the most fundamental attitudes of the age. Removing the plays
from the issue of morality, as Zimbardo wishes to do, may simplify the
analyses, but it does not produce a purely "literary" discussion of the
plays. Indeed, there are not literary and moral issues for the
seventeenth-century poet; there are literary issues which include the
important moral issues of the times: the conduct of man on earth as
it is related to his salvation and the role of Providence in man's life
and the workings of the universe.
The propensity on the part of modern critics to divorce
Restoration drama from the moral vision of the age has produced judgments
like John Palmer's that "Jeremy Collier invented the moral test. "-*-7 On
the contrary, that traditional critical theory which existed in England
(expressed by Sidney, Jonson, Rapin, Rymer, and Dryden, among others)
always made clear the moral value of literature, specifically the drama.
What Ben Ross Schneider calls "the Aristotelian-Horatian principle of
utile dulcÃ" was commonly asserted by the playwrights when they talked
of the intention of their plays. Thus, when Collier attacked the
stage, he was not setting completely new ground rules for criticism, nor
were the responses to his attack nearly so weak as some modern critics
would have us think.^ Without any convincing analysis, for example,
Palmer sees Congreve's and Vanbrugh's responses to Collier as ineffectual
because they accept Collier's standard as a basis for argument. He
also sees A Vindication of the Stage (1698) as the "nearest approach to
a competent defence of the dramatist" (though apparently still not
"competent"), with no mention of John Dennis's The Usefulness of the
Stage (1698), James Drake's The Antient and Modern Stages Survey'd
(1699), Edward Filmer's A Defence of Plays (1707), or Elkanah Settle's
A Defence of Dramatick Poetry (1698) and A Farther Defence of Dramatick
Poetry (1698). He probably fails to note these because they, like all
the defenses of the stage during the controversy, met Collier on
Collier's ground, that is, on the evaluation of art in terms of, rather
than in spite of, its moral position. The difficulty of evaluating art
apart from its moral intent may be seen in Palmer's definition:
Art is not primarily concerned with morality. It is
not the aim or business of comedy to improve the
world. . . . When we say that art is not primarily
concerned with morality, we mean that in most cases
(the exceptions prove the rule) an artist is first
concerned with beautifully expressing something he
has felt or seen. He endeavours to give local habiÂ¬
tation and a name to a piece of life imaginatively
realised. His art is fashioned in the heat of a
desire to see life in shape and form. His impulse is
not the impulse of a moralist to improve the world;
it is the impulse of an artist to express it. 21-
Palmer does not seem to be sure of his contentions, for he
finds it necessary to qualify his first assertion with "the exceptions
prove the rule" and later states that "morality is his [the artist's]
subject, though it is not his object." He also says that "the greatest
artists are also those who have contributed most to the morality of the
Commonwealth," and that "morality is an accident of the artist's accomÂ¬
plishment, though it is not the intention." His statements not only
seem to hedge on the relationship of morality and art, but they contraÂ¬
dict all the contemporary criticism I have located and therefore his
own observation that "the poet's work [is] conditioned by the period
in which he lives, the moral laws which his moods and characters
unconsciously obey." In fact, since he cites no sources for this
theory of att, Palmer seems to be doing what he has accused other
critics, especially Macaulay, of doing: looking at the drama of the
late seventeenth century through the eyes (and critical values) of his
own age. The modern critic, just as the seventeenth and eighteenth-
century critic, must deal with Collier within the context of Collier's
age, that is, within the context of a world with Christianity at its
center as a way to view life and create art (which in Palmer's own
words, represents "life in shape and form").
While it is certain that many of Collier's arguments in A
Short View do not focus on important issues for all of the plays, the
work unleashed a rash of publications which give us the most complete
source of critical information about drama of the Restoration. The
reactions to Collier's arguments indicate that no play in the late
seventeenth or early eighteenth centuries could neglect a moral function
and escape criticism. There was an expectation by the general audience
and critics (just as in the earlier drama in England) of a point of view
which recognized a world contingent upon Divine order and which reÂ¬
flected God's just rewards and punishments as part of the moral code.
Collier, himself, at least as he begins his Short View, suggests such
a moral purpose:
The Business of Plays is to recommend Virtue, and
discountenance Vice; To shew the Uncertainty of
Humane Greatness, the suddain Turns of Fate, and
the Unhappy Conclusions of Violence and Injustice:
"Tis to expose the Singularities of Pride and Fancy,
to make Folly and Falsehood contemptible, and to
bring every Thing that is Ill under Infamy, and
Of course, as defenders like Thomas D'Urfey, John Dennis, and Edward
Filmer point out, Collier went on to condemn the stage entirely.^3
Assuming, as Johannes Ballein indicates, that he changed his mind about
the stage as he wrote his treatise, at one point at least he actually
felt the purpose of the stage was moral. This opinion certainly finds
good critical company during the Restoration period (even though some
critics, like Thomas Rymer, are very critical of contemporary and, at
times, earlier drama).25
A reexamination of the contemporary critical responses to
Collier is necessary in order to establish a historical basis for any
criticism of the drama. Sister Rose Anthony's catalogue of works
related to the controversy, though deficient in critical commentary
about the works, is extremely useful in understanding the types and
number of responses.^6 From the various defenses of the Restoration
stage she cites, I have organized three groups based upon how closely
the defenders could be related to Collier's attack in A Short View: the
first is made up of the responses of those playwrights who were attacked
by Collier; ' the second includes the reactions of playwrights who
defended the stage though not individually attacked by Collier, the
final group includes defenses of the stage by individuals who were not
primarily playwrights or who have remained anonymous. Some overlapping
exists since some of the anonymous writers may have been important playÂ¬
wrights and also since Dennis's major importance (at least today) is as
a critic, not a playwright. I placed him in group two, however, beÂ¬
cause he did write six plays which were produced during the height of
the controversy, aligning his interests more closely with the playÂ¬
wrights'. This grouping should prove useful in establishing the most
valuable defenses of the stage. What will be shown is a consistency
of critical thought about the drama even though each group stands at a
different distance from Collier's attack.
Though Collier chose to attack Otway, Wycherley, Dryden,
Congreve, D'Urfey, and Vanbrugh, only the last four responded. Most
critics feel that the defenses offered by Congreve, D'Urfey, and
Vanbrugh are weak and that Dryden even agrees with Collier in the latÂ¬
ter's judgment of him. But in all of these answers (though in Dryden's
case there are complications), there is a basic concern for defending
the moral value of the stage and especially the plays Collier has
attacked. To fault these responses because they do not adequately ansÂ¬
wer all of Collier's assertions seems wrong, for as G. F. Lamb states,
"Their task was an impossible one." He feels that Collier's document
was not "intended to stimulate reasoned argument. Its aim was to heckle
and victimize the dramatists and players.What should be noted are
the assumptions these writers make about their plays and the kind of
corrections they attempt to bring about in Collier's readings. They are
not as concerned with his general argument about immorality and profaneness
as with the specific evidence he draws from their plays.Their defenÂ¬
ses focus on specific characters or passages which Collier has misunderÂ¬
stood or misrepresented.
Though these defenses are obviously limited, however, they
provide the kind of reply the more general responses to Collier usually
lack, that is, proof that Collier had misused his evidence from the conÂ¬
temporary plays. They all stress their beliefs in the moral purpose of
the drama, with Congreve going to somewhat elaborate lengths to define
and defend comedy. In explaining Aristotle he states that "Men are to
be laugh'd out of their Vices in Comedy; the Business of Comedy is to
delight, as well as to instruct: And as vicious People are made
asham'd of their Follies or Faults, by seeing them expos'd in a ridiÂ¬
culous manner, so are good People at once both warn'd and diverted at
their Expence." A similarity between Congreve's definition and
Dryden's earlier comments in his often partially quoted preface to An
Eveningâ€™s Love: or the Mock Astrologer (1671) should be noted. What
Professor Krutch sees as Dryden's flat repudiation of "any responsi-
bility of the dramatist to point a moral', is actually only part of an
explanation based upon Dryden's premise that the poet's job is to work
"a cure on folly, and the small imperfections of mankind."36 Although
this preface clarifies Dryden's distinction between tragedy and comedy,
it does not remove moral instruction from the comic realm. In fact,
Dryden goes to some trouble to explain how that instruction results
from various factors in the play acting upon the audience. Vanbrugh,
while he does not attempt to define comedy, does assert that "what I
have done is in general a Discouragement to Vice and Folly; I am sure
I intended it, and I hope I have performed it." Likewise, D'Urfey
affirms that the "Plots and designs" of his plays are intended to bring
about "the depression of Vice and encouragement of Virtue."38 Whether
these playwrights accomplished their intended ends is still a hot
critical issue, but one important prerequisite for judging the accomÂ¬
plishments is an understanding of the plays themselves. Their responses
at least offer not only evidence for their intentions but important
corrections to Collier's readings (which will be taken up later) and
his assumptions about drama. The value of these defenses surely should
not be dismissed by any critic who hopes to interpret accurately the
plays of the Restoration.
The second group of defenses includes both creative works
(satiric dialogues, poems, and plays) and treatises and letters written
by playwrights not directly attacked by Collier. The creative works in
this group are similar to Dryden's "To My Friend, the Author [Peter
Motteux]" in their rebuke of Collier as an overzealous clergyman and a
misinformed critical authority of the drama. Collectively, these works
are most important in showing how the playwrights felt about Collier's
charges, though they offer less in the way of reasoned critical theory
about the drama than do the argumentative responses of the treatises.
Three full-length plays deal with Collier and his stage attacks:
Charles Gildon's Stage-Beaux Toss'd in a Banket (1704),^9 Elkanah
Settle's The City Ramble: or, Play-House Wedding (1711), and Colley
Cibber's The Non-Juror (1718). Though these plays apparently had little
effect (Gildon's play was not performed and Cibber's was not directed
specifically at Collier), they do indicate a willingness by the other
poets to put their energies into defending the stage. Other creative
exercises include Thomas Brown's Letters from the Dead to the Living
(1702) and A Legacy for the Ladies (1706), Gildon's The Post-Man Robb'd
of His Mail (1719), Granville's epilogue to Jew of Venice (1701),
Farquhar's humorous piece, The Adventures of Covent-Garden (1698), and
Motteux's poem, "The Poet's Character of Himself" (1698).
Though all of these responses reflect important attitudes of
the poets, and even present specific comments on the controversy and
its participants,^ the most useful arguments in favor of the stage
come from the prose treatises of the playwrights. Some of these are
prefaces or dedicatory epistles, such as Gildon's preface to Phaeton
(1698) and Susanna Centlivre's preface to The Perjured Husband (1700),
while others are extended treatises, such as Settle's A Defence of
Dramatick Poetry (1698) and Dennis's The Usefulness of the Stage (1698).
Again, these playwrights consistently emphasize the moral function they
see for drama in their critical remarks. Two important aspects of all
of these responses are the outrage the playwrights feel at Collier's
apparent desire to end all drama in England and their fear that his
zeal would excite others.^ The fear seems to result from Collier's
desire to abolish the stage by using a moral argument. These writers
knew the importance of the moral conscience of the people and the king,
and though they were willing to grant that abuses existed, they could
not accept Collier's conclusions or much of his evidence. That they
chose to argue with Collier on moral grounds is not due to a lack of
ability in argument nor to an inability to understand the drama. Rather,
they were aware that any viable art form in the late seventeenth and
early eighteenth centuries must have a moral base, that part of the
artist's power rested in his moral vision and the expression of that
vision. What this meant for the dramatist was an expectation by audiÂ¬
ences and readers (and certainly by critics and other dramatists) of
decency and recognizable moral patterns or conditions in their plays.
Gildon, for example, says that "No Man wou'd be more glad to see all
Indecencies driven from the English Stage, than my self," but he also
indicates that "the Wit of Man can invent no way so efficacious, as
Dramatic Poetry, to advance Virtue and Wisdom.in the epistle
dedicatory to The Patriot (1703) he explains more fully how "Dramatick
Poetry" is "the most effectual Way, the Wit of Man can invent for the
Advancement of Virtue; It attraques a Man in his Gayer hours, by generÂ¬
ous Instructions, convey'd with Pleasure; turns our Diversions from
Folly, and makes them subservient to our improvement, and by that means
robs Vice of our looser Hours." Peter Motteux, likewise, indicates
that reform is necessary but not complete suppression, "For certainly
they [plays] might be of very great use, not only for the Diversion and
Pleasure, but also for the correction and information of Mankind.
Farquhar, in A Discourse Upon Comedy (1702), is intent upon showing that
the "End" of comedy is moral, and that if the English authors "have left
Vice unpunish'd, Vertue unrewarded, Folly unexpos'd, or Prudence unsucÂ¬
cessful . . . let them be lash'd to some purpose.
Elkanah Settle considers most of Collier's arguments in deÂ¬
tail and is in agreement with Collier's initial desire for a regulated
I shall join farther with Mr. Collier, and heartily wish,
that both the Levity of Expression, and the too frequent
Choice of Debauch'd Characters, in our Comedies, were
retrench'd, and mended: That also the Prize in the Comedy
might be always given to some deserving Vertue that wins
it; and consequently, our Comedies, even Fiction it self,
might be made more Instructive, By Poetick Justice, in
rewarding and crowning the Vertuous Characters with the
Success in the Drama.
But Settle is quick to show, through evidence and critical theory, how
wrong Collier has been in his judgment. Besides defending plays like
The Old Bachelor, Amphitryon, and The Relapse, which Collier had
attacked, he says that tragedy's "chief work is to raise Compassion"
and explains how it is, therefore, instructive:
And what is it we pity there [in a tragedy], but the
Distresses, Calmities and Ruins of Honour, Loyalty,
Fidelity or Love, &c. represented in some True or
Fictitious, Historick or Romantick Subject of the Play?
Thus Virtue, like Religion by its Martyrdom, is rendred
more shining by its Sufferings, and the Impression we
receive from Tragedy, is only making us in Love with
Virtue, (for Pity is a little kin to Love) and out of
Love with Vice; for at the same time we pity the
suffering Virtue, it raises our Aversions and Hate
to the Treachery or Tyranny in the Tragedy, from
whence and by whom that Virtue suffers!
Such an attempt to explain the effects of tragedy certainly comes from
a thoughtful approach to the ends of drama by a writer familiar with
the process of creating it. In trying to explain Aristotle's "pity"
in terms of instructive religion, which most Christians would certainly
understand, one example of the artistic vision of the Restoration is
expressed. In the same way Settle explains that in comedy the playÂ¬
wright must "range the Town . . . for the Follies, the Vices, the
Vanities and the Passions of Mankind, which we meet with every Day."
Then, acting as a "satyrist," the playwright's job is to expose the
fools on stage and improve all except those whose "Opticks" are too
"perverse and deprav'd" to "see themselves there.
Finally, John Dennis, whose defenses rival Collier's attacks
in number, adds his critical clout to the playwrights' theories about
the drama by saying "That the Drama, and Particularly Tragedy, in its
Purity, is so far from having that Effect [encouragement of vice], that
it must of necessity make Man Virtuous.Dennis is careful to note
that the drama had the potential to "make Men Virtuous," but for him
and those defending the stage, this potential was enough to preserve it
and its best products:
It must be acknowledg'd there are Corruptions which
are crept into our Theatres, for into what Human InvenÂ¬
tions will not Corruptions creep, since it is plain that
they insensibly creep into Religion which is of Divine
establishment; but 'twould be a monstrous Conclusion,
that because of the Corruptions of the Church of Rome,
reveal'd Religion ought to be suppressed, and men to
turn Deists or Atheists.^
Though both of these comments come in the context of heated criticism
of Collier (the first, in response to A Short View; the second, in
response to Mr. Collier1s Dissuasive from the Play-House (1703), Dennis's
remarks in An Essay on the Opera1s After the Italian Manner (1706) show
that his belief in the necessity and value of the stage was a carefully
considered critical opinion rather than a self-interested outburst in
response to severe attack. In asserting the "Importance of the Stage
to the Publick," he says
That the Drama, of all reasonable Diversions, is the
best that has ever been invented, at once to delight
and instruct the World; that it has never flourish'd
but in Three or Four of the bravest Nations that have
been since the World began, and that in the most
flourishing States of those Nations; and that a People
must have a very good share of Virtue, as well as
Understanding, before they can receive it among them.^0
Dennis's comments about man's need for diversion and the relationship
between patriotism and drama are more complex than those of the other
playwrights, but like the others he constantly notes the importance of
moral instruction as a necessary end to any play.
From the arguments of these playwrights comes what should be
considered a fundamental critical standard for Restoration drama, that
is, that one major purpose of that drama is moral instruction. And
though the expression of these arguments was probably encouraged by
Collier, as were the responses of playwrights Collier attacked directly,
there is no reason to doubt the sincerity of the defenders, as some
modern critics have.-â€™I Rather than assuming that these critical stateÂ¬
ments are fabrications, it seems more reasonable to assume that they
are honest evaluations and proceed to see if they are consistent with
the world-view which the best poets presented in their works. The
moral intentions related in the criticism of these contemporary dramaÂ¬
tists also helps us understand why Collier's judgments of the plays were
The final group I have established is perhaps the most imporÂ¬
tant, but because of its nature, some caution will be necessary in disÂ¬
cussing the works included here. One problem arises in that this group
is comprised of responses from anonymous writers, and also from known
critics who are not primarily playwrights. Obviously, it is possible
that some of the anonymous writers are playwrights, but my assumption
is that in those cases they have not wished to be identified in the
controversy and therefore may be evaluated from the more objective
stance they tried to establish. Also, though John Oldmixon, James
Drake, and Edward Filmer wrote plays, they certainly could not be
considered major playwrights of the period.^2 of these only Filmer
puts his name to his defense of the stage, again perhaps indicating
the wish of these critics to dissociate themselves from the playwrights
in acting as critics.The authors of the remaining works have not
been identified and thus seem to fulfill the criteria for this final
Not only do all the critics in this group find value in the
drama, but their arguments are consistent with those of the playwrights
in groups one and two while going beyond many of them (Dennis's are
exceptions) to suggest important critical concepts for understanding
the drama of the Restoration. The shortest piece of this group exposes,
but does not develop, important critical points. Visits from the Shades
or, Dialogues Serious, Comical, and Political (1704) includes as its
first dialogue a conversation between Jo Hains's ghost and Jeremy
Collier. Hains was the actor who had gotten into the controversy
earlier by writing the prologue and epilogue to Farquhar's Love and a
Bottle (1699). One important observation his ghost makes in this
dialogue is that the stage is not responsible for the vice which
exists in England:
If the Stage was overturn'd, I question whether the
People wou'd not be as Vicious as they are. The 3d.
part of the Kingdom are Strangers to the Theatre, yet
their Proficiency in Immorality is of as large a size
as the frequenters of the Drama. . . . There is a
Pravity woven in the Constitution of Mankind, which
neither the force of Religion nor the Power of Precept
Here the author not only counters Collier's assertion that the stage
causes, rather than reflects, vice, but he also expresses what Fussell
has called the Christian humanists' belief about the corrupt nature of
man.55 Ironically, as will be shown later, Collier seemed to reject
the Christian tenet concerning the flawed nature of man, while this
defender makes it clear that he is very much aware of man's natural,
immoral state. More important, however, is the expression of confidence
in drama as a way to help and improve man: "Just Plays and good Poets
are so far from destructive to a publick Community, that they hold up
the Balance of good Manners, and dare speak when the Pulpits are
Another earlier response to Collier, The Stage Acquitted (1699),
makes use of the dialogue format (between Fairly and Lovetruth) and
focuses on the roles of the stage and the pulpit in providing moral
instruction. The author believes that "the Stage does not presume to
stand in Competition with the Pulpit, in that peculiar and sacred adÂ¬
vantage of teaching the Mystery of Faith, but only pretends to be
subservient to it in the other arm of the Pulpit's duty, the Improvement
and Regulation of our Manners. "57 It is not a matter of the playwright
replacing the preacher but of the playwright aiding the preacher in his
attempt to teach men the way to salvation. Though the message may be
the same, the medium is different, and this difference justifies the
need for the stage:
We have an English Proverb, Forewarn1d, forearm'd;
'tis a sort of Antichristian barbarity to deny poor
heedless unguarded youth so timely a warning. Oh
but, say you the Pulpit will give this warning much
better, and with less danger. That is evidently false,
for first the Pulpit barely tells you that there are
such things, and that they are to be avoided, but
leaves you yet in the dark what they are . . . while
the Stage draws you the picture to the life, gives
you so many Characteristic marks, by shewing their
practice and their deceits, their Hypocrisies, and
gaudy outsides, that one must be very blind indeed,
that is not instructed to know 'em where-ever they
are seen; the Stage exposing their Tricks teaches to
avoid their imposition; for 'tis impossible to escape
them without so perfect a description of their rogueries.
This passage emphasizes just how moral instruction is achieved: by
drawing the "picture to the life" of man's vices and follies. In
likening the ends of both stage and pulpit this critic is careful to
give to the preacher the "serious hours to inculcate its [Pulpit's]
Doctrines," while reserving the "hours of pleasure" for the poet to
present "useful precepts and examples in the midst of our diversion.
Other arguments concerning the appearance of vice, the opinions of
Church fathers, and poetic justice are presented in this rather lengthy
response to Collier and will be referred to in later chapters.
A very similar critical stance, though presented in a much
briefer form, is the anonymous, A Letter to A. H. Esq.; Concerning the
Stage (1698). Here the author also points out that certain types of
wickedness cannot decently be reproved from the pulpit but are best
corrected through precept and example on the stage. He is insistent
about the danger of man's "minding too much the Business of the World"
or "the Pleasures of it; both of them are to be kept within bounds, and
both subservient to Religion." For the good of the individual as well
as the state he says that "some publick Exercise" is necessary to reguÂ¬
late men's passions. For him, the theatre fulfills this purpose:
We are there instructed to Love, Hate, and Fear within
measure, how we may be men without debasing our Souls;
and all this by moving Examples, which in spite of
stubbornness, will force its [sic] Impressions; and
'tis our own Fault if they are not lasting. This
certainly must recommend the Stage to the Vertuous;
and Piety can't be offended at the decent reproving
of Vice, and the insinuating recommendation of Vertue.-^
This critic goes beyond mere statements of praise or blame to an exÂ¬
planation of how the play is to work on the emotions of the audience,
making it quite obvious that each member of that audience has a responÂ¬
sibility to exercise his moral judgment while seeing the play and to
apply what he has learned once he leaves the playhouse. His belief in
the importance of examples on stage, which not only reflect life but
provide useful guidance for the lives of those who see and read the
plays, is apparent in his understanding of tragedy and comedy: "In
short, 'tis the Property both of Tragedy and Comedy to instruct: The
Characters in both are to be Natural; and the Persons concern'd in the
whole Action, are to be such whose Vertues ought to deter us from
imitating their Example." In making this statement he has already made
it clear that tragedy proves "that Vice never goes unpunished; and that
true Happiness does not chiefly consist in the Enjoyment of this World,"
while comedy exposes "the Faults of Particular Men in order to correct
the Faults of the Publick . . . thro' a fear of being expos'd."60 The
moral effect of the play was every bit as important to this critic as
to Collier; Collier, however, had far less confidence in the judgment
and understanding of the audience, perhaps because he was meted out
such a small quantity of these qualities himself.
Another anonymous defender of the stage stresses the imporÂ¬
tance of the exposure of "the measures and folly" of vices, for "had
they never been expos'd, they had still been your [audience's] Darling
Companions, tho' all the Pulpits in Town had thunder'd never so loudly
against them. For as the Divine Herbert says, A verse may find him who
a. Sermon flies, And Turn Delight into a. Sacrifice. The opportunity
for instruction apart from the pulpit was based upon the recognition
that men had need for diversion and pleasure involving stimulation,
within limits, of their emotions. Thus, critics stated that plays could
supplement the sermons by providing instructive diversions, and they
provided extended critical arguments showing how instruction took place.
This vindicator, for example, explains the usefulness of tragedy:
Which is so manifest, that I wonder anyone can
question it, who considers how well adapted it is to
the Intentions of Human Life, Profit, and Delight.
Who can express the charms of a well wrought Scene
lively Represented? The Motions of the Actor Charm
our Souls, and mixes [sic] with our very Blood and
Spirits, so that we are carry'd by an irresistless,
but pleasing violence into the very Passion we behold.
What Heart can forbear relenting to see an unfortunate
Person, for some unhappy mistakes in his Conduct, fall
into irreparable Misfortunes? This strikes deep into
our Breasts, by a tender insinuation steals into our
Souls, and draws a Pity from us; so consequently making
us ready to assist all that we meet with in a like
Condition: it teaches us to Judge Charitably of the
Miserable, when we see a small Error ignorantly committed,
may be the cause of heavy Misfortunes; it teaches us at
the same time Caution, and Circumspection in the ManageÂ¬
ment of our selves. And who that sees a Vitious Person
severely Punish'd, will not tremble at Vice? . . . and if
Tragedy scares us out of our Vices, Comedy will no less
shame us out of our Follies. Tragedy, like a severe
Master, keeps a heavy hand over us; but Comedy, like an
indulgent Parent, mixes something to please when it
reproves. Who can forbear blushing, that sees
some Darling Folly expos'd? And tho' its ridiÂ¬
culousness tickles him into a laughter, yet at
the same time, he feels a secret shame for the
In detailing the learning process of the audience, this critic both
establishes poetic intent and expresses a confidence (not shared by
Collier) in the moral judgment of that audience. As the writer of Some
Remarks upon Mr. Collier's Defence of his Short View of the English
Stage (1698) states, "It appears Mr. Collier has a very mean Opinion of
the Capacity of the Audience, when he conceives all the Poets Flights
will so far affect them as to practice the same; like Don Quixote, who
cou'd not read Romances, but he must turn Knight-Errant."62
John Oldmixon takes Collier to task in a series of dialogues
entitled Reflections on the Stage, and Mr. Collyer's Defence of the
Short View (1699). Though many of Oldmixon's arguments concern specific
plays, language and characters on the stage, and the nature of Collier's
attack (all of which will be taken up later), he bases his critical
theory of drama on moral grounds. After allowing that there is need for
reform of the stage,6/t he argues that the best dramatic art must be
moral: "This is certain, no Poet ever err'd against Manners or Religion,
but 'twas at the expence of his Art; those who know nothing of it can't
help erring, for which reason they are not to be endur'd. But the
Masters of the Science will observe its precepts which them confine,
never to please, but in order to instruct.Oldmixon also translates
Moliere's preface to L'Imposture to represent his own feelings about the
function of comedy. In part, Moliere states that "'the most excellent
treatises of Morality, are often less powerful than the strokes of
Satyr. Nothing reproves the greatest part of Mankind more than pointing
their defects. 'Tis a great mortification to Vice to be expos'd to the
laughter of the world. One can easily enough bear with reproof, but
can't endure raillery, and most men had rather be thought wicked than
ridiculous. ' "66
A somewhat broader defense is Edward Filmer's A Defence of
Plays (1707), which includes suggestions for reforming the stage.
Filmer, like most of the defenders, admits to "many great Abuses" of the
stage, but unlike the other defenders, he gives credit to Collier as "a
Person of great Parts, and good Learning" and also readily admits some
disagreement with Dennis and Congreve about the importance of plays.67
In addition, he agrees with Collier (and thereby disagrees with at least
two other defenders of the stage^) in his desire to keep "anything
that is either Sacred in it self, or by Custom appropriated to sacred
Uses" off the Stage.69 gut even with these "softened" attitudes toward
Collier, he comes down hard on the violent attacks which he feels are
unwarranted in light of his belief in the moral value of the plays:
"My concern to see the Stage so violently assaulted on the one hand, and
so strangely deserted on the other, was that which first tempted me to
engage in the Defence of a Diversion, which I always thought might be
so managed, as to be not only innocent but useful." He goes on to
point out that his disagreement with other defenders of the stage is
limited, for he is still "of the Opinion, that Plays may very well be
allow'd, and that in a Christian Commonwealth too; as a Diversion not
only innocent, but instructive, such a one indeed, as may rather conÂ¬
tribute very much to the Promotion of Virtue, than any way countenance
or incourage Vice."^ Because Filmer believes that the "great and
chief End [of plays] ever was, and still is, Instruction," he argues
throughout for the importance of "Stage-Discipline" (poetic justice)
as an artistic tool of the poet and a characteristic of the plays
readily recognized by the audience. Had Collier understood "Stage-
Discipline," he might have found that the contemporary plays fulfilled
the moral intent he himself saw for drama in A Short View (p. 1).
James Drake presents perhaps the best defense of the stage
in The Antient and Modern Stages Survey'd (1699). Here, he not only
refutes many of Collier's arguments and much of his evidence, he lays
down some of the most important critical tenets of Restoration drama.
He is very conscious of the play as a work of art created by the playÂ¬
wright to fulfill specific artistic purposes.^ He is also well aware
of the emotional and intellectual effects of the play upon an audience,
assuming that the audience is capable of reacting emotionally and inÂ¬
tellectually. He agrees with the other defenders of the stage about
the moral purpose of plays and sees "modern" drama as far more successful
at accomplishing that purpose than ancient drama. He says that Collier
the World a false alarm, and endeavours to set 'em
upon those as Subverters of Religion and Morality,
that have with abundance of art and pains labour'd
in their service, and rack'd their Inventions to
Weave 'em into the most popular diversions and make
even Luxury and Pleasure subservient and instrumental
to the establishment of Moral Principles, and the
confirmation of Virtuous Resolutions.
In trying to show that many of the modern playwrights had
achieved this moral end, Drake carefully distinguishes between tragedy,
which attempts to control the passions, and comedy, which works on vice,
folly, and affectation. He explains tragedy and comedy by discussing
the moral "Parts" of a play:
The Parts therefore of a Play, in which the Morals
of the Play appear, are the Fable, the Characters,
and the Discourse. Of these the Fable (in Tragedy
especially) is the most considerable . . . and the
principal Instrument by which the Passions are weeded
and purg'd, by laying before the Eyes of the Spectators
examples of the miserable Catastrophe of Tyranny,
Usurpation, Pride, Cruelty, and Ambition, &c. and to
crown suffering Virtue with Success and Reward, or to
punish the unjust Oppressors of it with Ruine and
In a similar manner comedy corrects "Knaves, Misers, Sots, Coquets,
Fops, Jilts and Cullies ... by rendring 'em unsuccessful, and submitÂ¬
ting them in her Fable, to the Practices and Stratagems of others,
after such a manner, as to expose both Knavery, Vanity, and Affectation,
in the conclusion, or winding up." Drake feels that the audience will
heap their "Scorn and Derision" upon these vain, affected fools by
seeing how ridiculous they appear on stage. In this way comedy "stops
the contagion, and prevents the imitation more effectually than even
Philosophy herself."^3 The "Fable" (plot or 'story) is important to
Drake because it employs poetic justice and expresses the "Moral," which
he calls "the highest, and the most serviceable improvement that ever
was, or ever can be made of the Drama.His effort throughout this
work is to show that the moral aspect of plays is of "Modern Extraction"
and particularly part of the tradition of English Drama, and therefore
strongly evident in the plays Collier attacks. He is persistent in his
attempts to prove what he says by discounting Collier, citing and
explaining his own examples, and stressing fundamental principles of
drama. As this sample of his ideas shows, there was no way to separate
good art from moral art, for the foundation of good art was Christian
Thus, it is apparent that writers in all three of these groups
chose to recognize the moral purpose of the drama as basic to any criÂ¬
tical understanding of it. Upon this point their defenses agreed with
Collier and established the contemporary grounds for the critical conÂ¬
troversy. But for the defenders of the stage, the best playwrights of
the Restoration period wove their Christian ethic into the fabric of
their plays, to be enjoyed, evaluated, and used by those who were
capable of judging the beauty, lasting quality, and utility of the
material. That the defenders and Collier (along with other attackers)
parted ways comes as no surprise when Collier's arguments and interÂ¬
pretations are examined; his views provided ample opportunity for sharp
critical reactions which should further our understanding of those
"smutty" Restoration plays.
â– 'â– Rather ironically, there seems to be an acceptance of (and,
therefore, perhaps less interest in) the moral nature of tragedy.
However, Eric Rothstein's recent ideas about poetic justice in his book,
Restoration Tragedy: Form and the Process of Change (Madison: The
University of Wisconsin Press, 1967), exemplify a rather confusing view
of the moral perspective which modern critics see in tragedy. For a
discussion see Aubrey Williams' article, "Poetical Justice, the ContriÂ¬
vances of Providence, and the Works of William Congreve," ELH, 35(1968),
541 & 546-547.
George Farquhar (New York: Twayne Publishers, Inc., 1967),
^The Comedy of Manners (1931; rpt. New York: Russell &
Russell, Inc., 1962), p. 282.
The First Modern Comedies: The Significance of Etherege,
Wycherley and Congreve (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press,
1959), pp. 3-4. Holland also cites modern critics who, in his estiÂ¬
mation, regard Restoration comedy as amoral (p. 259n.): Malcolm Elwin,
The Playgoer1s Handbook to Restoration Drama; Henry H. Adams and Baxter
Hathaway, Dramatic Essays of the Neoclassic Age; Bartholow V. Crawford,
"High Comedy in Terms of Restoration Practice," PQ, 8(1929); and Willard
Smith, The Nature of Comedy. Ben Ross Schneider, Jr. says in his book,
The Ethos of Restoration Comedy (Urbana: University of Illinois Press,
1971), p. 4, that "the amoral line of criticism runs from [Charles]
Lamb through John Palmer ... to Kathleen Lynch (The Social Mode in
Restoration Comedy, New York, 1926).
^Wycherley1s Drama: A Link in the Development of English
Satire (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1965), p. 1. L. C. Knights
makes the same kind of separation between "'morals'" and literary
criticism in "Restoration Comedy: The Reality and the Myth," ExplorÂ¬
ations (London, 1946) ; rpt. in Restoration Drama: Modern Essays in
Criticism, ed. John Loftis (New York: Oxford University Press, 1966)
Â°Comedy and Conscience, after the Restoration (1924; rpt. New
York: Russell & Russell, 1967), p. 44. Also see p. 86.
^From Puritanism to the Age of Reason: A Study of Changes in
Religious Thought within the Church of England 1660 to 1700 (London:
Cambridge University Press, 1966), p. 91.
The Rhetorical World of Augustan Humanism: Ethics and
Imagery from Swift to Burke (London: Oxford University Press, 1965),
^Fussell, pp. 11, 5, 8, 9, & 7.
â– ^Edward Arber, The Term Catalogues, 1668-1709 A.D. with a
Number for Easter Term, 1711 A.D., III (London: Edward Arber, 1906),
vii. Arber says that, based on the writings, the "Age was eminently a
sober one. The general tone of its books was deeply religious; mingled
with much philosophical Enquiry, and deep research into Nature."
Pirene Simon, Three Restoration Divines: Barrow, South,
Tillotson, Selected Sermons (Paris: SociÃ©tÃ© d'Edition "Les Belles
Lettres," 1967), I, i, v, iv.
12Arber, III, vii.
Cragg, From Puritanism to the Age of Reason, p. 99.
â– ^Williams, "Poetical Justice," 544. Professor Williams makes
this observation in connection with his argument that the works of
William Congreve demonstrate "a providential order in human event that
is fully analogous to the greater world of providential order insisted
upon not only by contemporary Anglican theologians but also insisted
upon by contemporary literary critics as a fundamental dramatic
â– ^Zimbardo, p. 1. An equally inaccurate view of morality has
been presented recently by Virginia Odgen Birdsall, in Wild Civility:
The English Comic Spirit on the Restoration Stage (Bloomington: Indiana
University Press, 1970), p. 8. She maintains that Restoration comic
heroes (and heroines) "create their own morality, which has little to
do with conventional morals .... Confronted with a world which lacks
any sense of cosmic orderliness and abstract moral certainty and which
has committed itself to civilized forms largely derivative and hollow,
they make their spirit prevail." To see a "new morality" outside
orthodox literary and Christian tradition being espoused in plays which
the authors themselves see as orthodox in an age fundamentally in agreeÂ¬
ment with the Christian world-view neglects much contemporary evidence
and requires, I think, creative readings of the plays.
â– ^Schneider, p. viii. Professor Schneider points out that his
view of Restoration comedy as representative of the Christian ethic has
been difficult to fit "into the existing structures of ideas on the
l^Palmer, p. 5.
â– ^Schneider, pp. 4-12.
Palmer, pp. 7-9 & 284-285. Krutch, Comedy and Conscience,
pp. 122-124 & 127ff. Also, Krutch, ed., "Preface to The Campaigners
(1698)," Publications of the Augustan Reprint Society, 3rd series, No. 12
(March, 1948), intro., pp. 1-4. Charles Stonehill, ed., The Complete
Works of George Farquhar (Bloomsbury: The Nonesuch Press, 1930), II, 443n
â€œ^Palmer, pp. 280 & 282.
2iIbid., pp. 288-289 & 291.
A Short View of the Immorality and Profaneness of the English
Stage, Together with a Sense of Antiquity upon this Argument (London,
1698), p. 1.
The Campaigners (London, 1698), preface, p. 2; The Critical
Works of John Dennis, ed. Edward Niles Hooker, I (Baltimore: Johns
Hopkins University Press, 1939), 146; A Defence of Plays (London, 1707),
4Jeremy Collier' s Angrif f auf de englishe Btihne, cited by W.
Heldt, "A Chronological and Critical Review of the Appreciation and
Condemnation of the Comic Dramatists of the Restoration and Orange
Periods," Neophilologus, 8 (1923), 46.
2-â€™The Critical Works of Thomas Rymer, ed. Curt A. Zimansky
(New Haven: Yale University Press, 1956), p. 18.
2^The Jeremy Collier Stage Controversy 1698-1726 (1937; rpt.
New York: Benjamin Blom, 1966), pp. 296-297.
Though Dryden did not write a complete response to Collier,
he criticizes his attack in each of the following: "Poetical Epistle
to Peter Motteux" prefixed to Beauty in Distress (London, 1698), the
preface to Fables Ancient and Modern (London, 1700), "Cymon and Iphi-
genia" (11. 1-41) in Fables, and the epilogue to The Pilgrim (London,
1700). D'Urfey responded in a rather long preface to The Campaigners
and later in the prologue and epilogue to The Old Mode and the New
(London, 1709). Congreve responded with his Amendments of Mr. Collier's
False and Imperfect Citations (London, 1698), and Vanbrugh answered
with his A Short Vindication of "The Relapse" and "The Provok'd Wife,"
from Immorality and Profaneness (London, 1698).
2^Peter Motteux responded by including Father Caffaro's letter,
Dryden's "Poetical Epistle," his own poem, "The Poet's Character of
Himself," and a critical prologue and epilogue with his play, Beauty in
Distress. Charles Gildon defended the stage in the preface to Phaeton
(London, 1698), The Stage-Beaux Toss'd in a Blanket (London, 1704), the
dedicatory epistle to The Patriot(London, 1703), and The Post-Man Robbâ€™d
of His Mail (London, 1719). Dennis took part in the controversy with
The Usefulness of the Stage (London, 1698), A Person of Quality's Answer
to Mr. Collier's Letter (London, 1704), An Essay on the Operaos After the
Italian Manner (London, 1706), and The Stage Defended (London, 1726).
Elkanah Settle showed his support for the stage with A Defence of
Dramatick Poetry (London, 1698), A Farther Defence of Dramatick Poetry
(London, 1698) , and The City-Ramble (London, 1711). Susanna Centlivre
spoke briefly to Collier and other unqualified critics of the stage in
the preface, prologue, and epilogue to The Perjured Husband (London,
1700). Colley Cibber defended the stage in the dedicatory epistle to
Love Makes a Man (London, 1700), the prologue to Xerxes (London, 1699),
and An Apology for the Life of Mr. Colley Cibber (London, 1740); he
also may have had Collier in mind in his play, The Non-Juror (London,
1718). George Granville supported the stage in the epilogue to The Jew
of Venice (London, 1701). George Farquhar defended the stage in The
Adventures of Covent Garden (London, 1698), A Discourse Upon Comedy
(London, 1702), and the preface to The Twin Rivals (London, 1702).
Thomas Brown struck at Collier in Letters from the Dead to the Living
(London, 1702) and A Legacy for the Ladies (London, 1706). Thomas
Baker responded in the dedicatory epistle to An Act at Oxford (London,
^The anonymous defenses of the stage include: A Letter to
A. H. Esq. ; Concerning the Stage (London, 1698), A Vindication of the
Stage (London, 1698), The Immorality of the English Pulpit (London,
1698), Some Remarks Upon Mrâ– Collier's Defence of His Short View of the
English Stage (London, 1698), The Stage Acquitted (London, 1699), Visits
from the Shades (London, 1704), and Concio Laici (London, 1704. In
addition, John Oldmixon responded in Reflections on the Stage (London,
1699) ; James Drake answered in The Antient and Modern Stages Survey1d
(London, 1699) ; and Edward Filmer tried to correct Collier in A Defence
of Plays (London, 1707).
^Â®"A Short View of Jeremy Collier," English, 7(1949), 271.
J Congreve, in his Amendments of Mr. Collier1s False and ImperÂ¬
fect Citations, in The Complete Works of William Congreve, ed. Montague
Summers (London: The Nonesuch Press, 1923), III, 171, says that he has
"no Intention to examine all the Absurdities and Falsehoods in Mr.
Collier's Book." D'Urfey spends nearly half of his defense in the
preface to The Campaigners discussing his play, Don Quixote. Vanbrugh,
in his Vindication, in The Complete Works of Sir John Vanbrugh, eds.
Bonamy DobrÃ©e and Geoffrey Webb (Bloomsbury: The Nonesuch Press, 1927),
I, 195-196, feels that his personal morals are in question and limits
his defense to those attacks on his plays. And Dryden, who makes a
defense while saying he will not in his preface to Fables, in Dryden's
Of Dramatic Poesy and other Critical Essays, ed. George Watson (London:
J. M. Dent & Sons, Ltd., 1962), II, 293, says "Yet it were not difficult
to prove that in many places he has perverted my meaning by his glosses,
and interpreted my words into blasphemy and bawdry of which they were
Dryden, though he answers Collier only briefly, criticizes
the "religious lawyer" in his poetic epistle to Motteux and then defends
the moral purpose of tragedy:
The moral part at least we may divide,
Humility reward, and punish pride:
Ambition, Int'rest, Avarice accuse:
These are the Province of a Tragic Muse. (11. 27-30)
This purpose is also stated in Dryden's "The Grounds of Criticism in
Tragedy" (1679), in Essays, I, 245-246, and his preface to Tyrannic
Love (1670), in Essays, I. 138-139.
Works, III, 173. His definition continues on 174.
â€¢^Essays, I, 146-147 & 151-152. Also important in arriving
at an accurate view of Dryden's moral intention in comedy is "The
Author's Apology for Heroic Poetry and Poetic Licence," in Essays, I,
Comedy and Conscience, p. 43.
â€¢^Essays, I, 152.
^Works, I, 195.
The Campaigners, preface, p. 3.
Though many critics have identified this play as Thomas
Brown's, James Fullerton Arnott and John William Robinson cite a presÂ¬
entation copy which proves Gildon to be the author. English Theatrical
Literature 1559-1900: A Bibliography (London: The Society for Theatre
Research, 1970), p. 46.
4^An example is Farquhar's The Adventures of Covent-Garden,
in Works, II, 207, which refers to the "Battle between the Church and
the Stage" and mentions Collier, Vanbrugh, Congreve, Settle, Dryden,
Dennis, Critical Works, I, 309. Here, in The Person of
Quality's Answer to Mr. Collier's Letter (1704), Dennis attacks both
the zeal and the danger of Collier's methods.
JBeauty in Distress, p. ix.
44Works, II, 343.
4^A Farther Defence, p. 63.
4^A Defence, pp. 71-72.
^Ibid. , pp. 80 & 82.
^Critical Works, I, 153.
33John Harold Wilson, A Preface to Restoration Drama (Boston:
Houghton Mifflin Company, 1965), p. 120. Also, Sarup Singh, The Theory
of Drama in the Restoration Period (Bombay: Orient Longmans, 1963),
J^01dmixon wrote Amintas (1698), The Grove or, Love's Paradice
(1700) [this was an opera], the first act of The Novelty (1697) which
was entitled Thyrsis: A Pastoral, and The Governor of Cyprus (1703) .
Filmer wrote The Unnatural Brother (1697) which Motteux adapted and
called The Unfortunate Couple and used as the fourth act of The Novelty.
Drake wrote The Sham Lawyer; or, The Lucky Extravagant (1697). From
the performance information in The London Stage, none of these plays
could be considered successful.
JJEvidence for this view may include Settle's attempt to enter
the controversy as an anonymous critic, feeling that his position as a
major playwright would make his defenses look less objective to the
33Fussell, pp. 8 & 70ff.
â€¢^Visits} p. 9.
58Ibid. , pp. 76-77 & 86-87.
59pp. 18 & 17.
8<9Ibid., pp. 16 & 15.
A Vindication of the Stage (London, 1698), p. 15.
62Ibid., pp. 25-26.
64PP- 97, 100 & 165.
83Ibid., p. 167. Oldmixon also says "that a good Poet must
write like a good man, because he is to instruct as well as please"
66Ibid., pp. 139-140.
POThe Stage Acquitted, p. 69 and A Vindication of the Stage,
^Filmer, p. 64.
70lbid., preface (The entire preface is in italics, which I
have removed in my quotations,) & p. 3.
73pp. 117-118. Drake compares the poet and the painter in
their attempts to follow nature and points out, in part, that "a Comick
Poet can't trespass against the Laws of Morality in this nature, without
offending against the Laws of his own Art."
72Ibid., pp. 120 & 224.
73Ibid., pp. 123 & 122.
74Ibid., pp. 229-230.
ARTISTRY AND JUDGMENT: TEACHING VIRTUE BY EXPOSING VICE
For Collier, as for others, the theatres were veritable SynaÂ¬
gogues of Satan, to be entered by Christians only at the greatest risk
to their souls. Who would dare attend these gathering places of vice,
where the appearance, language, and actions of the characters, not to
mention the themes of the plays, were intended to imperil men's souls
by enticing them toward sin and turning them away from God? What
danger a playhouse afforded:
[It is] a Place where Thinking is out of Doors, and
Seriousness Impertinent. Here our Reason is apt to
be surpris'd and our Caution disarm'd; Here Vice
stands upon Prescription, and Lewdness claims PrivÂ¬
ilege to Solicit. Nay, the very Parade, the Gaity,
and Pleasure of the Company, is not without its danger:
These Circumstances heightned with Luscious Dialogue,
lively Action, and airy Musick are very likely to make
an unserviceable Impression. ... If we sit in the
Seat of the Scornfull, and make Wikedness our DiverÂ¬
sion, Providence we may be sure will withdraw, and
leave us to the Government of another Influence.1
Collier's Platonic fear that man will be "disarm'd" and debauched at
the playhouse comes partly from not knowing man (at least as the ChrisÂ¬
tian humanists knew him) and partly from not understanding the plays.
He does not even allow the audience the same ability he feels he has:
to see, to judge, and to reject the "evil" stage. The reason, probably,
is that the audience was not rejecting the stage, for while they saw
evil presented there, their judgment, like the playwrights', could
separate good from evil; the baby need not go out with the dirty bath
From these critics who could judge the plays, a theory of
drama begins to emerge in their responses to Collier's attitudes about
the presentation of characters on stage. These responses show that
Collier's thoughts about characterizations as well as his corollary disÂ¬
cussions of the nature of man and Christian morality are literary and
religious aberrations which have, unfortunately, dominated much thinking
about Restoration drama for nearly three centuries. Collier's opinions
triggered similar and at times even more unorthodox views of the stage
from the pens of journalist George Ridpath and clergymen Arthur Bedford
and William Law during his own time.^ His influence later affected
critics like Samuel Johnson and Thomas Macaulay in their reactions to
Restoration drama. More recently critics have accepted Collier's label
of the plays as immoral, but have either tried to justify the immorality
(usually as reflective of the times) or to dismiss it as an unimportant
consideration in understanding or evaluating the plays.^ By yielding
to Collier, all of these reactions fail to recognize the proper moral
purpose and success of the drama. Hopefully, by examining Collier's
observations of character (especially as related to immoral or profane
language or actions) in light of his contemporary critics, the weakÂ¬
nesses of Collier's dramatic theory and the strengths, including the
moral intentions, of the best Restoration playwrights will be obvious.
In setting out to prove that "nothing has gone farther in
Debauching the Age than the Stage-Poets, and the Play-House," Collier
says he will first examine "the Rankness and indecency of their [the
poets'] Language.But before he begins any examination of language,
he cites characters from no fewer than ten plays as a "large Collection
of Debauchery." Most of his specific examples here are women who are
forced to "speak Smuttily" by the poets, and thus exhibit the immodesty
which he finds so offensive. Throughout A Short View he badgers female
characters and members of the audience, as well as actresses, for not
exhibiting that "Modesty" which he says "is the distinguishing Virtue
of that Sex, and serves both for Ornament and Defence: Modesty was
design'd by Providence as a Guard to Virtue."^* He goes on to call moÂ¬
desty natural, "wrought into the Mechanism of the Body" as a kind of
"Intuitive knowledge," which responds to indecency "by sudden Instinct
and Aversion." To this comment Edward Filmer later responded: "I ever
looked upon the great Modesty of the generality of our Women, to have
been the happy Effect rather of a pious, careful, and wary Education,
than of any thing in the Contexture of their Bodies."^ But Collier's
observation that modesty is an instinctive "Mechanism" which guards the
natural virtue of women is consistent with his view of man's nature and
the danger of the stage. Ironically, though,' his view of women certainÂ¬
ly shows no dependence on the anti-feminist attitudes of many of the
Church Fathers who are such valuable authorities for him later in A
Short View. They, of course, saw women as descendants of Eve, and conÂ¬
sequently closely linked to Satan (through deceit and lust) as instruÂ¬
mental in man1s fall. But for Collier the Fathers' emphasis on original
sin could only weaken his position that women are corrupted by the
These comments on the modesty of woman reveal one aspect of
Collier's theory of drama: strict social decorum in stage presentations.
Not only is he against presentations which are offensive to the ears of
women; he is opposed to any criticism of people of "Quality" or men of
the clergy. In each case he is unable to see that a playwright may
only be striking at the women, people of rank, and clergymen who are
foolish or wicked. His logic leads him to conclude that the stage
poets "bring Women under such Misbehavior" as to do "Violence to their
Native Modesty" and misrepresent their sex, "give Title and Figure to
Ill Manners," and "attack Religion under every Form, and pursue the
Priesthood through all the Subdivisions of Opinion."Â® For Collier, all
members of the female sex are disparaged when any one of them speaks
"Smuttily" upon the stage. Likewise, a playwright need only represent
one Lord Foppington for him to see the entire class of noblemen ridiÂ¬
culed as fools. As for the clergy, he says that the playwrights attack
not only every clergyman of every religion, but religion and, ultimately,
God himself. Indeed, this generalizing of poetic intent is part of his
apparent plan to win a broad following, as the next chapter will attempt
to show. By grouping those he sees attacked \in plays, he hopes to
arouse a boycott of the stage, as well as active voices to help close
down the theatres. But when he shows how these groups are abused, he
does not merely focus on the ill manners or immodesty with which they
are represented. Knowing the value his readers place upon religion, he
tries to show how the poets go beyond indecency to immorality and proÂ¬
fanity in their presentation of characters. Thus, he argues they bring
evil on the stage for imitation in order to abuse those beliefs which
Christians hold sacred or holy.
Of the poets Collier attacks directly, Congreve and Vanbrugh
make similar defenses of their "immodest" women. Vanbrugh begins by
agreeing with Collier about the value (though not the inherence) of
modesty in a woman: "For my part I am wholly of his mind; I think 'tis
almost as valuable in a Woman as in a Clergyman; and had I the ruling
of the Roast, the one shou'd neither have a Husband, nor the t'other a
Benefice without it."^ But the "Relapser" goes on to say that Collier
fails to explain Miss Hoyden's immodesty in The Relapse or the reference
in The Provok'd Wife which seems to "discountenance Modesty in Woman."
He quotes the questionable passage from The Provok'd Wifeâ€”an interÂ¬
change between Bellinda and Lady Brute labelling women's modesty as afÂ¬
fectation and seemingly undesirableâ€”in an attempt to clarify his own
position and what he felt the audience's reaction would be. After
pointing out that neither of these women are "over Virtuous," and thereÂ¬
fore less modest than an ideal, he shows how even they recognize and
convey to the audience in the same scenes the value of modesty:
But lest this [that Bellinda and Lady Brute are not
ideals to be imitated] show'd possibly be mistaken
by some part of the Audience, less apprehensive of
Right and Wrong than the rest, they are put in mind
at the same Instant, That (with the Men) if they quit
their Modesty, they lose their Charms: Now I thought
'twas impossible to put the Ladies in mind of any
thing more likely to make 'em preserve it.-'-Â®
Again, however, Vanbrugh (unlike Collier) assumes that the audience will
be able to understand and judge characters for the ideas which they
Similarly, Congreve defends his portrayals of Belinda in The
Old Bachelor and Miss Prue in Love for Love as effective in showing the
audience what is and is not proper moral action. He leaves it to "the
Judgment of any impartial Reader, to determine whether they [Belinda
and Miss Prue] are represented so as to engage any Spectator to imitate
the Impudence of one, or the Affectation of the other; and whether they
are not both ridiculed rather than recommended."-'--'- Quite obviously he
feels the audience is capable of understanding his moral intentions
even though Collier sees here only models for immodesty after which the
women of the audience will pattern their behavior.
Of those playwrights not directly attacked in A Short View,
Dennis presents an excellent discussion of women in his satiric letter,
The Person of Quality's Answer to Mr. Collier's Letter, Being a
Disswasive from the Play-House (1704). In this work the "Person of
Quality's" daughter calls the theatre the most innocent and valuable
diversion which the town affords the ladies:
True, Sir, there are Passages in some of our Plays,
which I could heartily wish were out. But does he
think the Virtue of the Ladies, who frequent Play-
Houses, is so very weak, as to be o'erthrown by the
Lusciousness, as he calls it, of a Scribler's Double
Entendres? What, have so many great Examples as we
find on the Stage, so many noble and generous SentiÂ¬
ments, so accomplish'd Patterns of Virtue; have all
these no manner of Power to rouze, to strengthen and
inflame our Virtue? . . .
If any of my Sex happen to find themselves so
infirm, as this worthy Reformer appears to own that
he is . . . let them, in God's Name, keep away from
our Theatres. But I find no such scandalous Weakness
about me. I can despise a Fool who thinks to entertain
me with his sordid playing on Words; but at the same
time can be entertain'd with Wit and good Sense, and
more with the Innocence of true writ Humour; and I can
be both pleas'd and mov'd with the excellent Scenes
of an Instructive Tragedy: Does this judicious Person
really believe, that the Conversations which we find in
the World are Virtue and Purity all? The Food of the
Mind, like that of the Body, is not all of it fit for
Nourishment. But strong Virtue, like strong Nature,
knows how to discern and separate, to reject the Bad,
to assimulate the Good, by which it is fed and supÂ¬
ported. If any of my sex have the scandalous Weakness
to have their Virtue and their Honour endanger'd by
the Folly of Double Entendres, I would advise them to
take their leaves of the Play-House. But at the
same time I would advise Mr. Collier to persuade
his noble Patrons of the Reforming Club to erect
a Protestant Nunnery for them, for nothing less
can secure them. For they who are found so strangeÂ¬
ly weak as to be warm'd by a meer painted Fire, how
can they ever stand against the real Flames of Love?Ã¼
Here, Dennis clearly defends the women who attend plays by questioning
Collier's limited view of how people learn. His defense not only reÂ¬
jects Collier's attitude toward women in the audience but suggests how
everyone in the audience can be moved and instructed rather than corÂ¬
rupted by a play.
Responses from those writers who were not primarily playwrights
also attacked Collier's attitudes toward women. The anonymous author of
The Stage Acquitted (1699) defends the speech and actions of women on
the stage: "The Manners of our Stage follows the Manners of our Country,
and 'tis no more Immodest in making Women talk of Love there, than they
are really guilty of Immodesty in those discourses in Conversation.
Like Vanbrugh's, this defense is meant to emphasize the playwrights'
use of the stage as a mirror; by seeing the women on stage as examples
of women in England, this critic is able to go on and explain how the
stage becomes instructive through its use of characters: "Folly and
Falsehood" are presented to the audience,
not in bare terms, which want a comment, but in so
plain and visible a dress, that you know them off
the Stage when you meet them every day in your
Conversation, or in your Negotiations, in your own
inclinations or practice; so that after the Spectator
or Hearer has been shown the lively draught of Folly
and Falsehood on the Stage, he must know it where-
ever he meets if, and avoid it both in himself and
others, if he be capable of Correction.!^
Vicious or foolish women on stage are not there for imitation or to
degrade the female sex. Such characters are there to entertain and
instruct by revelation of all too human weakness and folly.
James Drake also discounts Collier's attack on the playwrights
for allowing their women to act and speak immodestly on stage. Collier
used Rapin's observation that modesty is the character of women in
order to emphasize what monstrous creatures the playwrights had created.
Drake shows how Collier's reasoning distorts the effect of immodest
women on stage by using a statement from Aristotle similar to Rapin's:
Aristotle had given Courage or Valour as the
Characteristick or Mark of distinction proper to
the other Sex [men], which was a notion so Antient,
and so universally receiv'd, that most Nations have
given it a denomination from the Sex, as if peculiar
to it. . . . Yet 'tis no Solecism in Poetical
Manners to represent Men sometimes upon the Stage as
Cowards; nor did any man ever think the whole Sex
affronted by it; how near soever it might touch some
If the Poets set up these Women of Liberty for
the Representatives of their whole Sex, or pretended
to make them Standards to measure all the rest by,
the Sex wou'd have just reason to complain of so
abusive a Misrepresentation. But 'tis just the
contrary, the Sex has no Interest in the Virtues or
Vices of any Individual, either on the Stage, or off
of it; they reflect no honour or disgrace on the
Collective Body, any more than the Neatness and good
Breeding of the Court affect the Nastiness and ill
Manners of Billingsgate, or are affected by 'em.^
As Drake argues, the immodest women on stage do not represent all women
and are not to be imitated; rather, they are to be judged as inferior
to those standards of decorum and morality which they set off by conÂ¬
trast. But only when the wicked and foolish women are shown in all
their variety can the audience be furnished with an accurate moral basis
for their judgment both in and out of the theatre.
More generally concerned with people of rank than with women,
Collier thought that the playwrights should "lash the Vice without
pointing upon the Quality," because representing them as flawed showed
a lack of proper social respect and was dangerous, for the audience
would then imitate the flaws.^ Among those who took issue with
Collier's comments on the language used by characters, Vanbrugh indiÂ¬
cates that Collier's attack on swearing in his plays is founded upon a
philosophy quite different from his own. Vanbrugh is less concerned
with "whether such Words are entirely justifiable or not," because he
is sure "That People of the Nicest Rank both in their Religion and their
Manners throughout Christendom use 'em."1 Obviously, the "Nicest Rank"
does not protect individuals from the faults of all men. Those who
thought rank could remove or mask sin needed to be reminded that their
fellow Christians scrutinized speech and actions as well as appearance
before passing judgment. Because the audience was largely made up of
men and women of high social position (or those wealthy enough to think
they were), the instructive value here seems clear: the people of
"quality" must not only possess social rank to be favorably regarded;
they must also exhibit those qualities which befit their rank. HowÂ¬
ever, as Congreve suggests, Collier wishes to protect "Persons of
Quality" by allowing neither "their Follies nor their Vices to be exÂ¬
pos'd" on stage.^ Collier's opinion was that if people of rank
appeared foolish or wicked, the audience, taking them as examples of
how to live, would then imitate the sinful traits in their own lives.
Congreve, however, felt that the audience could recognize vice and
judge those characters who exhibited it. The actions of the play would
further expose the vice and lower the audience's opinion of the vicious
characters, no matter what their rank. As he replies to Collier, "When
Vice shall be allowed as an Indication of Quality and good Breeding,
then it may also pass for a piece of good Breeding to complement Vice
in Quality: But till then, I humbly conceive, that to expose and ridi-
cule it, will altogether do as well." For Congreve, "Quality" could
not hide vice, but through exposure on the stage, vice might be turned
Speaking for the playwrights, John Dennis elaborates upon the
motives for bringing the nobility upon the stage for criticism:
If a Lord is capable of committing Extravagancies
as well as another Man, why should Mr. Collier
endeavour to persuade him that he is above it? Or
why should he hinder him from being reclaim'd? Unless
he would imply, that a Commoner may be corrected when
he grows extravagant, but that when a Lord grows fan-
tastick, he is altogether incorrigible. Nor are we
oblig'd to Mr. Collier any more than the Peers are.
For since the bare Advantage of their Condition makes
some of them already grow almost insupportable, why
should any one endeavour to add to their Vanity, by
exempting them from common Censure?
Besides, since Follies ought to be exposed, the
Follies of the Great are the fittest, as being the
most conspicuous and most contagious. . . .
For our Comick Poets, I dare engage that no Men
respect our Nobility more than they do: They know
very well that their Titles illustrate their Merit,
and adorn their Virtue; but that those whom they expose,
are such whose Follies and whose Vices render their
Titles ridiculous: And yet that they expose them no
more than the rest of the King's Subjects. For Folly,
as well as Vice, is personal, and the Satyr of Comedy
falls not upon the Order of Men out of which the
ridiculous Characters are taken, but upon the Persons
of all Orders who are affected with the like Follies.21
Elkanah Settle argues similarly in his Defence of Dramatick Poetry (1698)
For as the greatest and best part of our Audience
are Quality, if we would make our Comedies InstrucÂ¬
tive in the exposing of Vice, we must not lash the
Vices at Wapping to mend the Faults at Westminster.
And as the Instructive Design of the Play must
look as well to the Cautioning of Virtue from the
ensnaring Conversation of Vice, as [to] the lashing
of Vice it self. Thus the Court Libertine must be
a Person of Wit and Honour, and have all the accom-
plishments of a Fine Gentleman.
As many of Collier's opponents suggest, it seems odd that a priest would
defend the privilege of rank, for as a Christian leader, he should asÂ¬
sume all men capable of sinful actions and speech.
Remarks from critics and anonymous writers generally agree
that Collier misreads the effect a vicious or foolish character of rank
will have on an audience. The author of A Letter to A. H. Esq. (1698),
for example, tries to show that the audience is not swept by a feeling
that "every foolish Peer who is brought on the Stage" must be seen as
"a Reflection of all the Men of Condition":
'Tis absurd to make no distinction; as if a particular
Vice in a particular Man, cou'd not be expos'd without
a design'd Reflection on all who belong to him. It
ought to touch no body but whom it concerns; and it
has its end, if it reclaims where it was design'd, and
prevents others, by shewing the Danger: And this is
the Design of Comedy.23
Thus, far from serving as model representations of a class, the Lord
Foppingtons and Lady Wishforts were seen as disgusting, and therefore inÂ¬
structive, characters by Collier's opponents. Their mistakes on stage
could forewarn those susceptible to similar faults while showing others
what they already looked like to the judging eyes of the world.
James Drake concludes his comments to Collier by examining the
clergyman's accusation of rude treatment of the nobility. Drake's logic
seems so sharp it is difficult to imagine how Collier might have
answered him effectively. He begins by saying that "if Birth or any
other Chance shou'd make a Lord of a Fool" the other nobles should not
feel guilty or abused unless the poets "presume to make such a one the
Representative of his Order, and propose him as a common Standard."
Drake also suggests that it would be wrong and dangerous to "characterÂ¬
ize too nearly and particularly any of those Noble Persons."
But while the Poet contents himself with feign'd
Persons, and copies closely after Nature, without
pressing upon her in her private recesses, and
singling out Individuals from the herd, if any Man,
of what Quality or Employment soever, fancies himÂ¬
self concern'd in the representation, let him spoil
the Picture by mending the Original. For he only
is to be blam'd for the Resemblance. If Men of
Honour and Abilities cou'd entail their Wisdom and
Virtues upon their Posterity, then a Title wou'd be
a pretty sure sign of Personal Worth, and the Respect
and Reverence that was paid to the Founders of
honourable Families ought to follow the Estate, and
the heir of one shou'd be heir of t'other.^
Collier was incensed that a member of the clergy even appears
on the stage, especially as a satirical butt. He devotes an entire
chapter of A Short View to an examination of the abuses of the clergy
on the stage, throughout suggesting that the intention and effect of
showing evil or foolish men of the cloth is to undermine religion. He
feels that "the Holy Function [of the clergy] is much too Solemn to be
play'd with. Christianity is for no Fooling, neither Place, the
Occasion nor the Actors are fit for such a Representation. To bring the
Church into the Play-House, is the way to bring the Play-House into the
Church. Tis apt to turn Religion into Romance; and make unthinking
People conclude, that all Serious Matters are nothing but Farce, Fiction
and Design.11 As he sees it, the playwrights' "Aim is to destroy Reli-
gion, their preaching is against Sermons." In response Vanbrugh reÂ¬
cognizes the "Holy Function" by granting that the "Institution of the
Clergy" is "Both in the Intention and Capacity the most effectual" in
promoting "the Practice of all Moral Virtues." But he says that his
purpose in representing the clergy through a disguised Sir John Brute
(The Provok1d Wife, IV, i), was "to put the Audience in mind, that there
were Laymen so wicked, they car'd not what they did to bring Religion
in Contempt, and were therefore always ready to throw dirt upon the
Pilots of it." Obviously, Vanbrugh expects the audience to indict
the drunken Brute (and those clergymen who would similarly misuse their
positions) rather than religion, the clergy, or himself as playwright.
Likewise, Congreve has only respect for the office of the clergy and
deprecates anyone who would ridicule the priesthood: "If any Man has in
any Play expos'd a Priest, as a Priest, and with an intimation, that as
such, his Character is ridiculous: I will agree heartily to condemn both
the Play and the Author. I am confident no Man can defend such an
Impiety; and whoever is guilty of it, my Advice to him is, that he
acknowledge his Error, that he repent of it and sin no more."27 But
Congreve clarifies the dramatic intention of representing clergymen on
the stage by pointing out what Collier should have been keenly aware
ofâ€”the human flaws of any man, layman or priest:
I would ask Mr. Collier whether a Man, after
he receiv'd holy Orders, is become incapable of
either playing the Knave, or the Fool?
If he is not incapable, it is possible that
some time or other his Capacity may exert it self
If he is found to play the Knave, he is subject
to the Penalties of the Law, equally with a Lay-man;
if he plays the Fool, he is equally with a Lay-fool,
the subject of Laughter and Contempt.
By this Behaviour the Man becomes alienated from
the Priest; as such Actions are in their own nature
separate and very far remov'd from his function, and
when such a one is brought on the Stage, the folly is
exposed, not the function; the Man is ridicul'd, and
not the Priest.
Such a Character neither does nor can asperse
the sacred Order of Priesthood, neither does it at all
reflect upon the persons of the pious and good Clergy:
For as Ben. Johnson observes on the same occasion from
Ubi generalis est de vitiis disputatio,
Ibi nullius esse personae injuriam,
where the business is to expose and reprehend Folly and
Vice in general, no particular person ought to take ofÂ¬
fence. And such business is properly the business of
Congreve asserts not only a Christian humanist's view of man, who may be
foolish or vicious no matter what his office, but also a moral purpose
for exposing flawed clergymen on stage. He even uses the twenty-sixth
"Article of Religion" to show that the church's own laws make provisions
to locate, try, and depose "evil Ministers."^9
Collier's arguments about the clergy reveal both inconsistencies
in logic and some rather unusual views of man for an apparently devout
Christian. He spends ten pages in A Short View trying to show how
priests are different from other men by pointing out "their Relation to
the Deity," "the Importance of their Office," and the "prescription for
their Privilege."^ Thus, while he admits that "the Clergy mismanage
sometimes," he denies that a mere layman, least of all a playwright, can
censure them. But he goes too far in his defense of the clergy and conÂ¬
tradicts the main distinction he has tried to establish. He says that
though "the Clergy may have their Failings sometimes like others. . . .
the Character is still untarnish'd. The Men may be Little but the
Priests are not so. And therefore like other People, they ought to be
treated by their best Distinction."^ He may feel this is a fine way
to remove the guilty clergymen from attack, but he has just argued at
length that the priests are not "like other People." First he seems to
be saying that the priests are better than men not of the cloth; thus,
they should not be censured. Then, however, since evidence contradicts
this "fact" in some cases, he considers the priests equal to other menâ€”
though they still must not be censured and only their positive attriÂ¬
butes are to be represented. The implication is that all men are thus
to be judged only on their "best Distinction," an attitude Collier
certainly forgets when evaluating the playwrights.
A slightly different contradiction appears when Collier
attempts to defend the clergy's privilege in his Defence of the Short
View. In his reply to Congreve he explains that
If you make the Man a Knave, the Priest must suffer
under the Imputation: And a Fool in his Person, will
never be thought discreet in his Function. Upon this
account Persons in Authority, whether Spiritual or
Civil, ought to be privileg'd from Abuse. To make
the Ministers of Church or State, the subj ect of
Laughter and Contempt, disables their Authority, and
renders their Commission insignificant.^^
But apparently Collier was confused about clergy privilege, for he later
defends the acquisition of "Riches and Power" by the clergy because they
are so much like most men:
Are not the Clergy of the same Humane Nature with
other People? Have they not the same Necessities
for this World, and the same Conscience and DisÂ¬
cretion to use it? Generally speaking, Poverty
does as ill with a Priest, as with a Poet. 'Tis
apt to Sink the Spirits, to make the Mind grow
Anxious, and Feeble in the discharge of Function.^
Thus, the images of the priests which Collier conveys are contradictory:
one image depends on a defense of their spiritual nature which should
keep them immune from the critical barbs of other men; the other image
depends on their very human material needs and desires which make them
the same as other men. Vanbrugh focuses on this latter image when he
shows how far Collier seems to depart from some obvious Christian exÂ¬
amples of self-denial of worldly wealth and position:
He is of Opinion, That Riches and Plenty, Title,
State and Dominion, give a Majesty to Precept, and cry
Place for it wherever it comes; That Christ and his
Apostles took the thing by the wrong Handle; and that
the Pope and his Cardinals have much refin'd upon 'em
in the Policy of Instruction. That shou'd a Vicar,
like St. John, feed on Locusts and Wild Honey, his
Parish wou'd think he had too ill a taste for himself,
to cater for them; and that a Bishop, who, like St.
Paul, shou'd decline Temporal Dominion, wou'd shew
himself such an Ass, his Advice wou'd go for nothing.^
Congreve, too, says that his own respect and admiration for "many ReverÂ¬
end Clergymen now living" is not due to their rank or material status
but to "their Humility, their Humanity, their exceeding Learning, which
is yet exceeded by their Modesty; their exemplary Behaviour in their
whole Lives and Conversations; their Charitable Censures, of Youthfull
Errors and Negligences, their fatherly and tender admonitions, accom-
panyed with all sweetness of Behaviour; and full of mild yet forcible
Collier's belief that the clergy was being abused on the stage
found a poor reception with far more than the playwrights he attacked
in A Short View. Other playwrights and critics less closely connected
with the stage also saw problems in his depiction of the rights and
privileges of clergymen. Dennis, like Congreve, emphasizes "the way for
a Clergyman to secure himself from Contempt, is not to boast of secular
Advantages, which in him is truly ridiculous, but to shew his Meekness
and his Humility, which are true Christian Virtues."^ The position to
which Collier has elevated the clergy is depreciated by James Drake, who
emphasizes that they are still men and certainly do not have as close a
"Relation to the Deity" as A Short View indicates.
I suppose, if Mr. Collier1s Band hung awry, or his
Face was dirty, he would use the assistance of a
Glass to make all right and clean. Why then does he
reject the use of that which might do the same office
for his mind, and help him to correct the follies and
management of his Life? The case is plain, he is
blind to his own Faults, and mad that any one else
should see 'em. This makes him call the shewing any
of their failings, exposing the Clergy, as if thereby
only they become publick, not considering that the
Glass shews our Faults to our selves only; other
people can see 'em plainly and as readily without
its help. But Mr. Collier, who takes every thing by
the wrong handle, looks upon a correction as a reÂ¬
proach, and had rather a Fault should pass unmended,
than be taken notice of.^
Again and again Collier shows that his understanding of drama is limited
to outrage at what seems to him a portrayal of evil. Though Collier's
hazy critical perception of dramatic purpose may be largely behind this
view of the clergy on the stage, Drake suggests that Collier's own
sense of superiority has allowed him to become "the first bold Mortal,
that ever pretended to represent the person of God Almighty seriously.
This to me sounds more like Blasphemy, than any thing in the most
Drake may not have been exactly correct in evaluating Collier's
self-concept, but as a critic trying to explain how drama was designed
to affect men, his observations were not isolated. The anonymous author
of A Letter to A. H, Esq; Concerning the Stage (1698) points out that
"'Tis certain, since the Stage has used the Gown freely, and the Laity
have not been afraid to look into their Faults, that they are more
humble, and less publickly vicious."0^ This defender sees not only
potential for the stage but elaborates on its successes:
Besides their Reforming of Manners, the Stage has
taught them [clergymen] to speak English, and preach
more like Ambassadors of their great Master. It has
taught them to argue rationally, and at once mended
their Stile, and Form of their Sermons .... In
short, the Drunkenness, Whoring, Insolence, and
Dulness that has appear'd under a Black Coat on the
Stage, have made the Men of the same Colour of it
keep within Bounds: And that a Man might not teize
them with the Representation, they have endeavour'd
to appear in as differing a Form as possible. u
Collier's vanity insulated him from the education which this critic felt
the stage provided. To correct and guard against mistakes, however, a
man must be humble enough to accept the possibility of his faults and
discerning enough to see them when they are presented on stage. Collier,
and those who vigorously supported him, often seem neither humble nor
In Some Remarks upon Mrâ– Collier's Defence of His Short View
of the English Stage (1698), a vindicator of Congreve and Vanbrugh takes
the position that good clergymen, like good kings, need not fear and have
not feared the portrayal of an evil priest or prince on stage: "Why
may not a good Priest see an ill one Characterised, and not be concern'd,
since even Mr. Collier and ten thousand Instances allow, that failings
are incident to them as well as to the rest of human Kind?" He goes on
to note how "abominable Stories of the Monks and Friars" are found in
novels of Spain and Italy, nations which are most under "subjection to
their Ghostly Fathers":
Yet even with them the Bad are exposed; all our
reformations and Amendments came from discovery of
their Faults; nor can I think a Chaplain Ridiculed
in such a Family as Sir Tunbelly1s, Reflects any
more upon a sensible and learned Man in that CapaÂ¬
city, than Justice Clodpate in Epsom-Wellg, does upon
several Worthy Men that fill the Benches.41
Through his critical spokesman, Savage, John Oldmixon justifies
the playwrights' use of clergymen on stage. His reasoning corresponds
to almost all of those who defended the practice:
A Poet can't set a man in the Stocks for being drunk,
not break an Officer for being a Coward, nor fine a
man for Extortion, neither can he pull the Gown over
a disorderly Parsons ears; but, if he can, he may
make 'em all asham'd of their faults, by shewing
their Characters ridiculous. Let a Clergy-man be a
Fop or a Rake, a Pedant or a Coxcomb, he is accountable
in the Poets Court for his Lewdness and Folly. Their
punishment is to expose him, and in many cases the Law
can do no more, sometimes not so much. ^
He feels men are taught by seeing others make mistakes which they might
make or have already made. Savage comments later on Collier's "sophistry"
in attacking the playwrights on this point: "We have seen how far the
Clergy may be laught at, without concerning their office or order in
their Quarrel . . . and that the Poets never intended to affront the
Clergy in general, by their treating those who deserv'd it as scandal-
ously as they liv'd." Through the fear of ridicule or the shame of
recognition, the clergymen could modify their behavior and thoughts. In
this way a playwright becomes in part a legislator working through his
art for the improvement of'those who witness his creations.
Collier seems to have two major problems with the presentation
of characters and themes (mainly the evil nature of man) on stage. His
first problem is an inability to see the play as an artistic work,
distanced from the artist and the audience yet emblematic and allusive.
Thus, the thoughts and language of the characters become the thoughts
and language of the playwrights for him. He lifts passages from context,
examines, and condemns them as profane, with no sense that he has disÂ¬
turbed an artistic whole and thus distorted meaning by his amputations.
Closely related to this fault is his Platonic prejudice against the
presentation of evil on stage. This prejudice manifests itself in his
total disgust with elements of human nature which the playwrights would
have him witness and thus controls his ideas about how man can best be
taught to modify his thoughts and behavior.
In A Defence of the Short View of the Profaneness and ImmoralÂ¬
ity of the English Stage (1699) , he clearly exposes his first problem.
Here, he sees characterization as an excuse, a "pretence" to justify
"profane Sallies." He asserts that "'tis the Poet that speaks in the
Persons of the Stage; And that he who makes a Man Mad, must answer for
his Distraction."^ This total lack of understanding of the creative
process runs counter to Congreve's view that the playwright creates
individuals who embody traits and ideas he sees in life around him, not
representatives of and spokesmen for himself. After asserting that
comedy must expose vice and folly by portraying "vicious and foolish
Characters," Congreve desires "that it may not be imputed to the Per-
swasion or private Sentiments of the Author, if at any time one of these
vicious Characters in any of his Plays shall behave himself foolishly,
or immorally in Word or Deed. I hope I am not yet unreasonable; it were
very hard that a Painter should be believ'd to resemble, all the ugly
Faces that he draws.in addition, he remarks that "any Expression
or Passage cited from any Play" by Collier cannot be judged "out of its
proper Scene, or alienated from the Character by which it is spoken; for
in that place alone, and in his Mouth alone, can it have its proper and
true Signification.'0 There is a conscious distance between the
writer and the characters he draws, and the artist is in part disÂ¬
tinguished by how well his characters fit the situations or scenes of
Dryden, as if anticipating Collier's attacks on him, speaks
of what the poet may appropriately treat in a play so that it may "as
well be conducing to holiness as to good manners." He notes that he has
been "charged by some ignorant and malicious persons with no less crimes
than profaneness and irreligiÃ³n" in his play Tyrannic Love, or the Royal
Martyr (1670), and he thus answers the charges, made mainly against
Maximin, the heathen tyrant in the play:
If it be urged that a person of such principles who
scoffs at any religion ought not to be presented on
the stage; why then are the lives and sayings of so
many wicked and profane persons recorded in the Holy
Scriptures? I know it will be answered that a due
use may be made of them; that they are remembered
with a brand of infamy fixed upon them; and set as
sea-marks for those who behold them to avoid. And
what other use have I made of Maximin? Have I proÂ¬
posed him as a pattern to be imitated, whom even for
his impiety to his false gods I have so severely
Dryden quite clearly expects the audience to understand and learn from
the justice meted out to such an evil character.
In his preface to his translation of DÃ©Ã Arte Graphical the
Art of Painting (1695), he also shows how different from Collier's is
his view of man and of stage characters. He points out that the
idea of perfection is of little use in portraits . . .
[and] in the characters of comedy and tragedy, which
are never to be made perfect, but always be drawn with
some specks of frailty and deficience .... The
perfection of such stage-characters consists chiefly in
their likeness to the deficient faulty nature, which is
It is in large part the depiction of man's nature, in all its deformity,
which makes the drama both instructive and pleasing.
Other playwrights with some sense of the artistic importance
of presenting a variety of characters also got into the battle. Though
Elkanah Settle was not directly attacked, he chose to defend writers
like Vanbrugh and Dryden by pointing out Collier's imperfect understandÂ¬
ing of their works. In defending Vanbrugh's choice of main characters
in The Relapse, for example, he suggests that Collier
not expect that All the Characters in the Comedy
should be Virtuous: A Composition of that kind
cannot well be made; nor would such a Composition
truly reach the whole Instructive Ends of the Drama.
Contraria juxta se posita magis elucescunt, is a
very great Maxim, The Foyl sets off the Diamond.
And that Foyl, I may venture to say, is wanted in
the Comedy, to make the Virtue shine the brighter. "*0
Settle is very conscious of the impact a virtuous character can have on
an audience, but only if the character is presented realistically in a
world with vices to challenge that virtue. The audience interest will
focus on the struggle a character like Amanda (The Relapse) has to
maintain her chastity. The effect of the struggleâ€”Amanda's success and
Worthy's conversionâ€”may then serve as an instructive conclusion to the
action. Because temptation is recognizable, even to the most virtuous
members of the audience, the temptation must appear realistic; to do so
requires the presence of vice, not as an abstract concept, but in the
persons of "the gay World."
John Oldmixon, through his critical mouthpiece, Savage, in
Reflections on the Stage (1699) , affirms the idea of poetic justice in
his defense of vice on the stage:
If Comedy is to correct Vice, it must expose it,
and how can vitious man be expos'd but by his words
or actions: now to make him act his wickedness,
would be to restore the Infamy of the Pantomimes, and
the Poets have no other way of discovering him, but
to make him talk loosely, suitable to his Character.
A man must not be punish'd on the Stage for nothing.
A lewd Fellow must act his part as far as decency will
permit, that he may suffer for 't in the end, and as
long as he keeps to nature with this restriction, the
Poet can't err.^
Language here becomes a way of creating a character who "keeps to nature"
and thus is recognizable to the audience. Like Congreve, Oldmixon furÂ¬
ther emphasizes the context of language in the play by asking Collier:
Are there not some passages which depend entirely
on what went before 'em, and on the Character of the
persons who spoke 'em? How can a man judge of the
thing but by the Character? and all that ever writ
have made the persons they introduce, speak according
to their Characters. Has not Milton in the best and
most Religious Poem that has been writ since our
Saviours days, made his Devil say of God Almighty?
Sole reigning holds the Tyranny of Heaven. And
who, that should light on this Verse, would not think
the Author guilty of horrid Blasphemy, unless he read
what went before, and consider'd who spoke it.52
A similar attitude emerges in Father Francois Caffero's letter, which
Peter Motteux prefixed to his Beauty in Distress (1698). Taking a Thom-
istic position throughout, the Father feels that we cannot condemn "those
Actions and Words which may by accident raise the Passions, . . . for we
cannot walk a Step, read a Book, enter a Church, or live in the World,
without meeting with a thousand things capable of exciting the Passions."
Living in the world necessitates a confrontation with evil, but imitation
of evil is no necessary consequence. Likewise, he feels plays are not
intended to corrupt the audience:
for tho they speak of Love, Hatred, Ambition, Revenge,
and the like, 'tis not done with an Intention of
exciting those kinds of Passions in the Audience; nor
are there any such scandalous Circumstances in them,
as will infallibly produce such mischievous Effects in
Additional critics in favor of the presentation of vice on
stage used 1) arguments supporting the ability of the audience to disÂ¬
tinguish and judge properly (rather than imitate blindly) based upon
the accuracy of the playwrights' depiction of the society and 2) arguÂ¬
ments founded primarily upon the artistic necessity of making the play
a whole, with the actions and language of each character logical and
meaningful to the unfolding plot and the ultimate moral intentions of
the playwright. James Drake, echoing Congreve and discussing Collier s
misunderstanding of Aristophanes, explains how the poet is not to be
identified with his characters:
The people of Athens, who were in these matters much
more delicate, than Mr. Collier seems to be, had the
niceness to distinguish justly between the Private
Sentiments of the Man, and the Publick one's of the
Poet. In this latter capacity almost all sorts of
Characters belong'd to him, and he must of consequence
be frequently necessitated to make use of Thoughts and
Expressions very contrary to his own proper opinion.
The Athenians therefore did not lay these Liberties
of the Stage, which they knew the nature of those
Characters which he represented must of course oblige
him to, as blemishes either in his Faith or Morals,
to his Charge. Had Mr. Collier been Master of as much
Understanding and Justice, as these Heathens, not only
Aristophanes, but our English Poets too had met with a
fairer Adversary, and found civiller and honester
He later criticizes Collier's reasoning because "Mr. Collier knows,
that the business of Comedy is to instruct by example; and he mistakenly
imagines, that these ought to be Examples for Imitation." Drake, howÂ¬
ever, feels that Comedy presents only examples for caution, not imiÂ¬
tation. He points out Collier's fear that since the poets mix "Beauties"
and "Blemishes" within a work or a character, "Folks" will be tempted to
"ape the Deformities" as well as the admirable qualities. But Drake
feels that "the Understanding of our Youth is not so very depress'd and
low; but they can very readily distinguish between the obvious Beauties,
and Defects of a Character, and are not to be fool'd like Dottrels into
a vicious Imitation.Even Edward Filmer, who agreed to the need for
reformation of many contemporary plays, carefully explained the necesÂ¬
sity for representing evil and foolish characters acting and speaking
appropriately. Presented with an accurate depiction of these characters,
the audience, then, would not be "judging without Process, and condemning
without Proof; which is certainly the greatest Injustice imaginable."57
Indeed, justice, rendered by the audience upon the characters or by the
playwrights through "Stage-Discipline" (poetic justice), was the key to
sound artistic creation. For Filmer, the best plays were those which
involved the audience, through the characters, in a process of evaluaÂ¬
tion; the audience could then understand the moral which was not only
part of the art, but the basis for the art.
Against these justifications for the presentation of evil on
stage, Collier could only repeat his fearful, Platonic cry. In it there
was a warning of imminent doom, which found ready ears among those who
knew or cared little about the drama.
3 A Second Defence of the Short View of the Prophaneness and
Immorality of the English Stage (London, 1700), p. 36.
Ridpath's The Stage Condemnâ€™d first appeared late in 1698.
Bedford barraged the public with Serious Reflections on the Scandalous
Abuse and Effects of the Stage (London, 1705); A Second Advertisement
Concerning the Profaneness of the Playhouse(London, 1705) ; The Evil and
Danger of Stage Plays (London, 1706); A Serious Remonstrance in Behalf
of the Christian Religion (London, 1719); The Great Abuse of Musick
(London, 1711) ; and A Sermon Preached in the Parish-Church of St.
Butolph's Aldgate (London, 1730). Law's The Absolute Unlawfulness of
the Stage-Entertainment Fully Demonstrated first appeared in 1726, the
year of Collier's death, and was reprinted throughout the century.
^Johnson, in The Lives of the English Poets, and Macaulay,
in both "Comic Dramatists of the Restoration" and The History of England,
show respect for Collier and many of his views.
^John Palmer, The Comedy of Manners (1913; rpt. New York:
Russell & Russell, Inc., 1962), pp. 276-277; E. E. Stoll, "Literature
No 'Document,'" MLR, XIX (1924), 150; Maxmillian E. Novak, "The Artist
and the Clergyman: Congreve, Collier, and the World of the Play,"
College English, XXX (1969), 556.
^A Short View of the Immorality and Profaneness of the
English Stage (London, 1698), p. 2.
^Ibid., pp. 4 & 11.
^A Defence of Plays, (London, 1707), p. 16.
^A Short View, pp. 9, 17 & 110.
9The Complete Works of Sir John Vanbrugh, eds., Bonamy
DobrÃ©e and Geoffrey Webb (Bloomsbury: The Nonesuch Press, 1927), I, 196.
â– ^The Complete Works of William Congreve, ed., Montague
Summers (London: The Nonesuch Press, 1923), III, 175.
-^The Critical Works of John Dennis, ed. Edward Niles Hooker,
I (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1939), 317-318.
3^Ibid., pp. 124-125.
l^xhe Antient and Modern Stages Survey1d (London, 1699),
Short View, p. 175.
17Works, I, 197-198.
â– ^That Vanbrugh's comment here has been seen mainly as a deÂ¬
fense of realism, rather than as a moral judgment based upon realistic
observation, may indicate the effect Collier has had on more recent
critics who have dealt with the controversy.
19Works, III, 177.
^Critical Works, I, 182.
23 7 8
stages, pp. 365-366. Drake had earlier made the point that
persons of quality, especially gentlemen, should not be represented in
comedy as being "of sound Sense and perfect Morals," for this would be
unnatural. In fact, "Fools of what Quality soever are proper Goods and
Chattels of the Stage" as well as a "Gentleman of Wit and Honour" as
long as his "Appetites are strong and irregular enough, to hurry him
beyond his discretion, and make him act against the Conviction of his
Judgment" (pp. 234-236).
23A Short View, pp. 123-124.
26Works, I, 202-203.
27Works, III, 191.
Ibid. , 190-191. In part this article, as Congreve quotes
it, reads: '"it appertaineth to the Discipline of the Church, that
enquiry be made of evil Ministers: And that they be accused by those
that have knowledge of their Offences; and finally being found Guilty
by just Judgment be deposed.'"
31Ibid., p. 139.
A Defence of the Short View of the Profaneness and ImmoralÂ¬
ity of the English Stage (London, 1699), p. 70.
33Ibid., p. 117.
34Works, I, 202-203.
35Works, III, 193.
38Critical Works, I, 187.
37Stages, pp. 344-345.
38Ibid., p. 346.
Reflections on the Stage, and Mr. Collyer's Defence of the
Short View (London, 1699), pp. 65-66.
43Ibid., p. 113.
45Works, III, 173.
47"Of Dramatic Poesy" and Other Critical Essays, ed. George
Watson (London: J. M. Dent & Sons, Ltd., 162), I, 139-140. He also
suggests his method of teaching the audience: "I only maintain, against
the enemies of the stage, that patterns of piety, decently represented
and equally removed from the extremes of superstition and profaneness,
may be of excellent use to second the precepts of our religion. By the
harmony of words we elevate the mind to a sense of devotion, as our
solemn music, which is inarticulate poesy, does in churches; and by the
lively images of piety, adorned by action, through the senses allure
the soul; which while it is charmed in a silent joy of what it sees and
hears, is struck at the same time with a secret veneration of things
celestial, and is wound up insensibly into the practice of that which it
48Ibid., II, 184.
He says in the same preface that in comedy, the worst likeÂ¬
nesses of men should be presented in order to produce laughter and to
instruct the vulgar, "who are never well amended till they are more than
sufficiently exposed" (II, 185).
3<3A Farther Defence of Dramatick Poetry (London, 1698) , pp.
â– ^p. 54. Oldmixon also stresses that a poet must show the
audience why a character deserves punishment (pp. 116-117).
52Ibid. , pp. 11-12.
"^Some Remarks Upon Mr. Collier's Defence of his Short View
of the English Stage (London, 1698), p. 9 and A Letter to A. H. Esq.;
Concerning the Stage (London, 1698), pp. 7 & 9.
â€¢^Stages, pp. 327-328.
56Ibid. , pp. 270-272.
^^Filmer, pp. 36 & 71.
PERSUASION OF THE UNKNOWING: THE SUCCESS OF COLLIER'S VIEW
It might be asked how two twentieth-century critics could look
back at the Collier controversy and draw opposing conclusions about
Collier's impact on the drama. How is it possible that G. F. Lamb finds
Collier and his followers little more than "temporary nuisances" to the
stage, while E. E. Stoll suggests that "all Jeremy Collier . . . had to
do was appeal to the old faithâ€”their faith stillâ€”and Congreve and
Vanbrugh were routed, and the stage purged"?^ To arrive at some reason
for this disagreement, and thus an evaluation of the success or failure
of Collier's arguments, the changes in the drama as well as the popuÂ¬
larity of Collier's works should be considered. Also, it should be
stressed that whatever popularity Collier's views have achieved among
some, his fallacious methods of argument and his conclusions were reÂ¬
peatedly and accurately exploded by the contemporary critical replies.
And because much of his popularity depended upon his image as an expert
on moral reform, these replies questioned his sincerity as a reformer
and his authority as a judge of morality in the drama.
Two questions arise when trying to understand Collier's impact
on the stage. Why, for nearly forty years after the restoration of
Charles II and the theatre, is there no significant censure of the
drama? And how can a work like A Short View suddenly appear and go
through five editions while spawning other equally hostile attacks by
opponents of the stage? Certainly an answer to both of these questions
would have to be that the timing of the publication took advantage of
social changes occurring in England, especially in London. Some of the
changes would have been obvious in the theatre audiences, who probably
bought Collier's treatise and followed the controversy with interest.
Emmett L. Avery and Arthur H. Scouten point out that during the forty
years from 1660-1700 "essentially, it appears that both the audience
and its taste altered .... In 1660 the spectators were principally
moderately cultured, well-educated persons. . . ."2 As the century
progressed, and especially after Charles' reign, "the middle classes,
citizens, gentlemen, and ladies, the apprentices, and even servants
formed a larger portion of the audience."^ John Loftis is even more
specific in identifying the merchants as the most influential group in
changing the taste of the audience.^* These merchants were becoming
increasingly wealthy and greater in numberâ€”especially in and around
Londonâ€”as the century drew to a close. As a group of newly rich, who
had made their money from trade and industry, they could afford the
high-priced admission to the theatres and occupied the seats earlier
reserved only for landed gentry and members of the court circle. But
this group had no way of instantly attaining the knowledge of literary
and dramatic traditions which the people of fashion were expected to
possess. Economically, they had gained status, but their lack of taste
and judgment forced many of the better playwrights to "lose" this part
of their audience. John Dennis is extremely conscious of this new
element in the audience in A Large Account of the Taste in Poetry, and
the Causes of the Degeneracy of It (1702). He does not merely point out
that "these People, who in their original obscurity, could never attain
to any higher entertainment than Tumbling and Vaulting and Ladder
Dancing, and the delightful diversions of Jack Pudding . . . [are still]
in Love with their old sports, and encourage these noble Pastimes still
upon the Stage.He also devotes much of his letter to a comparison
between contemporary audiences and those immediately following the ResÂ¬
toration. He finds that "the taste of England for Comedy . . . was
certainly much better in the Reign of King Charles the Second, than it
is at present. For it was then extremely good, and is now excessively
bad." In drawing this conclusion, he presents two important "Maxims":
First, That then there is among any People a good
taste for Comedy, when a very considerable part of
an Audience are qualified to judge for themselves,
and when they who are not qualified to judge for
themselves, are influenced by the authority of those
who are rightly qualified. Secondly, that then there
is among any People a bad taste for Comedy, when very
few of an Audience are qualify'd to judge for themÂ¬
selves, and when the rest are influenced by the
authority of those who are not rightly qualified.
He then goes on to state that, under Charles, the first maxim held,
while presently the second is true. His proof involves an explanation
of those qualifications necessary to judge good poetry, qualifications
which the good poet and critic must share, for "no man can judge of a
Beautiful imagination in another without some degree of it in himself":
And as for the judging rightly of any thing without
Judgment, that is a contradiction in terms. And if
philosophy and a knowledge of the World are necessary
to a Comick Poet, for his forming his Characters; if
an acquaintance with the best Authors among the Antients
and Moderns, be requisite for the attaining the Vivacity
and Grace of the Dialogue; why, then for the forming
a true judgment of these, the same Learning and the same
Experience are necessary. And lastly, if a Poet had
need to have his mind free, that he may the more
thoroughly enter'into the concerns of the Theatre, and
put on the Passions and Humours of his different CharacÂ¬
ters, so as to make them by turns his own; why the
Spectator, that he may judge whether the Author does
this or no, must enter into those Passions and
Humours in some proportionable degree, and conseÂ¬
quently ought to have his mind free from all
avocations of Business, and from all real vexatious
Thus, to be able to pass accurate judgment upon a play, one had to posÂ¬
sess all of the following in some measure: "a lively, and a warm, and
a strong imagination, and a solid and piercing judgment," "a knowledge
of things . . . because the ultimate end of Comedy is to instruct, and
to instruct all," "a knowledge of the World and of Mankind," and
"Leisure" and "Serenity." The reason Dennis sees "a considerable part"
of the audience of the Restoration years possessing these qualities
while "in the present Reign very few in an Audience" have them is not
because "Humane Nature [has] decay'd since the Reign of Charles the
Second." Rather, he suggests that "the faculties of the Soul, like the
parts of the Body, receive nourishment from use, and derive skill as
well as they do force and vigour from exercise.
If Dennis's observationâ€”that this new class of theatre-goers
had helped eclipse qualified judgment of the playsâ€”is accurate, those
in the audience who could be influenced by the thesis of A Short View
would have increased by 1698. This is not to say that the merchants
took over the audience, but as a developing source of wealth (and thus
theatre revenue) they were making themselves recognized.^ And though a
small percentage of all merchants (both wealthy tradesmen and poorer
shopkeepers) attended the theatre, those not seeing or reading plays
probably would have been even more influenced by an anti-stage treatise
like Collier's. After all, what value (especially moral value) could
there be in spending time, energy, and money away from business? In
fact, according to one anonymous spokesman for the mercantile position,
the stage leads men, through an excitement of their imaginations, from
"the Fatique and Engagement of Business .... And among a trading
People this is a Mischief to be dreaded and shun'd to the last Degree:
Trade requiring Industry and Application, that the Mind be sent to it
and engag'd in it."9 What many merchants imagined about plays perhaps
needed only the virulent confirmation of a seemingly honest and informed
man of the cloth, no matter his lack of political popularity at the
time. James Drake seems to have this type of merchant in mind when he
suggests that Collier uses his assured attack to influence people "whose
Fears are Stronger than their Judgments."^ That Collier was conscious
of this body of readers for his attacks is not assured, but his arguÂ¬
ments and point of view were far more creditable to them than to the
playwrights. Not having the proper tools to understand, judge, or
appreciate the performances or published versions for themselves, these
readers of A Short View would have been only too willing to accept
Collier's vision of stage corruption.
But perhaps even more significant in accounting for the sudden
popularity of anti-stage publications are the societies for the reforÂ¬
mation of manners which began to form shortly after 1688. As Dudley
W. R. Bahlman points out, two great waves of enthusiasm for the forÂ¬
mation of these societies rolled across England during the 1690's.^
Bahlman accounts for this spirit of reformation as, in part, a reaction
to the threat of Catholicism:
The reformation of manners was but one aspect
of a religious revival which had begun in the brief
reign of James II. The threat of Roman Catholicism
in that time had been a challenge to both churchmen
and dissenters. Popery meant tyranny, while protes-
tantism was the bulwark of the traditional rights and
liberties of Englishmen. Therefore, one way to show
a stubborn defiance of James' rule was to throng the
churches and chapels of England. The wave of piety
that resulted from this form of resistance did not
disappear with the accession of William and Mary; it
persisted and manifested itself not only in the forÂ¬
mation of societies for reformation but in the
activities of other organizations as well.
The purpose of the societies for the reformation of manners was not
only to preach against the immorality and profaneness which they felt
had engulfed England, but to encourage new laws and bring to prosecution
those breaking existing laws. The groups would march out like an army
to inform against those who appeared guilty of public cursing, swearing,
drunkenness, or profanation of the Lord's day. Their hope, not unlike
Plato's in The Republic or Collier's in A Short View, was "to create a
moral paradise" through the enforcement of laws. The version of paraÂ¬
dise brought on by this "army of reform" caused even ministers like
John Ryther to
so far forget the natural depravity of man as to tell
the local reforming society to pray "that there may
be in many, very many, a reformation, the effect of
conversion, that we may live to see that joyful day
when profaneness, irreligiÃ³n, and immorality shall be
banished out of the land; and godliness, religion and
goodness shall be flourishing, spreading, prevailing,
and in prospering condition everywhere."
These Platonic (and Pelagian) characteristics of the movement
did not go totally unnoticed by its members, however, for Bahlman points
out that William Bisset, in his Plain English (London, 1704), felt that
the societies "were not trying to save the souls of wicked men at all,"
which as Christians, they should have been doing. Bisset, speaking
sarcastically for the societies, interprets their aims by saying that men
"may be as secretly wicked, lewd, and worldly as they
please; we won't force them (they need not fear it)
to a heavenly mind, much less to Heaven against their
liking. But we would oblige them (if possible) to be
civil upon Earth and let their neighbors live by them
a quiet and peaceful life in all godliness and
The concentrated effort was made to remove the appearance of evil from
daily life, just as Collier wished to remove evil characters, language,
and actions from the stage. This being done, it was supposed England
would be cleansed of its vice and wickedness; Bisset, obviously, saw a
fallacy in this kind of attitude.
In addition to the societies' zealous concern with the appearÂ¬
ance of evil, their composition would have made them particularly reÂ¬
ceptive to Collier's arguments. They were made up of individuals who
felt that all of their members were virtuous, untainted by the sins
they were fighting. Unlike the other societiesâ€”the Society for the
Promotion of Christian Knowledge, the Society for Propagating the Gospel
in Foreign Parts, and the religious societiesâ€”the societies for the
reformation of manners were not strictly Anglican. And as Bahlman says,
"they were critics of Church and the State," since they felt neither had
enforced the laws against immorality. Also, both the reform and
religious societies "were composed primarily of tradesmen and some
apprentices,' who like the wealthier merchants, would have known little
of literary and dramatic tradition and even less of contemporary plays.
Though, as dissenters and Anglicans, these reformers did not share
Collier's non-juring position with respect to William, they were as zealÂ¬
ously active in sniffing about for sources of smut. Where any basis for
a critical judgment of the drama was lacking, Collier's seeming
understanding as well as his acquaintance with authorities on the stage
could easily have convinced the unknowing. After all, not only the endâ€”
the abolition of immorality and profanenessâ€”but the means--censorship
and prosecutionâ€”were the same for Collier and the reform societies.
There is further evidence which Professor Scouten has found
to link the popularity of Collier's works with the Society for the ProÂ¬
motion of Christian Knowledge (a group Bahlman says lay between the
religious societies and the reform societies in its zeal as a reforming
force among the people). Scouten finds evidence in the minutes of the
SPCK that they purchased at least two hundred copies of Mr. Collier's
Dissuasive from the Play-House (1703) to be distributed. Also recorded
are large purchases of other anti-stage literature which the society
passed out at coffee houses, churches, and other gathering places.-*-^
Scouten does not claim to have surveyed all the records of SPCK, nor is
it likely that all of their purchases of tracts and pamphlets were
recorded, but what he has noted indicates a specific interest by the
SPCK in the controversy and a considerable financial investment to help
keep the anti-stage material rolling off the presses. It certainly
seems likely that the more active and more numerous reforming societies
used this same tactic of mass purchase and distribution of anti-stage
works to help in their battle against public vice.15 If this is true,
Collier's popularity is probably due less to a demand by a large
number of readers than to the propagandistic use by the societies of
copies passed out to citizens wishing only a morning at church, a cup
of coffee, or a walk. Whether many of the recipients of these works
read them and believed the arguments cannot be ascertained. That the
works had little effect on the existence of theatres and the continued
popularity of plays which were attacked is a matter of record.
The publication of Collier's works kept pace with activities
of the reform societies, and some of his opponents had harsh words for
these societies. Thomas Brown, for example, in his Letters from the
Dead to the Living (first published in 1702), describes the societies as
troops of informers, who are maintain'd by perjury,
serve God for gain, and ferret out whores for subÂ¬
sistence. This noble society consists of divines of
both churches, fanaticks as well as orthodox saints
and sinners, knights of the post, and knights of the
elbow, and they are not more unanimously against imÂ¬
morality in their information, than for it in their
practice; they avoid no sins in themselves, and will
suffer none in any one else. . . . These worthy
gentlemen, for promoting the interest of the Crown-
Office, and some such honest place, pick harmless
words out of plays, to indict the players and squeeze
twenty pound a week of them, if they can, for their
exposing pride, vanity, hypocrisy, usury, oppression,
cheating, and other darling vices of the master reÂ¬
formers, who owe them a grudge, not to be appeas'd
without considerable offerings; for money in these
cases wipes off all defects.46
In the epilogue to The Stage-Beaux Toss'd in a_ Blanket (1704), Gildon
also comes down on the reformers, among whom he numbers Collier:
Gentlemen, briefly this has been our Fault,
We more for others than our selves have Thought.
Each Man wou'd piously reform his Neighbour;
To save himself he thinks not worth his Labour.
With Zeal and Sin at once we're strangely warm'd,
And grow more Wicked as we grow Reform'd.
Oh! 'tis a blessed Age, and blessed Nation,
When vice walks cheek by jowl with Reformation.
In short, let each Man's Thoughts first look at home,
And then to Foreign Reformations roam.
If all the Fools and Knaves met here to Day,
Wou'd their own Faults and Follies first Sur^y,
We need not fear their Censures of the Play.
But not until 1709 did the attacks on the reform societies produce conÂ¬
crete and lasting results. It was on August 15 of that year that the
Reverend Henry Sacheverall delivered a caustic sermon against the
societies for the reformation of manners, which he saw as a direct
threat to the Church of England:
[Our religion] does not oblige us to charge men at
random upon bare surmise and suspicion, or to pry
officiously into their lives and secret affairs,
and to invade their private rights by usurping a
jurisdiction which we have no title to justify, or
with a rude air of superiority to obtrude ourselves
upon 'em as privy-counsellors and dogmatically censure,
rebuke, or advise in our neighbor's proceedings that
don't belong to us, neither lie under the verge of
our cognizance. Whatever godly and fallacious glosses
such troublesome wasps that erect themselves into
illegal inquisitors may cast upon their action, they
are doubtless the unwarrentable effects of an idle,
encroaching, impertinent, and meddling curiosity ....
It is in short the base product of ill-nature, spiritual
pride, censoriousness, and sanctified spleen, pretending
to carry on the blessed work of reformation by lying,
slandering, whispering, backbiting, and tale-bearing,
the most express character of the devil, who is emphaÂ¬
tically styled the grand accuser of the brethern.
Though a Whig administration convicted Sacheverell of opposing reforÂ¬
mation, he became a popular hero, and his conviction was the issue which
brought the Tories back to power in the elections of 1710. And as
Bahlman points out, one could easily forget the existence of the soÂ¬
cieties after 1710, for their ability to arouse public enthusiasm had
been dealt a fatal blow.^
That Collier sensed the opposition to the reform societies
may be indicated by the date of his last claimed contribution to the
controversy, A Farther Vindication of the Short View of the Profaneness
and Immorality of the English Stage, published in 1708. The coinciÂ¬
dence of the weakening of the societies (and, thus, their purchasing
power) and the cessation of Collier's anti-stage works is even more
noteworthy when viewed in light of remarks made by some of the stage
defenders. The author of A Vindication of the Stage (1698), for example,
feels that Collier did not see virtue as its own reward; rather, he
suggests "that the Fifty Pounds had a greater influence with him, than
the stab he suppos'd he should give to Vice and Debauchery."^ Thomas
Brown also speaks of the lucrative results of Collier's appeal: "fana-
ticks presented the nonjuror, and misers and extortioners gave him
bountiful rewards; one . . . laid out threescore pounds . . . [for] the
impression [of A Short View], to distribute among the saints, that are
zealous for God and mammon at the same time,"zz Gildon too thinks one
of the main results of Collier's writings was that he "got a great deal
of Money by what he writ against Plays." These responses to Collier's
motives probably overstate his concern for money, but it is also fact
that large sales of his works were due to the reform societies and that
when they became less active so did his publications.^
In addition to the timing of his writings, his persistence in
answering stage defenders shows how much he wished to keep the anti-stage
position before uncommitted or sympathetic readers. After the success
of A Short View, he waited only for responses from Congreve and Vanbrugh
before rekindling the reforming fires with his Defence of the Short View
of the Profaneness and Immorality of the English Stage, &c. (1699). His
apparent strategy was to have the last word after any extensive defense
of the stage so that the readers would feel he had countered any obÂ¬
jections to his position. He answered James Drake with A Second Defence
of the Short View of the Prophaneness and Immorality of the English Stage,
&c. (1700); Edward Filmer's A Defence of Plays (1707) prompted his A
Farther Vindication (1708); he also used the occasion of the storm in
1703 to publish Mr. Collier's Dissuasive from the Playhouse (1703) and
probably Some Thoughts Concerning the Stage in a. Letter to a_ Lady (1704).
It made no difference that his defenses of A Short View were essentially
repetitious of initial arguments or that they avoided or confused
important considerations brought up by his opponents. What seems
important rhetorically was that hr; have the final word, that the necessity
for closing the theatres conclude the reflections of those readers who
were following the controversy.
Closely associated with the timing and persistence of Collier's
attacks is their tone, for it too takes into account the audience to whom
the works were directed. Ostensibley, he was directing his views at the
playwrights in order to reform their writing, but any reader soon recogÂ¬
nizes he means to go far beyond reform. Like the reform societies, he
is trying to raise a public outcry against the stage and eventually
draw the law down upon actors, playwrights, and theatres. To stir
Christian readers who were not familiar with the plays or the authorities
which he cites, he had to convey a feeling of moral outrage. Thus, his
tone is not merely forceful, but indignant, emotionally incensed, even
livid. One example may be seen in his reaction to Vanbrugh's The Relapse
in A Short View:
I am quite tired with these wretched Sentences.
The sight indeed is horrible, and I am almost unÂ¬
willing to shew it. However they shall be produced
like Malefactors, not for Pomp, but Execution.
Snakes and Vipers, must sometimes be look'd on, to
destroy them. I can't forbear expressing my self
with some warmth under these Provocations. What
Christian can be unconcern'd at such intolerable
Abuses? What can be a juster Reason for indignation
than Insolence and Atheism? Resentment can never
be better shown, nor Aversion more reasonably
executed! Nature made the Ferment and Rising of
the Blood, for such occasions as This. On what
unhappy Times are we fallen! The Oracles of Truth,
the Laws of Omnipotence, and the Fate of Eternity
are Laught at and despis'd!26
If this reverend critic could be so outraged at Vanbrugh's lines, cerÂ¬
tainly the reader of A Short View who did not know the play or was
unsure of his own judgment about it may have felt the necessity to share
Collier's resentment. After all, more than decorum is at stake;
Christianity itself is being "Hooted off the Stage."
And his tone could become even more virulent, as when he
reacts to the examples of blasphemy he sees in The Relapse, The Provok'd
Wife, and Love for Love:
They [these examples] look reeking as it were from
Pandaemonium, and almost smell of Fire and Brimstone.
This is an Eruption of Hell with a witness! I almost
wonder, the smoak of it has not darken'd the Sun, and
turn'd the Air to Plagye and Poyson! These are outÂ¬
rageous Provocations; Enough to arm all Nature in
Revenge; To exhaust the Judgments, of Heaven, and
sink the Island in the Sea!27
This fury is even more amazing in light of the sources he cites, for it
has taken some ingenious extrapolation to see "intolerable Abuses" and
"outrageous Provocation" of the Christian religion in plays whose
language and patterns suggest just the opposite. Sister Rose Anthony
sees "his vitriolic sentences" as "the outcome of a temper maddened by
what he considered indecency and profanity." She does feel that
"occasionally, too, these liberties blunted his judgment" but that many
of his outbursts were justified.28 Rather than blunting his judgment,
I see the rage resulting from his judgment of the plays. Feigned or
not, the impassioned condemnation functions as a rhetorical conclusion
to his arguments; he is relying on emotional persuasion to weld together
the citations from the plays and the catastrophic threat to religion
which he says the plays pose. He need not spend time proving poetic
intent or even that his examples indeed are a moral threat, for the
emotion sweeps other considerations of reason aside.
But the tone of outrage is accentuated by one of sarcasm,
especially in the form of rhetorical questions. By using sarcasm he
appears confident that he is unquestionably correct in his criticism.
The tone is most used when he is speaking about specific plays or playÂ¬
wrights, as when he comments on Dryden's King Arthur:
Here we have Genii, and Angels, Cupids, Syrens, and
Devils; Venus and St. George, Pan and the Parson,
The Hell of Heathenism, and the Hell of Revelation;
A fit of Smut, and then a Jest about Original Sin.
And why are Truth and Fiction, Heathenism and
Christianity, the most Serious and the most Trifling
Things blended together, and thrown onto one Form
of Diversion" Why is all this done unless it be to
ridicule the whole and make one as incredible as the
Of course Collier sees no possible reason for Dryden's use of these
characters and settings except to ridicule Christianity, but he provides
no proof. He merely continues his questioning until the tone goes from
sarcasm to rage and personal incriminations of Dryden. The naive reader
could become involved in the castigation, never questioning its validity.
It is not surprising that Collier's diction and tone drew
harsh reactions from the playwrights and other defenders of the stage.
Almost all of them criticized Collier's fury, and a number of them
seemed genuinely shocked by the divine's lack of control. Dryden, in
his preface to Fables Ancient and Modern (1700), for example, says that
is too much given to horse-play in his raillery, and
comes to battle like a dictator from the plough. I
will not say, The zeal of God's house has eaten him
up; but I am sure it has devoured some part of his
good manners and civility. It might also be doubted
whether it were altogether zeal which prompted him to
his function to rake into the rubbish of ancient and
modern plays; a divine might have employed his pains
to better purpose than in the nastiness of Plautus
and Aristophanes, whose examples, as they excuse not
me, so it might be possibly supposed that he read
them not without some pleasure. u
The other playwrights were no less conscious of Collier's outrageous
tone, as Thomas D'Urfey indicates in his preface to The Campaigners
(1698): "instead of reproving us with a Pastorly Mildness, Charity and
Good Nature, [he] gives us the basest language, and with the most
scurillous expressions, sometimes raging and even foaming at [the]
mouth."31 Congreve too produces "a Sample of some of this Gentleman's
Figures" and then reflects upon them:
Methinks I hear him pronounce 'em every time I
behold 'em, they are almost Noisy and Turbulent,
even in the Print. In short, they are Contagious;
and I find he that will speak of them, is in great
danger to speak like them. But why does Mr. Collier
use all this Vehemence in a written Arguement? If
he were to Preach, I grant it might be necessary for
him to make a Noise, that he might be sure to be
heard: But why all this Passion upon Paper? Judgment
is never Outrageous; and Christianity is ever Meek and
With a reference to St. Chrysostom's description of the mildness of the
prophets, Congreve goes on to suggest sarcastically that Collier's belÂ¬
lowing was perhaps inspired by the Devil rather than the Holy Ghost. He
might better have mentioned the rhetorical effectiveness of these passionÂ¬
ate outbursts in the context of an argument which relies heavily on
emotional persuasion. If Congreve could "hear" Collier pronouncing his
attacks, it is not unlikely that these sounds found their way to groups
of non-readers, either through sermons or informal gatherings. These
harangues could doubtless arouse the sleepiest attendant at a meeting
hosted by the reform societies.
These comments by those playwrights attacked in A Short View
are supplemented by remarks from other defenders of the stage who are
also very interested in Collier's moral authority. Though his position
as an active non-juror verifies his label as a Christian, the tone of
his anti-stage works, like his Platonic view of evil, created questions
in the minds of his contemporaries about those ethical characteristics
they felt a model Christian, especially a clergyman, should try to
exhibit. The anonymous writer of Some Remarks upon Mr. Collier's
Defence of His Short View of the English Stage (1698), for example,
first says that Collier rails "with a gust the Christian Religion never
inspired"; he "forgets the noblest gift of Heaven, Charity; proudly
Judges and Condemns, finds Guilty or Absolves by his own Authority."33
Likewise, John Dennis feels that "Mr. Collier is so far from having
shewn in his Book [A Short View], either the Meekness of a true Christian,
or the Humility of an exemplary Pastor, that he has neither the Reasoning
of a Man of Sense in it, nor the Style of a Polite Man, nor the Sincerity
of a Honest Man, nor the Humanity of a Gentleman, or a Man of Letters.
Edward Filmer and Elkanah Settle make similar observations, as does
Charles Gildon, who says in defense of Congreve:
If he [Collier] had been that Good Christian, or that
Honest Man he wou'd be thought, he shou'd have shewn
more Candor and Charity, than to put the worst, and
most scandalous Construction on any Gentleman of
Honour and Probity's Meaning; for I dare, in Mr.
Congreve1s Name, Assert that the impious design which
this Author has coin'd out of his own head, was far
from his thought, and where there is any way to think
well of a Man, that way ought certainly to be taken,
both by a Christian, and an honest Man.^^
Even Collier himself, without realizing the self-incriminating accuracy
of his comment, says that "Railing is a mean, and unchristian Talent,
and oftentimes a sign of a desperate Cause, and a desperate Conscience."37
That Collier's techniques of argument have been generally passed over by
modern critics who accept his "moral" position, may be indicative of the
rhetorical effectiveness of rage and sarcasm in the tone of any moral
argument and one key to why he used them. But those contemporaries who
questioned that tone argued that he was not an expert on morality in the
drama, and that his "railing" should not lend credence to his authority.
Perhaps one of the main reasons for Collier's employment of
such rhetoric was that it conveniently thwarted the reader's concenÂ¬
tration on his use of evidence and the logic of his arguments. As
mentioned in the last chapter, the defenders of the stage were quick to
object to Collier's criticism of language and actions in the plays
without reference to character or context. This misuse of evidence was
compounded by misleading and inaccurate quotations as well as comments
about passages never cited. Congreve makes his "False Imperfect
Citations" clear when he points out such things as a partial quotation
from The Old Bachelor, which misrepresents Bellmour's attitude about
salvation, or a misquotation from The Double-Dealer, which makes it
appear that Cynthia ridicules marriage.38 Similarly, Vanbrugh, D'Urfey,
and Settle (in defense of Vanbrugh and Dryden), among others, point to
specific instances of Collier's manipulation of quotations. Collier s
most common defense for omitting evidence which he says damns various
playwrights is that it is "too Lewd to be quoted." In fact, when the
defenders quote these lines, however, they not only look tame next to
many of Collier's, but suggest the quality of mind which could detect
(or create) the "smut" so obvious to this prying divine.
Even more critically revealing than his misuse of citations,
though, are his explanations of evidence, his organization of chapters,
and his dependence upon logical fallacies to construct convincing
rhetoric. He does not restrict himself to contemporary writers but
makes use of whatever writers and ages appear to lend credence to his
position. He tries to show, for example, how the ancient, heathen poets
were more decent in their use of language and action than English playÂ¬
wrights who had the benefit of Christianity. But he does not attempt
to analyze the ancient plays to find reasons why a writer like Terence
did not "so much as touch upon an ill Subject before" women. Rather,
he chooses to intuit the intentions of the poets from what h_e says is
not in the plays, mainly indecent language. An indication of Collier's
peculiar imagination at work creating evidence about the moral natures
and intentions of the poets comes in his reference to Sophocles'
Antigone. He asks the reader to imagine, as he obviously has done, what
Haemon and Antigone might have done had Sophocles brought "these two
Lovers upon the Stage together.It never occurs to him that Sophocles
might have had some reason (perhaps related to plot or staging), other
than preventing an exhibition of concupiscence, for not allowing these
"lovers" on stage together. Thus, his proof that the heathen plays were
more innocent than the English (especially contemporary) plays rests not
on objectively gathered evidence, but on his own assertions: first,
that there is less smut and indecency in ancient plays and second, that
the ancient poets' intentions were more moral.
One key to Collier's arguments, then, is his commentary on
evidence (or what he calls evidence), as may be seen even more clearly
when he provides an actual passage from the dedication to Aureng-Zebe
as proof of Dryden's abuse of religion and scripture: "Our Minds (says
he) are perpetually wrought on by the Temperament of our Bodies, which
makes me suspect they are nearer Allyed than either our Philosophers,
or School Divines will allow them to be." Collier makes no attempt to
place the statement into context, which would have shown it to be an
explanation of how men are changeable. (Dryden goes on to indicate why
he might change the conclusion of his play.) Instead, Collier sees
this as an example of "horrid Suppositions": "The meaning is, he
[Dryden] suspects our Souls are nothing but Organic Matter: Or, in
plain English, our Souls are nothing but our Bodies; and then when the
Body dies, you may guess what becomes of them!"^^ Collier's interpreÂ¬
tation is preposterous. Dryden has mentioned nothing of souls in his
statement and only suggests that the body and mind are "nearer allied"
than most learned men feel, not that "our Souls are nothing but our
Bodies." That this kind of blatant distortion exists in Collier's antiÂ¬
stage writings may be indicative of his inability to understand any work
or his desire to deceive his readers about the intentions of the RestorÂ¬
ation playwrights. In either case, he might have benefitted from what
Dryden says just two sentences before the passage Collier quotes:
The most judicious writer is sometime mistaken after
all his care; but the hasty critic, who judges on a
view, is full as liable to be deceived. Let him first
consider all the arguments which the author had, to
write this, or to design the other, before he arraigns
him of a fault; and then perhaps, on several thoughts,
he will find his reason oblige him revoke his censure.^
An examination of Collier's later defenses of A Short View shows he had
few "second thoughts" and that "his reason seldom obliged him to revoke
Another example of his interpretation of evidence comes in
Chapter IV when he evaluates poetic justice in Restoration drama. His
reasoning here is supposed to be inductive, but he states flatly before
presenting any evidence that the aim of the "Stage-Poets" is to eradicate
"the Lines of Virtue and Vice," putting "Lewdness into a Thriving conÂ¬
dition" and creating an atmosphere where pleasure is absolute and atheism
is admired. With this "objective" introduction he then spendÂ» two pages
citing the "Men of Breeding and Figure" from nine plays.^ His assumÂ¬
ption, based upon his opinion of persons of quality, is that these
characters are designed for imitation by the audience and that they do
not change in the course of the plays. He treats them all as a group,
devoting to each a few sentences, at most, which he feels provide sufÂ¬
ficient evidence to convince his readers. He then confidently makes his
inductive leap: "To sum up the Evidence. A Fine Gentleman, is a fine
Whoring, Swearing, Smutty, Atheistical Man. The conclusion shows
Collier blindly "leaping" over proofs of the evidence he has cited, but
the pattern looks logical. What he fails to do here, and in general
throughout his attacks when he uses specific plays, is 1) to provide a
large enough sample of evidence for the sweeping conclusions he draws
and 2) to guarantee the truth of his evidence.
But misinterpretation of evidence is not limited to the plays.
In Chapter VI â€” "The Opinion of Paganism, o_f the Church, and State,
concerning the Stage"â€”Collier proves a master at assembling authorities
against the stage, but as James Drake says, "he presumes upon the ignorÂ¬
ance of the Readers, and imposes arbitrarily and magisterially what sense
he pleases upon every thing, and despotically coins Citations, which
he forces upon 'em for genuine, upon no better warrant than his own Will
and Pleasure.Like his earlier use of ancient playwrights, Collier's
use of "the most celebrated Heathen Philosophers, Orators, and HistorÂ¬
ians seems to invalidate his statements to Dryden and Congreve. He
tells Dryden, for example, that unless "he can prove Heathenism, and
Christianity the same," his use of Plautus and Terence as dramatic
authorities "will do him little service.He later repeats that "there
is no Arguing from Heathanism to Christianity" in his answer to Congreve's
Amendments.^ His dependence upon "Heathen" authorities here becomes even
more significant when the reader realizes that the validity of his later
citations from the early Church Fathers (in Chapter VI) depends upon a
condemnation of all ancient plays and playwrights. But his use of these
authorities is not only self-contradictory; Elkanah Settle observes that
he makes highly selective references to less than ten authorities out of
hundreds he might have cited. This omission of a large enough sample
again suggests the weakness of his arguments against the stage. In
addition, of those authorities Collier cited Settle objects to his
interpretation of Plutarch,^ and says that Ovid does not object to
the stage; rather, he exposes practices (picking up women) related to
"the Pit, Box and Galleries."
Significantly, Collier has omitted
passages immediately preceding those he cited where Ovid tells his young
libertine to also "forage the Temples of the Gods; for he may find the
same Game to fly at there too."^9 Collier avoided this reference because,
as Settle mentions, the logic of his argument would then have required
the closing of churches as well as theatres. John Dennis questions all
of Collier's references to ancient authorities and argues most convinÂ¬
cingly against his use of Livy and Valerius Maximus, accusing him of
misrepresenting and misquoting what these two writers said. In both
instances it seems the references are not to tragedy or comedy but to
"the Rudeness of the Ludi Fescennini" and to "The Combats of the GladiaÂ¬
tors."^Â® Similarly, James Drake shows how Collier "allows himself a
very Christian latitude" in his "rare Paraphrasing" of Livy and Valerius
When Collier moves to "the Censures of the State" upon the
theatres, his evidence continues to be questioned by defenders of the
stage. Drake and Dennis, the two critics who deal most specifically
with Collier's sources, spend a number of pages citing and translating
references Collier had paraphrased to advantage, but the most interÂ¬
esting ones to Englishmen involve the statutes under Elizabeth and James.
As a recent critic, Benjamin Hellinger, points out, these laws
are directed against rogues and sturdy beggars and
are part of a series of Elizabethan anti-vagabond
laws. Collier completely misrepresents the intent
of this legislation. He probably knew full well that
at the time these laws were enacted the acting comÂ¬
panies were coming directly under the protection of
the crown. The capital punishment which Collier
strongly implies is meted out to actors who do not
"give over" is in fact only for dangerous rogues who
have returned to England without permission after
suffering transportation out of the realm.^2
To imply an anti-stage bias by either Elizabeth or James by citing these
statutes is to assume that those who read his arguments knew nothing of
the development of English drama. Since defenders of the stage did
recognize Collier's false implications here, the citation is further
confirmation that Collier was not interested in convincing and reforming
the playwrights; his hope was for an uninformed but zealous and volatile
public which could force the theatres to close.
Collier's citations from Church Councils and Fathers present
further examples of his misuse of evidence. Indicative of his method
of dealing with these authorities is his source for them. James Thorpe
III has noted that Collier's "display of learning in patristic writings
and church history was fraudulent" because most of the information
comes from Armaud de Bourbon's TraitÃ© de la comedia et des spectacles,
selon la tradition de 1'Eglise, tireÃ© des Conciles et des Saints
Pbres. 1669.^ Though the defenders of the stage did not recognize
this source, they did accuse Collier of misinterpreting his evidence.
Those who responded to Collier felt the use of the Fathers' reactions
to the ancient theatre was irrelevant, for as Settle says,
Our Plays are no Heathen Compositions; our
Authors and Auditors profess one Faith; our Stage
lies under no Ecclesiastical Reprimand from the
Fathers of our Church: In short we have so many
favourable Aspects, and all that Weight on our side,
in ballance between 'em, enough to silence even
Collier not only minimizes the distinction between Restoration and
ancient drama, but as Drake points out, translates some words in such
a way that "the unlearned Reader might perhaps be induc'd to believe,
that the Father's [here, Tertullian] quarrel lay against Lincolns-Inn-
Fields, and Covent-Garden."56 Critics like Dennis and Drake were also
quick to remind Collier that the Fathers were reacting principally to
those activities of the ancient theatre, such as gladiator combats,
chariot races, and pantomimes, which were brutal, lewd, and idolatrous.
In countering these objections Collier had to argue even more emphatically
that the Fathers did not really distinguish among the various types of
entertainment; indeed, most of them were strongly opposed to any type of
But this ascetic characteristic of the Fathers opened Collier's
use of them as authorities to further charges. When he quotes "the
Author cle Spectaculis" as counseling against any pleasure except reading
in the scriptures,^ Edward Filmer questions the Fathers' concept of
All our Time, say these good Fathers, is little enough
for the great Work of our Salvation; we should be
perpetually reading the holy Scriptures, bewailing
our Sins, deprecating the Horrors of Hell, or meditating
on the Joys of Heaven. This, say they, is true Pleasure,
this ought to be the only Employment, the only Delight of
a good Christian. Very true; all this we should do, were
we able; or did God require it as indispensably necessary
to Salvation. But alas! we are weak and frail, and God
is infinitely good and merciful. He knoweth whereof we
are made, he remembreth that we are but Dust; and thereÂ¬
fore will not require more at our Hands than we are able
Filmer enforces this essentially Thomistic point of view by quoting a
prelate of the Church of England and Bishop Sanderson as favoring lawful
diversions, such as plays. He could also have made reference to Father
Caffero's letter, as Peter Motteux did in the published version of his
play, Beauty in Distress (1698), which uses St. Thomas (as well as
Alexander ab Alexandro and St. Antonious, Archbishop of Florence), to
counter the ascetic opposition of many of the Fathers to worldly
pleasure.Likewise, Elkanah Settle found that the duties of a
Christian suggested by St. Chrysostom and St. Jerome (through Collier)
overlooked man's weaknesses'
These Precepts of the Psalmist and the Apostle,
are indeed the highest Duty of Christianity. But as
we are but Men, 'tis a Duty too weighty to lye upon
Humane Weakness, without any Intervals of some lighter
Alleviations of the Cares and Labours of Life. Were
Life to be intirely divided between the Prayer-book,
the Psalter and the Plough, Rejoycing in God is that
Exercise of Piety, requiring so Intent and Exalted a
Meditation, that the weakness of Humane Nature would
hardly be able to keep up the Soul on so sublime a
flight, without flagging her Wing, and Devotion so
severely tyed to the Alter, I fear, would make but
a very lean Sacrifice.60
But Settle's reminder of the "weakness of Humane Nature" would have had
even more force had he pointed out Collier's inconsistency in using the
asceticism of the Church Fathers as evidence. For he might have shown
that while in Chapter VI of A Short View Collier wishes man (and
certainly clergymen) to deny those things of this world, such as the
stage, he had in other places defended the clergy's acquisition of
"Riches and Power" on earth.61 The only resolution to this kind of
contradiction is an admission of Collier's attempt to manipulate eviÂ¬
dence persuasively. He is able to present a sweeping and continuous
stream of Christian authorities whose attitudes, as he quotes and paraÂ¬
phrases them, denounce any pleasures of this world, which certainly
include the stage. Collier means to establish a religious tradition
for his own outrage to reinforce the emotional impact of his thesis;
bludgeoning a reader's guilt about what is sinful with warnings from
the Church Fathers seems to obviate any concern on his part with proving
the validity of his evidence.
Collier organizes not only his evidence but his critical
comments in order to minimize any rational questioning of his arguments.
He does this mainly by leading the reader away from evidence he has
cited with a series of questions, almost always related to the moral
consequences of the "immoral" practices he has been making reference
to. This movement to the frightening ends which a sinner (actor,
actress, playwright, or theatre-goer) must surely meet takes advantage
of the fears of his reader. As might be expected, this tactic is
coupled with the outrage and sarcasm mentioned earlier to provide a
stirring indication of just how dangerous the stage is. A good example
of his rhetorical management occurs at the end of Chapter II on "The
Profaneness of the Stage" in A Short View. He cites examples of proÂ¬
fanity from ancient plays, then shows his disgust when he shifts,
without evidence, to "the Modern Poets, [who] proceed upon the Liberties
of Seneca, Their Madmen are very seldom reckon'd with. They are profane
without Censure, and defie the Living God with success." Still with no
evidence he goes on to build his case by emotional implication:
Must God be treated like an Idol, and the Scriptures
banter'd like Homers Elysium, and Hesiods Theogonia?
Are these the Returns we make Him for his Supernatural
Assistance? ... Is there no Diversion without
Insulting the God that made us, the Goodness that
would save us, and the Power that can damn us? Let
us not flatter our selves, Words won't go for Nothing.
Profaness is a most Provoking Contempt, and a Crime
of the deepest dye. To break through the Laws of a
Kingdom is bad enough; but to make Ballads upon the
Statute-Book and a Jest of Authority, is much worse.
Atheists may fancy what they please, but God will
Arise and Maintain his own Cause, and Vindicate his
Honour in due time.hi?
To enforce the threat of God's punishment, he states in the next and
concluding paragraph of the chapter that "Profaness" is "grating to
Christian Ears, dishonourable to the Majesty of God .... And in a
Word, It_ tends to no point, unless it be to . . . teach the Language of
Not only is the reader led to conclusions which brand the stage
and playwrights sinful, but these conclusions usually encompass sweeping
generalizations which obliterate any moral distinctions among the plays.
Any reaction to Collier's argument, then, is greatly affected by the way
he concludes sections (on plays, playwrights, or authorities), chapters,
and the work itself with the catastrophic effects to be expected from
contemporary drama. Thus, after nearly three-hundred pages of a "short"
view, he leaves the reader with a final vision of the stage:
It cherishes those Passions, and rewards those Vices,
which 'tis the business of Reason to discountenance.
It strikes at the Root of Principle, draws off the
Inclinations from Virtue, and spoils good Education:
Tis the most effectual means to baffle the Force of
Discipline, to emasculate peoples Spirits, and Debauch
their Manners. How many of the Unwary have these
Syrens devour'd? And how often has the best Blood
been tainted with this Infection? What Disappointment
of Parents, what Confusion in Families, and What
Beggery in Estates have been hence occasion'd? And
which is still worse, the Mischief spreads dayly, and
the Malignity grows more envenom'd. The Feavour works
up towards Madness, and will scarcely endure to be
After this look at Collier's rhetorical tactics, it should be
obvious that he did not expect reasoned reactions to his arguments.
But when his contemporary critics did analyze his logic, faults and
contradictions were apparent. To see more closely some of his logical
fallacies it is only necessary to cite a few examples. In discussing
Dryden's Amphitryon he points out that Dryden said he departed from the
plan of Plautus and MoliÃ©re because "the difference of our Stage from
the Roman and the French did so require it.11 But he does not let Dry-
den explain that difference; instead he provides the explanation himÂ¬
self, as well as some interesting reasoning:
That is, our Stage must be much more Licentious.
For you are to observe that Mr. Dryden,and his
Fraternity, have help'd to debauch the Town, and
Poyson their Pleasures to an unusual Degree: And
therefore the Diet must be dress'd to the Palate
of the Company.64
Collier reasons in a circle, for to be debauched the town must once have
been innocent, and being innocent, would have required innocent plays
from the playwrights if his premise that the playwrights had to answer
the "Palate" of the audience is granted. Faced with these demands by
the audience, how could Dryden have produced immoral and profane plays
to debauch that audience? Collier continues his argument by using a
non sequitur as "proof" that Dryden designed his play to satisfy the
"Scepticks" he had created.^5 He also often begs the question, as in
misrepresenting Dryden's statement about delight being the "Chief End
of Comedy." In the process of citing the statement and arguing its
consequences, he falsely restates Dryden's position in a premise to his
If Delight without Restraint, or Distinction, without
Conscience or Shame, is the Supreme Law of Comedy,
'twere well if we had less on 't. Arbitrary Pleasure,
is more dangerous than Arbitrary Power. Nothing is
more Brutal than to be abandon'd to Appetite; And ^
nothing more wretched than to serve in such a Design.
Dryden had not implied anything like "Arbitrary Pleasure" or "Delight
without Restraint," but Collier states this condition as if Dryden, and
indeed all contemporary playwrights, were only concerned with pleasure
in the comedies they wrote.
Even though the defenders of the stage caught many of his
errors, Collier kept coming back to the attack, providing his less
perceptive readers with more fallacies and righteous insistence. James
Drake summarizes Collier's method and establishes the basis for the
success his works had:
Mr. Collier whose business all thro his Book is
Invective, not Argument, lays himself forth with all
the Pomp of Formal Eloquence, and Vehemence of
Expression, that he is able, to aggravate the crime,
and amplifie the guilt of the Poets not to prove it.
He is more sollicitous to possess his Reader, than
to convince him, and for that reason lets slip the
circumstance of proof as not very material, because
he found it wou'd tye him up to strict Argument, and
close Reasoning, which is not for his purpose, and
insists upon the General charge of Debauchery and
Impiety; which allowing him all the Liberties of DeÂ¬
clamation and Harangue, give him ample Field-room to
publish and display his Parts, and his Malice together;
which he does most egregiously, and Flourishes most
triumphantly. Never did learned Recorder insult poor
Culprit in more formidable Oratory, than he does the
It is no wonder that men like Drake, Dryden, pongreve, Vanbrugh, Settle,
and Filmer probably became frustrated in trying to burst Collier's
balloon of popularity, however accurate their critical darts: It seemed
to rise into the eighteenth century with an endless supply of the
divine's reforming air and was kept aloft by such other sources of heated
wind as Ridpath, Bedford, and Law.
^G. F. Lamb, "A Short View of Jeremy Collier," English, 7
(1949), 274-275; E. E. Stoll, "Literature No 'Document,'" Modern LanÂ¬
guage^ Review-, 19(1924), 149.
^The London Stage 1660-1800, Part 1: 1660-1700, ed. William
Van Lennep (Carbondale, Ill." Southern Illinois University Press, 1965),
2 The London Stage 1660-1800, Part 2_: 1700-1729, ed. Emmett
L. Avery (Carbondale, Ill.: Southern Illinois University Press, 1960),
Comedy and Society from Congreve to Fielding (Stanford,
Cal.: Stanford University Press, 1959), pp. 14-17.
^The Critical Works of John Dennis, ed. Edward Niles Hooker,
I (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1939), 293.
^Loftis, p. 17.
Ibid., pp. 18-19. From available evidence, Loftis suggests
that a small percentage of the total population attended the theatres.
The Occasional Paper, Vol. Ill, No. ix, of Plays and
Masquerades (London, 1719), p. 6. His remarks about the ill effects of
the stage on business continue for the next six pages.
~^The Antient and Modern Stages Survey'd (London, 1699),
^The Moral Revolution of 1688. Yale Historical Publications.
The Wallace Noteseen Essays, No. 2 (New Haven: Yale University Press,
1957) , pp. 19 & 23.
12Ibid., pp. 67, 22-23, 41 & 43.
"^Ibid. , pp. 69-70.
"^"The S.P.C.K. and the Stage," Theatre Notebook, 11 (1957),
â– 'â– â– â€™in this connection, it is interesting to note the number of
publications by Arthur Bedford (see n. 2, Chap. II) while he was head
of the Bristol society.
^^8th ed. (London, 1744), pp. 46-47.
^This entire passage was in italics. Gildon also criticizes
the societies in The Post-Man Robb'd of His Mail (London, 1719), pp. 32,
35, 38 and 329.
x Bahlman, pp. 94-95. Dennis makes a connection between the
timing of publications by Collier, Bedford, and Law and threatened
Jacobite revolt and concludes: "Now all these Attacks upon the Stage
have been Attacks upon the Government, and those three worthy Persons
seem to me to have been at the Beck of some certain Superiors, and
always ready at their Command to divert the People of Great Britain
from their real Danger, by giving them Alarms in a wrong Place" (Critical
Works, II, 321).
Bahlman, p. 97.
It also seems significant that only seven anti-stage works
were published between 1710 and 1726, the year of Collier's death and
William Law's initial onslaught. Of these, only Bedford's The Great
Abuse of Musick (1711) was published before 1718, perhaps indicating
how much of the market had been due to the societies.
^Ipp. 3-4. The fifty pounds is also referred to in Gildon's
The Stage-Beaux, pp. 27 & 34, and in The Stage Acquitted where Fairly
says, "There is a party, that in spight of Truth, Judgment, and good
Sense, cry up Mr. Collier's Book .... [But in time] the Town will
reflect, as we have done, of the real and undoubted use of the Stage,
and agree that Mr. Collier had better have shewn more candour and
honesty, and not preferr'd 501. and buffoonry to good sense and honesty"
^Letters, p. 46.
21post-Man, p. 213.
2^In addition to Professor Scouten's findings about the SPCK's
purchases (n. 19 above), John Oldmixon, in The History of England (p. 192)
reveals that several wealthy men sent Collier money when A Short View
Graham D. Harley, "A Note on the Jeremy Collier Stage
Controversy," N & Q, 18(1971), 44-46.
zoA Short View of the Immorality and Profaneness of the English
Stage (London, 1698), p. 80. Two articles written in the 1940's discuss
Collier's style in relation to the contemporary comments of Father John
Constable, whose Reflections Upon Accuracy of Style (London, 1731) was
actually written in part about Collier at the height of the controversy
in 1703. Helen Maxwell Hooker, in "Father John Constable on Jeremy
Collier," PQ, 23(1944), 375-378, quotes Constable about Collier's
writing: "'These concise Sentences, these short Cuts, these continual
Metaphors, and that which I call the Tic-Tac, of an Antithesis, strikes
indeed at first, but will seldom bear the test of a reflection'" (376).
William K. Wimsatt, Jr., in "Father John Constable on Collier," PQ, 24
(1945), 119-122, adds Constable's comments that Collier's style was
"'a new set of words and phrases,' 'short and smart,' 'gay,' metaphorical,
and pedantic, and those who affected it made an 'ungrounded pretense of
writing to the humour of the Age,' though as a matter of fact 'such
vicious methods' were 'far from being the humour of the age.'" It is
Wimsatt's own observation that "Whether derived from Rymer or not,
Collier's style shares with Rymer's the element of 'humour and bluff
force,' as Spingarn has described it, 'the scolding tone, the short
sentences, the colloquial contradictions of speech, the proverbial
phrases . . . the imagery ... of the shop and street"' (119).
^A Short View, pp. 84-85. Other examples of rage occur on
the following pages: 95, 162, 179, 184, 186-187, 281, 283, 285-288.
^The Collier Stage Controversy, pp. 296-297.
2^A short View, p. 188.
â€¢^Dryden's "Of Dramatic Poesy" and other Critical Essays, ed.
George Watson (London: J. M. Dent & Sons, Ltd., 1962), II, 293. Dryden
also refers to Collier in "Cymon and Iphigenia," in The Poetical Works
of John Dryden, eds. Joseph Warton, John Warton and others (London:
George Routledge and Sons, 1867), p. 278:
In malice witty, and with venom fraught,
He makes me speak the things I never thought
Compute the gains of his ungovern'd zeal;
Ill suits his cloth the praise of railing well.
A clue to Wycherley's apparent failure to respond to Collier may be
found in his posthumous Collection of Maxims and Moral Reflections:
"The Rage and Choller of our Enemies, instead of begetting the like in
us, should be a Cure for it, and make us pity them rather for Madmen,
than revenge our selves on them for Enemies; since they are our Seconds
in being our Foes, and weaken themselves by endeavouring to be too strong
for us" (The Complete Works of William Wycherley, ed. Montague Summers
(Soho: The Nonesuch Press, 1924), IV, 141).
J (London, 1698), p. 2. D'Urfey also accuses Collier of
"Stubborn Will" (pp. 12-13).
-^Amendments of Mr. Collier's False and Imperfect Citations,
in The Complete Works of William Congreve, ed. Montague Summers (London:
The Nonesuch Press, 1923), III, 180-181.
~^The Usefulness of the Stage, in The Critical Works, I, 147.
Edward Filmer, A Defence of Plays (London, 1707), p. 74.
Elkanah Settle, A Defence of Dramatick Poetry (London, 1698), p. 118.
Â°Phaeton (London, 1698), preface.
'A Defence of the Short View of the Profaneness and Immor-
ality of the English Stage (London, 1699), pp. 4-5.
â€¢^Amendments, in Works, III, pp. 181-182 & 184-185.
John Vanbrugh, A Short Vindication of the Relapse and the
Provok'd Wife (London, 1698), in The Complete Works of Sir John Vanbrugh,
eds. Bonamy DobrÃ©e and Geoffrey Webb (Bloomsbury: The Nonesuch Press,
1927), I, 207. D'Urfey, p. 23. Settle, Defence, p. 108ff., and A
Farther Defence of Dramatick Poetry (London, 1698), passim.
4,7 A Short View, p. 29.
4^Ibid., p . 68.
John Dryden, ed. George Saintsbury (New York: N.P., N.D.),
I, 342. In Dryden's letter to Peter Mottreuxâ€”which prefaces Beauty in
Distress (London, 1698)â€”he blames Collier and critics like him by
When to common sense they give the lie,
And turn distorted words to blasphemy,
They give the scandal; and the wise discern,
Their glosses teach an age, too apt to learn.
The Mock Astrologer, The Spanish Friar, The Country Wife,
The Old Bachelor, The Double Dealer, Don Sebastian, Love for Love, The
Provok1d Wife, and The Relapse are all treated on pages 142-143.
44A Short View, p. 143.
^A Short View, pp. 148-149.
47A Defence, pp. 84-85.
4Â®Settle, Defence, p. 24. James Thorpe, III, in his disserÂ¬
tation, "Jeremy Collier's A Short View of the Immorality and Profaneness
of the English Stage (1698): A Critical Edition,â€ Diss. Yale, 1969,
p. 237, also ways that Collier misrepresents Plutarch here, for the
reference comes from a discussion by several characters who are suggesÂ¬
ting appropriate after-dinner entertainment. One character says new
comedy would be good but not old comedy or tragedy. Another character
considers low farce inappropriate, but there is no reference to the
^Settle, Defence, pp. 28-29. Also, James Drake, pp. 55-57.
-^Critical Works, I, 173-174.
33Drake, pp. 44-48.
"A Short View of the Immorality and Profaneness of the
English Stage, by Jeremy Collier: A Critical Edition," Diss. NYU, 1970,
Settle, Defence, pp. 67-68. To show Queen Mary's favorable
attitude toward the stage (and the church's), Settle quotes William
Payne's sermon on the death of the queen.
â€œ^Thorpe, p. 252.
â€œ^Settle, Defence, p. 67; Drake, pp. 21-22; Dennis, Critical
Works, I, 189; Filmer, p. 151.
^^Drake, p. 30.
^^A Short View, pp. 261-264.
Dennis, Critical Works, I, 193, invokes St. Thomas in pointÂ¬
ing out the lawfulness of drama; D'Urfey, in The Campaigners, pp. 7-8,
cites Reverend Thomas Randolf's defense of the stage in The Muses
Looking Glass; and the anonymous author of The Stage Acquitted, pp. 87-90,
cites St. James in opposition to the necessity of leading an ascetic
^Defence, pp. 69-70.
^Defence of the Short View, p. 117.
k^A Short View, pp. 94-96.
63Ibid., pp. 287-288.
^Ibid., p. 182.
^3He says, "To what purpose else does Jupiter appear in the
shape of Jehovah? Why are the incomunicable Attributes burlesqu'd, and
Omnipotence applyed to Acts of Infamy? To what end can such Horrible
stuff as this serve, unless to expose the Notion, and extinguish the
Belief of a Deity (p. 182)?" Of course there may be many reasons for
Dryden's characterization of Jupiter, but Collier falsely assumes there
can only be one intention, and that it is evil.
^Ibid., pp. 163-164.
THE STAGE/WORLD METAPHOR:
MORAL DESIGN OR PATTERN FOR VICE?
In the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries men
like Stephen Gosson, William Rankins, John Rainoldes, and William Gager
attacked the stage and those associated with it for moral abuses which
they said it propagated. To its defense came Thomas Heywood with An
Apology for Actors in 1612. Significantly, he prefaced the treatise
with a poem:
The world's a Theater, the earth a Stage,
Which God, and nature doth with Actors fill,
Kings have their entrance in due equipage,
And some there parts play well and others ill.
The best no better are (in this Theater,)
Where every humor's fitted in his kinde,
This a true subiects acts, and that a Traytor,
The first applauded, and the last confin'd
This plaies an honest man, and that a knaue
A Gentle person this, and he a clowne
One man is ragged, and another braue.
All men haue parts, and each man acts his owne.
Some Citizens, some Soldiers, borne to aduenter,
Sheepheards and Sea-men; then our play's begun,
When we are borne, and to the world first enter,
And all finde Exits when their parts are done.
If then the world a Theater present,
As by the roundnesse it appeares most fit,
Built with starre-galleries of hye ascent,
In which Iehoue doth as spectator sit.
And chief determiner to 'applaud the best,
And their indeuours crowne with more then merit.
But by their euill actions doomes the rest,
To end disgrac't whilst others praise inherit.
He that denyes then Theaters should be,
He may as well deny a world to me.
As Frances A. Yates points.out, the controlling metaphor here asserts
that "Heywood sees the cosmic theatre as the great moral testing ground
on which all men play the parts of their lives in the presence of God."^
Just as the world could be seen as a theatre with God serving as both
judging audience and Divine Dramatist, the theatre was seen as a
microcosm of the world, dramatizing the actions of men through the
judging perspective of the playwright. Yates' book, Theatre of the
World, in fact tries to show how the theatres during and after Shakes-
peare--especially The Globeâ€”were architecturally designed to reflect
this cosmic metaphor, which the playwrights felt was basic to their
drama. Thomas B. Stroup, who has traced the development of this
metaphor and discussed its importance in English drama from 1585 to
1642, suggests that the concept of cosmic drama existed before and after
the cycle plays: "The Fathers of the Church as well as the Neoplatonists
and Renaissance humanists, repeating a classical metaphor, had likened
the world to a stage on which the Christian is tested."^ He shows that
the metaphor was repeated by St. Augustine, St. Chrisostom, Sir Thomas
More, Erasmus, Sir Philip Sidney, Roger Asham, and John Donne among
many others in pointing out man's relation to God.^ For these men, and
more importantly for the playwrights of Elizabethan England, the metaÂ¬
phor meant a way of depicting man's position in God's divine plan, of
dramatically portraying the struggle (with its warnings and promises)
toward salvation. Ann Righter explains the importance of the image for
The play, holding a mirror up to nature, was bound
to reflect the reality represented by its audience.
Yet this audience was also forced to recognize the
encroachments of illusion upon its own domain . . .
[some] playgoers carried the language and gestures
of the drama away with them at the conclusion of
the performance, for use in the world outside.
Most important of all, beyond these specific habits
lay a profound awareness of the play metaphor which
seems to have been one of the characteristics of the
period. In sermons and song-books, chronicles and
popular pamphlets, Elizabethans were constantly
being reminded of the fact that life tends to imitate
Righter goes on to say that the playwrights used the metaphor to suggest
such things as "the nature of deceivers, the splendour of man's life and
its transience, the inexorability of Fortune, or the character of
Fortune, or the character of individual moments of time."Â® Harriet B.
Hawkins also points out that "the idea that the world itself was God's
theater gave cosmic significance to the contemporary [Elizabethan] stage,"
especially in showing that the dissembling or feigning on stage "was
analogous to the feigning inherent in ordinary life, and that it was
also a highly significant feigning that could reveal truth and thus
teach men in the 'theatre of the world' of their own nature.Though
Stroup feels that the playwrights' use of this concept to pattern their
plays began to fade as the seventeenth century wore on and was probably
"pretty well lost to later ages," he shows that Milton and Bunyan both
employed the metaphor.Â® Also, there seems to be both critical and
dramatic evidence that the metaphor survived through the Restoration
period and that the best dramatists were able to make excellent use of
the same devicesâ€”though at times modifiedâ€”which Stroup discusses. For
example, Aubrey Williams has noted that "from the beginning to the end
of that century [the 17th] one finds the image of God the Divine PlayÂ¬
wright almost every place one turns in Anglican discourse on the divine
governance of the world." As with Elizabethan dramatists, the RestorÂ¬
ation playwrights could thus use a metaphor which had remained a
commonplace for readers and audiences through its use in sermons and
other apologetic literature. To support the artistic applications of
the concept of the Theatrum mundi, Professor Williams shows how the
metaphor functions similarly for literary men and divines, especially
when it is applied to explanations of poetic and Providential justice.10
Though he emphasizes references in Rymer, Dennis, and of course, ConÂ¬
greve, the use and understanding of the metaphor is pervasive among
the critics and the playwrights of the Restoration period. Indeed, as
an examination of the contributions to the Collier controversy should
reveal, the playwrights and critics were well aware of the important
moral function served by seeing the world as a stage and the stage as a
microcosm, including the corollary conditions of variety, pageantry,
and Providential testing, reward, and punishment.
To see how important the concept of cosmic drama was to the
plays after the Restoration, comments by those playwrights directly
attacked by Collier are revealing. In the preface to An Evening1s Love:
or the Mock Astrologer (1671), which Collier included in his "evidence"
of Dryden's immoral purposes,^ Dryden says that "Comedy consists,
though of low persons, yet of natural actions and characters; I mean
such humours, adventures, and designs as are to be found and met with in
the world." In a critical piece prefixed to The Rival Ladies (1664),
he notes the relationship between the stage and the world while questionÂ¬
ing the creation of a play: "For the stage being the representation of
the world, and the actions in it, how can it be imagined that the picture
of human life can be more exact than life itself?" Such comments may
seem insignificant unless it is noted that they occur in context with
observations about how a playwright creates and structures a play.
Related to other comments by Dryden about the nature of English drama
(including its variety and Providential order and justice), which I
will cite later, it seems clear that the metaphor of the stage as a
microcosm was a functional premise for Dryden's playwriting.
Thomas D'Urfey adds another dimension to the metaphor by
quoting a passage from Thomas Randolf's The Muses Looking Glass about
a "Country Lass" who kept her hands clean because she could see them,
but allowed her face to become filthy until:
"At last, within a Pail, for Country Lasses
Have oft you know, no other Looking-glasses,
She view'd her dirty Face, and doubtless would
Have blush'd, if through so much dirt she could.
At last, within the Water, that I say,
That shew'd the Dirt, she wash'd the Dirt away.
So Comedies, as Poets still intend 'em,
Serve first to shew your faults, and then to mend 'em.
Even though D'Urfey's artistic talents may be questionable, his use of
Randolph's metaphor of the stage as a mirror image of the world shows
that he is conscious of the playwright's intentions as an artist. The
suggestion of a "Looking-Glass" enforces even more strongly the concept
of the play as an image, a product of the playwright's perception of
the world as it is modified by his imagination. This metaphoric link
strengthens the association of the playwright and God as creators of
man's drama: the playwright's microcosmic creation reflecting the macroÂ¬
cosm of God's work. In A Short Vindication Vanbrugh, too, says that
"The Stage is a Glass for the World to view itself in; People ought
therefore to see themselves as they are; if it makes their Faces too
Fair, they won't know they are Dirty, and by consequence will neglect
to wash 'em."^
Vanbrugh has not brought up this image as a second
thought to slap back at Collier, for his prologue to The Provok'd Wife
(1697) begins with the same use of the metaphor:
Since 'tis the Intent and Business of the Stage,
To Copy out the Follies of the Age;
To hold to every Man a Faithful Glass,
And shew him of what Species he's an Ass.16
Congreve reveals his view of the stage as a "little world"
when arguing about the types of characters which should be represented
on stage. He indicates that just because "the Stage is the Image of
the World," strict arithmetic correlationsâ€”such as Collier made about
the women in The Double Dealer (1647)^â€”are not valid. Quite obviously,
Congreve feels the stage reflects the world, not in exact ratios, but in
artistic proportions which best deliver a pleasing moral to the
audience.16 As he has Mr. Betterton say in the prologue to The Mourning
Bride (1697) :
To please and move has been our Poet's Theme,
Art may direct, but Nature is his aim;
And Nature miss'd, in vain he boasts his Art,
For only Nature can affect the Heart.19
Though Wycherley apparently made no specific response to
Collier, his poem, "To a Vain, Young Courtier; Occasion'd by his SpeakÂ¬
ing Contemptibly of the Players" (1728), not only defends the stage but
uses the stage/world metaphor in so doing:
Why are harsh Statutes 'gainst poor Players made,
When Acting is the Universal Trade?
The World's but one wide Scene, our Life the Play
And ev'ry Man an Actor in his Way:
In which he, who can act his ill Part well,
Does him, who acts a good one ill, excell,
Since it is not so much his Praise, whose Part
Is best, but His, who acts it with most Art.
No matter what our Task, if well 'tis done;
But most Men act Parts which are least their own.
Wycherley again uses the metaphor in "A Collection of Maxims and Moral
Reflections" (also published as part of The Posthumous Works in 1728)
shortly after explaining the nature of censorious men: "Every Man is a
Player on the Stage of the World, and acts a different Part from his
own natural Character, more to please the World, as more he cheats it"
(LXXIX).^! In both of these references Wycherley focuses on the very
same quality of "feigning" which Professor Hawkins emphasizes in con-
nection with the use of the metaphor on the Elizabethan stage. In an
age where the stage/world metaphor had supposedly faded from use, there
A number of playwrights not directly attacked by Collier
defended the stage, and their references to the stage/world metaphor
support the view that it was a commonplace, functioning premise of those
writing for the stage. In the dedication prefixed to The Twin Rivals,
for example, George Farquhar says that just "as Prologues introduce
Plays on the Stage, so Dedications usher them into the great Theatre of
the World." John Dennis uses the metaphor while questioning Collier's
motives for opposing the stage in The Person of Quality1s Answer to Mr.
Collier's Letter, Being a Disswasive from the Play-House (1704):
His Motive perhaps may be human Policy, but it can
never be Charity; or perhaps 'tis Spleen, or CovetousÂ¬
ness, or Pride, or Arrogance, or Fear. I say Fear,
Sir. For has not Mr. Collier Reason to apprehend the
Stage as well as Hypocrites of the foremention1d
Characters? For is it not evident, that at the same
time that he is setting up for a First-Rate Reformer,
he has shewn the World, that he is but a Fifth-Rate
Comedian? And while he pretends to condemn Acting
upon the Stage, is Acting a Part upon the Stage of
the World so aukwardly and so ridiculously, that all
who are furnish'd with common Sense have found it to
In stressing the importance of action in drama Dennis again finds the
metaphor appropriate: "The Drama is action itself, and it is action
alone that is able to excite in any extraordinary manner the curiosity
of mankind. What News is the Question now adays ev'ry moment, but
people by that question demand what is done, and not what is said upon
the Great Stage of the World." Thomas Baker answers Collier and
other critics of the stage by pointing out that
Plays were ever counted the Genuine History of
the Age; and if their Opposers wou'd have innocent
Entertainments, and leave Posterity Honourable Examples
for Imitation and Instruction, 'tis but each amending
himself; then not only the Little but this Great
Theatre of Life, will be so Reform'd, and in a State
more suitable to wish, than probable to hope. Nay, I
appeal to the most Zealous and Severe, if they can
charge one Play with any thing in Representation, which
is not to be found in Life. b
Elkanah Settle defines comedy as "the Representation of
Humane Life in a lower class of Conversation; we visit the Palace for
Tragedy, and range the Town for Comedy, viz. for the Follies, the Vices,
the Vanities, and the Passions of Mankind, which we meet with every
Day."27 Charles Gildon speaks to all "Pseudo Critics" who, like
Collier, would damn "the best of Dramatic Poets" for the wrong reasons.
What these poets do well, and must continue to do despite the criticism,
is form their ideas of drama "from experience and the study of Men."28
Gildon still sees drama in terms of the stage/world metaphor some
eighteen years later when he advocates plays as a diversion, for in them
"you have an Image of Life, its Passions, and its Humours, that give
us, whilst they divert us, most excellent Lessons, and such as glide
gently into the Heart in the Vehicle of Pleasure."29 Finally, George
Granville begins his comedy, The Jew of Venice (1701), by having the
ghost of Dryden refer to the theatre audience as "This radiant Circle."
To complete his use of the metaphor Granville closes with an epilogue
aimed directly at the Collier controversy:
Each in his turn, the Poet and the Priest,
Have view'd the Stage, but like false Prophets guess'd:
The Man of Zeal in his Religious Rage
Would silence Poets, and reduce the Stage.
The Poet rashly, to get clear, retorts
On Kings the Scandal, and bespatters Courts.
Both err; for without mincing, to be plain,
The Guilt is yours of every Odious Scene.
The present time still gives the Stage its Mode,
The Vices which you practice, we explode:
We hold the Glass, and but reflect your Shame,
Like Spartans, by exposing, to reclaim.
The Scribler, pinch'd with Hunger, writes to Dine,
And to your Genius must conform his Line;
Not lewd by Choice, but meerly to submit;
Would you encourage Sense, Sense would be writ.^^
In the comments of stage defenders who were not primarily
playwrights or who have remained anonymous there is also employment of
the stage/world metaphor. The author of A Vindication of the Stage
(1698), for example, tells Collier to "remember that Plays are the
Glasses of Human Actions, and reflect the true Images of the People;
as you see the errors of your Complexion by a view in a Glass, so in
the Play-House you see the meanness and folly of your Vices, and by
beholding the frightful Image, you grow asham'd, and perhaps may Reform.
He expands on the usefulness of this microcosm when he explains that
comedy "discovers to us the daily Affairs we meet with in the World . .
[and] shame[s] us out of our Follies":
Comedy is also useful to instruct in our Dealings
in the World; when we see a Friend False and TreachÂ¬
erous, this teaches us to stand upon our Guard, and
be very cautious whom we trust; when we see a Young
Gentleman Ruin'd by the Subtile and Deluding Arts
of some Cunning Courtezan, it bids us beware of the
Similarly, the author of The Stage Acquitted (1699) points out how
vices and the deceitfully vicious can be exposed, for "the Stage draws
you the Picture to the life." Indeed, the poet
hunts vice and folly through all their various forms,
chases them from all their covers, follows them through
all their doubles, to procure as much as possible,
and consistent with the depravity of our Natures,
the happiness of Mankind. It wou'd require a Volume
to instance in all the particulars, in which the
Poets are beneficial to the world in their Theatrical
Representations; where they present a glass, a mirrour
of Truth, to see their Deformities in, as well as
Beauty; they shew the world as it is, that you may
know how to direct your self in all states; for if
it were not drawn as it is, it could be of no use,
nor could any true measures of Conduct be taken from
Heydeggar's Letter to the Bishop of London (1724) applies the image to
masquerades rather than to plays:
The World, itself, excuse the Phrase, is
A Ball; where, mimick Shapes and Faces,
The Judgment of our Senses cheat,
And Fashion favours the Deceit:
Where from Fifteen to Sixty Three,
Fond of Dissembling, all agree.
In one continu'd Mummery.36
James Drake, in perhaps the most complete critical response
to A Short View, uses the metaphor a number of times, especially when
defending the presentation of vicious or foolish characters on stage.
With respect to persons of quality, for example, he says: "if Birth or
Preferment be no sufficient Guard to a weakly Virtue or Understanding.
If Title be no security against the usual Humane Informities; I see no
reason, why they mayn't as well appear together upon the lesser Stage
of the Theatre, as upon the grand one of the World."37 He responds to
Collier's accusation that the stage debauches society by using the
metaphor and adding the mirror image to show how the stage reflects the
Mr. Collier observes abundance of Licentiousness and
Impurity in the world, and is resolv'd to lay it all at
the doors of the Theatres. He sees up and down a great
number of figures like those that are expos'd upon the
Stage, and he wisely concludes, that the Models must
needs be taken from thence, and that these men are but
the Players apes, which is directly contrary to the Truth.
For these are the Originals, of which those upon the Stage
are but the Copies, the Images, which that, like a Glass,
reflects back upon 'em.
The stage/world metaphor is also obvious when Drake, again using the
mirror image, examines the general function of drama:
For Dramatick Poetry, like a Glass, ought neither to
flatter, nor to abuse in the Image which it reflects,
but to give them their true colour and proportion, and
is only valuable for being exact. If therefore any
man dislikes the Figures, which he sees in it, he
finds fault with Nature, not the Poet, if those Pictures
be drawn according to the life; and he might as justly
snarl at the wise Providence which governs the world,
because he meets more ugly Faces than handsome ones,
more Knaves and Fools than Honest and Wise men in it,
and those too, generally more prosperous and fortunate.^
The metaphor itself is even used by a number of critics who
attacked the stage, though their views of the moral effect of the stage's
imitation of the world were obviously quite different from the views of
stage defenders.^ Thus, Richard Burridge finds the stage no place to
learn "Moral Precepts"; rather, here there is "no less than a Combination
of all the Vices in the World.Jacques BÃ©nigne Bossuet (Bishop of
Meaux) sees the stage more specifically as an image of the world:
For it is the World with it's Pomps, and Vanities, and
wicked Charms, which our Plays represent and recommend
to us. As therefore in the World, which is the Original,
all things are full of Sensuality, and Curiosity, OsÂ¬
tentation, and Vanity and Pride; so in the Stage, which
is the Copy, these things abound and reign. And the
Effect of the Theatre must needs be to make us Fond of
these things, because the only End it pursues is to
promote Pleasures, and render the Representation of
these things Entertaining and Delightful to us.^2
Quite obviously Bossuet does not see the stage as criticizing or ridiÂ¬
culing the vices of the world, but neither does he see the stage as
the main cause of them as Collier does. Rather, he is aware of the
traditional application of the stage/world metaphor, though he discounts
any moral intention or effect of its use on the modern stage (the French
stage of 1694). Ironically, another enemy of the stage uses the metaÂ¬
phor in presenting what he thinks is a poor reason for attending the
theatre in A Letter to a Lady Concerning the New Play House (1706).
The passage occurs when the anonymous author of this letter imagines
that the "Lady" will ask,
What Harm is there, or can there be, in seeing those
things acted upon the Stage, which, while we live
in the World, and converse among Men, we can't but
see acted every Day upon the great Stage or Theatre
of the World? And there is certainly no more than
this in seeing a Play; for we see nothing at the
Playhouse, but what we see every Day in walking the
Streets; A Play is but a Picture, which therefore we
may certainly look upon as innocently as upon the
thing which it is the Picture of; and while we
disapprove the Action or thing Represented, we may
be pleas'd with the Art and Skill of the Painter.
And indeed after all the noise and clamour that has
been of late Years rais'd against Plays, and all the
Complaints that have been made of the Looseness and
Immorality of the Stage, the worst Plays that have
been acted . . . are but true Pictures and lively
Representations of the things that are seen every
Day and every where; and there's nothing worse ever
to be seen within the Playhouse, than is to be seen
The writer's response to this defense of the stage emphasizes the ascetic
duty of a good Christian to avoid sin and wickedness whenever possible,
though it is sometimes impossible to avoid the "Swearing, Blasphemy,
Prophaneness, and filthy Communication" of the world. But with plays
there is a difference, for "it is our own Fault only if we choose to
see and hear such things when we may avoid it; and to go out of our way
on purpose to see and hear such things.But William Wycherley would
have seen corrective purpose in choosing to see the world represented
on stage, as he says in his posthumous poem, "To a Vain, Young Courtier":
Thus in the World, as on the Stage, we see
Men act, unlike themselves, in each Degree.
But Twixt the World and Stage, this Difference lies,
Play'rs to reform us wear a known Disguise;
We no such warrantable End can boast,
But still are Hypocrites at others' Cost.
To shame us from the Trade, the Cheats they play,
We, when we most pretend to serve, betray.
In Justice to ourselves, then, let's forbear.
To censure; and our Brother-Strolers spare.^
Thus, moral implications of the stage/world metaphor much like those
suggested by Thomas Heywood in his An Apology for Actors (1612) are
repeated in Wycherley's defense of actors and the stage more than a
century later. And the metaphor was not merely a figure of speech.
In discussing the ways Elizabethan dramatists used the stage/
world metaphor in their plays, Professor Stroup presents chapters enÂ¬
titled "Encompassing Actions," "The Pageant of the World," "The Places
of Action in Elizabethan Plays," and "The Characters: Orders and
Degrees." Each of the chapters emphasizes that the Elizabethan stage
reflected the cosmos by presenting a variety of actions (or plots),
ritualistic pageants, places, and characters. He sees the actions as
"spheres of action" which on stage center upon "the sphere of the indiÂ¬
vidual, who is himself a microcosm" and move out to "the sphere of
private affairs, the sphere of public affairs, the sphere of world afÂ¬
fairs, and the sphere of spiritual affairs."^6 Though Professor Stroup
feels this variety of correspondences in plots becomes severely limited
with the later plays he treats, he uses Drydenâ€”through Neander's comment
in An Essay of Dramatic Poesy (1668)â€”to explain how "the scheme
explains . . . the concentric spheres of the Ptolemaic system." It
seems rather odd that a concept no longer useful to dramatists should
be so well explained by one of the most important dramatists of the
Restoration period. The explanation comes when English plots are comÂ¬
pared to those of the French:
And this leads me to wonder why Lisideius and
many others should cry up the barrenness of the
French plots above the variety and copiousness of
the English. Their plots are single; . . . ours,
besides the main design, have under-plots or
by-concernments of less considerable persons and
intrigues, which are carried on with the motion of
the main plot; just as they say the orb of the fixed
stars, and those of the planets, though they have
motions of their own, are whirled about by the motion
of the primum mobile, in which they are contained.
That similitude expresses much of the English state;
for if contrary motions may be found in nature to
agree, if a planet can go east and west at the same
time, one way by virtue of his own motion, the other
by the force of the First Mover, it will not be
difficult to imagine how the under-plot, which is
only different, not contrary to the great design,
may naturally be conducted along with it. ^
Dryden's words suggest his understanding of the playwright's function
in the "great design" of the play as compared to the function of the
Divine Dramatist, the "First Mover," in the design and operation of the
In addition to various "encompassing actions," Professor
Stroup emphasizes the importance of variety in places and characters if
the stage is to reflect the world. He feels that by changing scenes
within the plays, by using various historical periods and settings for
the plays, and by attempting "in each play to suggest the orders and
degrees of mankind, the whole of the social order, reaching from crown
to clown, from highest to lowliest servant," the Elizabethan playÂ¬
wrights were patterning their plays after their view of the world in
order to entertain and instruct their audiences.^ As further evidence
that the Restoration playwrights used the stage/world metaphor in
patterning their plays, the participants in the Collier controversy
seem very conscious of this tradition in English drama and espouse this
necessity for variety in their critical comments. Thus Dryden speaks
of the poet's job of constructing a play from history in his preface
to An Evening's Love (1671): "and, since no story can afford characters
enough for the variety of the English stage, it follows that it is to
be altered and enlarged with new persons, accidents, and designs, which
will almost make it new.He criticizes Davenant's heroic play, The
Seige of Rhodes, for lacking "the fulness of a plot, and the variety of
characters to form it as it ought. "51-
Others involved in the stage controversy show a similar attiÂ¬
tude toward variety in the plays. Elkanah Settle, for example, in A
Farther Defence of Dramatick Poetry (1698), argues that
the Subjects of our English Tragedies are generally
the whole Revolutions of Governments, States or
Families, or those great Transactions; [and] that our
Genius of Stage-poetry can no more reach the Heights
that can please our Audience, under his [Corneille's]
Unity Shackles, then an Eagle can soar in a Hen-coop. . . .
the French can content themselves with the sweets
of a single Rose-bed; and nothing less then the whole
Garden, and the Field round it, will satisfie the
In addition to the need for this variety in types of and sources for
English tragedy, Settle believes that "Here our Audience[s] expect a
little Variety, viz. some change of Scene."55
He feels, like Dryden,
that there "must be Under-plots, and considerable ones too, possibly
big enough to justle the Upper-plot, to support a good English Play."54
Likewise, George Farquhar explains the intention of an English play in
A Discourse upon Comedy (1702), by pointing out the variety represented
in the audience :^5
An English Play is intended for the Use and Instruction
of an English Audience, a People not only separated
from the rest of the World by Situation, but different
also from other Nations as well in the Complexion
and Temperament of the Natural Body, as in the
Constitution of our Body Politick: As we are a
Mixture of many Nations, so we have the most
unaccountable Medley of Humours among us of any
People upon Earth; these Humours produce Variety
of Follies, some of 'um unknown to former Ages;
these new Distempers must have new Remedies, which
are nothing but new Counsels and Instructions.56
Thus, he feels the particular variety of the English audience requires
a purpose (Utile) for the English dramatist different from that for any
other dramatist, ancient or modern. To achieve this purpose, Farquhar
suggests what means (Dulce) the playwright must employ:
Then what sort of a Dulce, (which I take for the
Pleasantry of the Tale; or the Plot of the Play)
must a Man make use of to engage the Attention of
so many different Humours and Inclinations: Will
a single Plot satisfie every body? ... To make
the Moral Instructive, you must make the Story
diverting; the Spleenatick Wit, the Beau Courtier,
the heavy Citizen, the fine Lady, and her fine
Footman, come all to be instructed, and therefore
must all be diverted.
He goes on to say that the English playwright of 1702 must look to the
plays of "Shakespear, Johnson, Fletcher," and other English playwrights
for models. Quite clearly his own attitudes about variety of represÂ¬
entation seem to be derived from the Elizabethan view of the stage as
Thomas D'Urfey makes brief reference to the same necessity
for variety of plot when he says that a play presents "a Story not only
intricate and difficult to be contriv'd, but divertive and full of
Variety."58 James Drake focuses thus on the range of characters to be
presented in a play:
The Characters therefore must neither be too
general, nor too singular, one loses the distinction,
the other makes it monstrous, we are too familiar
with that to take notice of it, and too unacquainted
with this to acknowledge it to be real. But betwixt
these there is an almost infinite variety; some
natural and approaching to Generals, as the several
Ages of the World, and of Life, Sexes and Tempers;
some Artificial, and more particular, as the vast
Varieties and Shapes of Villany, Knavery, Folly.
Affectation and Humour, &c_. All these are within
the Poet's Royalty, and he may summon 'em to attend
him, whenever he has occasion for their service.
Yet tho these make up perhaps the greatest part of
Mankind, he is not fondly to imagine, that he has
any Authority over the whole, or to expect homage
from any of 'em, as the Publick Representatives of
Finally, John Dennis sets about to show how modern comedy
pleases and instructs more than ancient comedy by saying that both of
these ends can best be achieved through the Ridiculum (that which is
laughable). He points out that in modern comedy more pleasure is afforded
the audience because
there is a greater Variety of it [Ridiculum] in the
Incidents, and in the Characters, and that Variety
must make it the more delightful. For a Uniformity
in this Case takes away from the Surprize, and without
Surprize the Ridiculum cannot subsist. And besides,
that the Moderns have a greater Variety both of
Characters and Fables, they have a greater Variety of
Style. . . . [For example] look into the Plain-Dealer,
and you shall find as many Styles in it, as there are
Characters. For Manly, Freeman, Plausible, Olivia,
Novel, Elisha, the Widow Blackacre and Jerry, have
each of them a different Dialect, which, besides the
Variety, must be farther delightful, because 'tis an
exact Imitation of Nature.
Dennis here links the importance of variety in events and characters to
the accurate representation of the world on the stage. He reemphasizes
the need for variety when he states that comedy instructs not only
through its characters, "but if it instructs [also] by its Fable and
Action, as certainly it ought to do, why then the Ridiculum must be in
the Incidents which are parts of the Action . . . chiefly in the
Catastrophe, which ought to be the most instructive Part of the Fable,
and to make the strongest ImpresiÃ³n."^0 Thus, he can conclude, with
respect to the Ridiculum, that "the Moderns having greater Variety of
it, both in their Persons and Action, the Instruction in the Modern
Comedy must be the more extensive, besides, that the Variety of Action
and Incidents must make our Catastrophes more surprizing, and consequently
To represent effectively the world on the stage the playwright
had to concern himself not only with the variety of actions, scenes, and
characters but with what Professor Stroup refers to as "the world's
pageant." He shows how the tradition of pageantry in English life and
thought was reflected on stage throughout the development of English
drama (at least until 1642).^2 He indicates that the "devices and
materials" which the playwrights used to represent this pageantry "conÂ¬
sist of formal entrances and exits, various types of processions or
formal movements of characters, often military in design, and of cere-
monies of ceremonious actions, or ritual.These aspects of "cosmic
pageant" were "basic to the chronicle and history playsâ€”and to the high
tragedies as well. They are a little less obvious in romantic and
tragi-comedy and still less in domestic tragedy and comedy, though
seldom entirely absent.I would argue that this tradition of represÂ¬
enting the pageantry of the world (as represented in English life) on
stage did not end in 1642. Indeed, the importance of many of the
ceremonies probably gained renewed meaning with the restoration of a
king in 1660, thus making their representation on stage even more
significant. The plays performed during the period reveal that the
pageant of the world was expressed not only in the many revivals and
adaptions of Elizabethan and ancient plays but also in the heroic
drama, the tragedies, the operatic plays (including adoptions from
Shakespeare), and many of the comedies. Dryden, in fact, emphasizes
the necessity for using military pageantry on stage in 0f_ Heroic Plays:
An Essay (1672) :
To those who object [to] my frequent use of
drums and trumpets, and my representations of battles,
I answer, I introduced them not on the English stage.
Shakespeare used them frequently; and though Jonson
shows no battle in his Catiline, yet you hear from
behind the scenes the sounding of trumpets, and the
shouts of fighting armies. But I add farther: that
these warlike instruments, and even the representations
of fighting on the stage, are no more than necessary
to produce the effects of an heroic play; that is,
to raise the imagination of the audience, and to
persuade them, for the time, that what they behold
on [in?] the theatre is really performed.65
Dryden certainly seems to wish his audience to see the correspondence
between the sweeping actions on stage and those in the world.
But it is perhaps most difficult to see how "the pageant of
the world" is expressed in the comedies of the Restoration which have
been analyzed mainly for their "wit" or
"manner" by modern critics.
Though many devices of pageantry should not be expected in these
comedies, since their English antecedents had fewer devices than the
serious drama, one which stands out is the institution of marriage.
The plays are not so much occupied with the ceremony of the wedding as
with the rituals of courtship and betrothal in preparation for the
marriage. In objection to those critics who have found the playÂ¬
wrights' treatment of marriage "cynical" in Restoration drama, P. F.
Vernon suggests that the dramatists attacked those "grotesque, "unnatural1
unions" which are no more than "matrimonial bargains." This typical
marriage of convenience, which is usually arranged by parents or "merÂ¬
is attacked as a discredited commercial contract
which yoked together, without regard for human
feelings, young and old, intelligent and stupid,
sensitive ladies and miserly businessmen; all
unions without affection, whose only possible
fruits were mutual distrust, possessive tyranny,
jealousy and contempt. There seems no doubt that,
with rare exceptions, the dramatists expected
their audience to recognise in the disastrous
marriages, which they held up to ridicule, the
contemporary marriage of convenience.67
As Professor Vernon points out, these marriages of convenience were "the
norm in real life," but the dramatists almost without fail present them
as something disgusting, to be rejected by any person concerned with
future harmony and happiness. In opposition to these marriages, where
cuckolding is the rule, are those marriages (usually of the protagonists)
which conclude or are suggested at the conclusion of so many Restoration
comedies and which have the expressed love and honest understanding of
both partners as their bases. But modern critics have consistently
failed to see this; instead, they seem inclined toward Collier's opinion
that "The Stage Poets make Libertines their Top Characters, and give them
Success in their Debauchery.Collier explains what he means by
citing various libertine-heroes and delineating their characters. Of
Congreve's Valentine in Love for Love he says:
"Tis true, He was hearty in his Affection to Angelica.
Now without question, to be in Love with a fine Lady
of 30000 Pounds is a great Virtue! But then abating
this single Commendation, Valentine is altogether
compounded of Vice. He is a prodigal Debauchee,
unnatural, and Profane, Obscene, Sawcy, and undutiful.^
What Collier (and anyone who agrees with his reading) fails to recogÂ¬
nize is that Valentine, like many heroes in Restoration comdey, changes
from a "prodigal Debauchee" who is "unnatural" to a plain-dealing lover,
desiring the natural state of a marriage based upon honesty and selfless
love.^ Professor Vernon explains this attitude about marriage in most
Usually the dramatists try to demonstrate that
the promiscuity of the libertine cannot be successful
as a way of living because it is 'unnatural'. The
libertine cannot live happily by his philosophy
because it fails to take into account the 'natural'
desire of human kind for a permanent emotional
relationship with a member of the opposite sex based
on more than mere lust. In practice the rake
discovers that all his cynical theories can do
nothing to stop him falling in love.^
This ritual of betrothal on stage was important because it
reflected its equally important ritual counterpart in the world. As
an aspect of the pageant of life, marriage was one of the key moments
in determining the happiness of man, and that happiness was a direct
result of the motives which were exposed during courtship and betrothal./J
As Thomas Brown observes in Amusement VII, "Marriage," in his Amusements
Serious and Comical, Calculated for the Meridian of London (1700), those
who approached marriage only for the divertisement of the "ceremony" of
courtship, or who went to matchmakers who had "an admirable talent for
matching conditions, families, trades and estates; in short every
thing, except humours and inclinations." would find no happiness. He
does think "'tis possible for those that marry to be happy," but only
if marriage is properly defined:
you must call it trucking or bartering, and not
marrying, to take a woman merely for her fortune,
and reckon her perfections by the number of pounds
she is like to bring with her. Nor is it to marry
but to please one's self, to choose a wife as we
do a tulip, merely for her beauty. It is not to
marry, but to dote at a certain age, to take a young
woman only for the sake of her company. What is it
then to be married? Why, 'tis to choose with circumÂ¬
spection and deliberation, by inclination, and not by
interest, suc^ a woman as will choose you after the
Such observations of marriage come from Brown's observations of the
"world" of London life; the very same observations of good and bad
marital motives are presented on the Restoration stage as entertainment
and moral instruction. Thus, pageantry, even as it is modified in the
comedies, is joined with the continued sense of the need for variety
to become central considerations in the drama's depiction of the world.
It only remains to show the importance of poetic justice in reinforcing
the moral intentions of the Restoration dramatists in reflecting the
larger stage productions of the Divine Dramatist.
In discussing the relationship of the Elizabethan stage to the
world, Professor Stroup suggests that the dramatists consciously used
what he calls "a testing pattern" to structure their plays. He maintains
that this pattern
involves the trial or proving of a man. The play
often takes something of its shape from the testing
force of Providence operating within the characters
of men, whether the characters ride Fortune's wheel,
are frustrated by a flaw, or achieve by maturation
of mind recognition and then accept their suffering.
As the protagonist moves in pageant and encompassing
actions across the stage of the world he is proved,
like Job or Jonah, and in his proving he undergoes
a testing. Often, and in the tragedies especially,
this proving follows the pretty well-recognized
pattern of Christian tests. Divine Providence does
not appear in proper person, though in tragedy it
often sends ghostly agents to direct or provide the
conflict. But it may, and especially so in comedy,
send a vicar in the guise of the king or duke or
simply the judge who settles the conflict and metes
out justice, rewards, and punishments, in the last
In the plays which observe this pattern, then, "God is director of the
play and final arbiter at the denouement." Tragedies may show a proÂ¬
tagonist passing his test, and thus saved; while comedies may show a
protagonist (or others) punished for failing; what will be obvious is
a kind of Providential justice which may not have been an exact reflection
of the real world, but which most people believed to be a condition of the
hereafter. The importance of the concept of Divine Providence in the
lives of the people and in the literature cannot be overstated. As ProÂ¬
fessor Henry Hitch Adams points out, "One of the notions most useful to
pamphleteers, writers of homiletic treatises, and playwrights was that
Divine Providence intervened in the lives of men to assure the operations
of divine justice." In focusing on the applications of Providential
justice in tragedy, Professor Adams sees the dramatist using
interventions of Divine Providence to show direct
operations of what he understands as the will of
God. When he dispenses poetic justice, a playwright
acts as a god in a microcosm of his own creation.
When he employs operations of Divine Providence,
a playwright gives his interpretation of the will
of God. In both the dramatic and nondramatic
literature of the time, Divine Providence is employed
to punish vice, to prevent crime against an innocent
person, and to reveal criminals to the agencies of
Though Professors Stroup and Adams trace the concept of ProÂ¬
vidential justice in patterning plays only to the closing of the
theatres in 1642, it was still very important in the drama after the
restoration of Charles II, as may be seen in the remarks of the playÂ¬
wrights and critics involved in the Collier controversy. From these
remarks it seems obvious that what prevailed in the best drama was the
Christian world-view of a God-centered, contingent universe. The stage
still functioned as a place where the poet consciously used poetic
justice in the actions of his characters to suggest the Providential
justice imposed by the Divine Dramatist in the larger worlds of life and
afterlife. Professor Williams has indicated the importance of "poetical
justice" and "the contrivances of Providence" in the works of William
Congreve,77 and he has suggested the pervasiveness of the "testing
pattern" in other Restoration and eighteenth-century drama. Professor
Schneider, in his study of Restoration comedies, observes that well over
half of the comedies he considers exhibit a testing pattern (employed
by the heroines) which shows "how much the man will sacrifice for love."79
He also emphasizes the importance of poetical justice in structuring
these plays in order to "tell us what we ought to be" as well as what
we are.80 That this reflection of Providential justice would have been
expected and understood by viewers and readers of the drama seems assured
from the common occurrence of the concept (especially in connection with
the stage/world metaphor) in contemporary sermons and apologetics as
well as the drama.The relationship is seen clearly by the critic
who apparently coined the term "poetic justice," Thomas Rymer, in a
statement about Sophocles and Euripides:
finding in History, the same end happen to the
righteous and to the unjust, vertue often opprest,
and wickedness on the Throne: they saw these parÂ¬
ticular yesterday-truths were imperfect and unproper
to illustrate the universal and eternal truths by
them intended. Finding also that this unequal disÂ¬
tribution of rewards and punishments did perplex
the wisest, and by the Atheist was made a scandal
to the Divine Providence. They concluded, that
a Poet must of necessity see justice exactly ad-
ministred, if he intended to please.^2
He later goes on to point out that the audience may be affected by a
tragedy "by observing that constant order, that harmony and beauty of
Providence, that necessary relation and chain, whereby the causes and
effects, the vertues and rewards, the vices and their punishments are
proportion'd and link'd together; how deep and dark soever are laid the
Springs, and however intricate and involv'd are their operations.
Though Collier seems to recognize the value of employing
poetic justiceâ€”for he cites Jonson and Rapin in support of it and even
mentions Falstaff as an example of Shakespeare's use of itÂ®^â€”it is his
position that the "Malefactors are cherished and rewarded by the Modern
Stage," that the contemporary "Stage Poets make their Principal Persons
Vitious, and reward them at the End of the Play.He selects numerous
examples where hÂ£ finds a perversion of poetic justice, most of them in
the plays of Dryden. Dryden, however, seems to agree with Rymer about
the nature of and necessity for poetic justice, while seeing it as a
tradition best employed in English drama: "the punishment of vice and
reward of virtue are the most adequate ends of tragedy, because most
conducing to good example of life. Now pity is not so easily raised
for a criminal . . . as it is for an innocent man, and the suffering
of innocence and punishment of the offender is of the nature of English
tragedy." He also provides a more exact explanation of how poetic
justice may be shown in tragedy, for part of its function
is to reform manners by delightful representation
of human life in great persons, by way of dialogue.
If this be true, then not only pity and terror are
to be moved as the only means to bring us to virtue,
but generally love to virtue and hatred to vice;
by shewing the rewards of one, and punishments of
the other; at least by rendering virtue always
amiable, though it be shown unfortunate; and vice
detestable, tho' it be shown triumphant.
Specifically, he defends the "poetical justice" meted out in Don
Sebastian (1690),^ as well as in his comedy An Evening's Love: or the
Mock Astrologer (1671). As if anticipating Collier's attack (though not
his deliberate omissions), he says that in comedy neither he nor "better
poets" attempt to show "libertinism amiable": "we make not vicious
persons happy, but only as Heaven makes sinners so; that is, by reclaimÂ¬
ing them first from vice. For so 'tis supposed they are, when they
resolve to marry; for then enjoying what they desire in one, they cease
to pursue the love of many."^
Congreve also defends the poetic justice he has observed in
constructing The Mourning Bride, when he answers Collier:
The Reader has seen his Charge against the Mourning
Bride, and is a Judge of the Justness and Strength of
it. I confess I have not much to say in Commendation
of any thing that I have Written: But if a fairÂ¬
dealing-man, or a candid Critick, and examin'd that
Tragedy, I fancy that neither the general Moral
contain'd in the two Last Lines; nor the several
particular Morals interwoven with the success of
every principal Character, would have been overseen
The Reward of Matrimonial Constancy in
AlmerÃa, of the same Virtue, together with filial
Piety and Love to his Country in Osmin; the Punishment
of Tyranny in Manuel, of Ambition in Gonzalez, of
violent Passions, and unlawful Love in Zara: These
it may be were Parts of the Poem as worthy to be
observed, as one or two erroneous Expressions; and
admit they were such, might in some measure have
aton'd for them.91
Vanbrugh likewise indicates his moral intentions in The Relapse by
assuring Collier that Young Fashion is not the "Author's Favourite";
indeed, the mercenary marriage which Collier sees as a reward for Young
Fashion, Vanbrugh seems to view as just punishment, for "he has help'd
him to a Wife, who's likely to make his Heart ake: But I suppose Mr.
Collier is of Opinion, that Gold can never be bought too dear."'^ But
Vanbrugh's major defense comes in his explanation of what Professor
Stroup refers to as "the testing pattern" of the play. He first explains
how his plan was to move the reformed Loveless from the relative safety
of "Solitude and Retirement" to the many dangers of the town. Thus,
Loveless's fall is something he "design'd for a natural Instance of the
frailty of Mankind, even in his most fixt Determinations; and for a mark
upon the defect of the most steady Resolve, without that necessary
Guard, of keeping out of Temptation."93 in addition, he says he has
imposed the same test upon Amanda, whose virtue not only triumphs over
the lustful intentions of Worthy, but produces a conversion in him,
which is characterized by peace, order and a love and respect for virtue.9^
As Vanbrugh observes, Collier discounts any importance in this conÂ¬
clusion, but it is quite clearly the result of a moral pattern which
Stroup sees as central in English drama from its beginnings.
Vanbrugh's position is reenforced by Elkanah Settle, one of
the other playwrights who responded to Collier. He first takes up the
issue of the distribution of justice in the Lord Foppington-Young
Fashion plot of The Relapse and points out that Young Fashion goes far
in testing his brother's "Reason, Justice or Pity" before resorting to
Coupler's plan. He also suggests that Lord Foppington's pride and
vanity as well as his
unnatural Inhumanity to his own Brother, and all the
other Vices of his Character, ought to be punish'd,
with all the Insults, Defeats, Disappointments and
Shame, that the Dramatick Justice can heap upon
him, through the whole Play. But as no over-reach
or defeat in Comedy can well be performed, but by
some Fraud or Cheat or other; and consequently he
that carries on the Cheat cannot reach to the full
heights of a perfect Character, viz. wholly unÂ¬
blemish'd; however 'tis the work of the Poet in that
Case to raise those just Provocations for every
such Insult, and lay that reasonable Ground for every
such Cheat, especially in the prosperous Characters
of the Comedy; that their Successes, in the Catastrophe
of the Play, may seem the Reward of some Virtue
and Justice even in the Cheat himself, comparative
to the Vice and Injustice they punish.
But Settle does not stop with "Young Fashion's supplanting his
Brothers pretensions"; he feels there is "another piece of Poetick JusÂ¬
tice in carrying off the Young Heiress:"
For when the Young Hoyden is thus snared into Wedlock,
not by any ignoble rascally Imposter, but a Young
Gentleman, at least of equal birth and Quality with
her; the other part of the Delusion, viz. his being a
Younger Brother, and a Man of no Estate, seems but an
honest Dramatick over-reach, impos'd upon so sordid
and avaricious a Character, so over-cautious a Coxcomb
as her Father Sir Tunbelly: Nor is the Young Lady her
self, under the meaness of her rustick Education, so
Exalted a Character; but that Young Fashion may fairly
and innocently carry the Prize, without one murmuring
Word, or envying Eye from the severest Critick in the
whole Audience. 6
Indeed, Settle might have gone so far as Vanbrugh in suggesting the
potential problems Hoyden poses for Young Fashion: this "reward" of
marriage may produce horns instead of happiness when this country wife's
desires begin to encounter other men. Settle does, however, explain how
well poetic justice functions in this less important and more comic plot
of the play. When he brings up the Amanda-Loveless plot, he finds the
same kind of testing pattern which Vanbrugh sees as crucial to moral
Virtue cannot very well be wrought up to any Dramatick
Perfection, nor sparkle with any considerable
Brightness and Beauties, unless it stands a Temptation,
and surmounts it. We have a Proverbial Saying, that
will hardly allow that Woman to be truly chaste, that
has never been try'd. This I am sure, the noblest
Triumphs of Virtue are made by the Assaults it can
resist and conquer .... [The poet's] Characters of
Virtue must come forth into the gay World, with Levity,
Vanity, nay Temptation itself, all round them. They
must go to the Court, the Ball, the Masque, the Musick-
Houses, the Dancing-Schools, nay to the very Prophane
Play-Houses themselves, (to speak in Mr. Collier's
Dialect;) and yet come off unconquer'd. These are the
Virtues that, to be Instructive to an Audience, are
what should tread the Stage.^ ,
Thus just rewards can only come after a character has been tested, and
the testing on stage is patterned after the same testing which man underÂ¬
goes in the world.
In his response to A Short View, Charles Gildon shows how
concerned he is with the audience's impression of Providence as defined
by the poet's employment of poetic justice on stage:
No unfortunate Character ought to be introduc'd on
the Stage, without its Humane Frailties to justifie
its Misfortunes: For unfortunate Perfection, is the
Crime of Providence, and to offer at that, is an
Impiety a Poet ought never to be guilty of; being
directly opposite to his duty of Rewarding the
Innocent, and punishing the Guilty; and by that
means, to establish a -just notion of Providence in
its most important Action, the Government of Mankind.
Gildon's understanding of poetic justice is further amplified in The
Complete Art of Poetry (1718) , where he supports Dennis in his Spec-
tator arguments with Addison; Gildon quotes Dennis's views with appar-
ently complete agreement. Those views, which Dennis also presents
when responding to Collier in The Usefulness of the Stage (1698), express
clearly the artistic and moral motives of the artist in using poetic
justice on stage to mirror the Providential justice at work on the
larger stage of life. Thus, after stating that "1. The Being of a
God. 2. Providence. 3. Immortality of the Soul. 4. Future Rewards
and Punishments" are, for the poet "and particularly the Tragick Poet,"
the "very Foundations of his Art," Dennis says:
Poetick Justice would be a Jest if it were not an
Image of the Divine, and if it did not consequently
suppose the Being of a God and Providence. It
supposes too the Immortality of the Soul, and future
Rewards and Punishments .... Now this supposition
of a future State, is very just and reasonable. For
since Passions in their Excesses are the Causes of
most of the Disturbances that happen in the World,
upon a Supposition of a future State, nothing can
be more just, than that the Power which governs the
World, should make sometimes very severe Examples
of those who indulge their Passions; Providence
seems to require this. But then to make involuntary
Faults capital, and to punish them with the last
Punishment, would not be so consistent with the
Goodness of God, unless there were a Compensation
hereafter. For such a Punishment would
be too rigorous, but cruel and extravagant.
But Dennis recognizes some difficulties in the dramatist's use of poetic
justice, for though the "Poet is himself the Creator" of "dramatical
Persons," the justice he dispenses on stage is not an exact "RepresenÂ¬
tation of the Justice of the Almighty." For in the world if there is
"not always an equal Distribution of Affliction and Happiness," man,
being immortal, "will find a Compensation in Futurity for any seeming
Inequity in his Destiny here. But the Creatures of a Poetical Creator
are imaginary and transitory; they have no longer Duration than the
Representation of their respective Fables; and consequently, if they
offend, they must be punish'd during that Representation."^Â®^- In
drawing all of these considerations together, then, Dennis states what
he conceives to be the "Duty of every Tragick Poet":
[that is,] by an exact Distribution of a Poetical
Justice, to imitate the Divine Dispensation, and to
inculcate a particular Providence. 'Tis true indeed
upon the Stage of the World the Wicked sometimes
prosper, and the Guiltless suffer. But that is
permitted by the Governour of the World, to shew
from the Attribute of his infinite Justice that there
is a Compensation in Futurity, to prove the ImmortalÂ¬
ity of the Human Soul, and the Certainty of future
Rewards and Punishments. But the Poetical Persons
in Tragedy exist no longer than the Reading or the
Representation; the whole Extent of their Entity
is circumscribed by those; and therefore during that
Reading or Representation, according to their
Merits or Demerits, they must be punish'd or rewarded.
If this is not done, there is no impartial Distribution
of Poetical Justice, no instructive' Lecture of a
particular Providence, and no Imitation of the Divine
It is difficult to imagine a clearer statement of the moral function of
poetic justice in the dramatist's view of the stage as a "little world."
Other voices raised in defense of the stage also asserted the
importance of poetic justice in the drama. The anonymous author of
The Stage Acquitted (1699), for example, recognizes that "it has been
already by divers Authors made appear, that as the end of the Drama is
the Correction, punishment of Vice, and reward of Virtue, the purgation
of our passions, &c_. . . . there is no better human way to that end." He
later goes on to defend Charles I for allowing drama on Sunday on the
grounds that it "tended to the confirmation of the Doctrine of the day"
in part because of "the lively examples represented before our Eyes, of
Vice punished and Virtues rewarded."103 John Oldmixon states that true
justice can only be impressed upon an audience by showing what actions
and beliefs bring about the rewards and punishments provided by the
playwright. He also defends the justice employed in two plays ColÂ¬
lier attacked: Dryden's Don Sebastian and Congreve's The Mourning Bride
Similarly, another anonymous spokesman for the stage defends Vanbrugh's
use of poetic justice in The Provok'd Wife against Collier's assertion
"that Sir John Brute is not punish'd enough. Truly, I think, his whole
character is one of continual Punishment; and I wou'd no more chuse Sir
John's Circumstances for the pleasure of his Libertinism, than I wou'd
Mr. Collier's for the pleasure of Lashing on't."^Â®6
Finally, Dr. James Drake joins the list of contemporaries who
found poetical justice essential in the moral design of the plays by
linking the concept to the fable or plot. His view, shared by others
in the controversy,directly contradicts Professor Eric Rothstein's
feeling that there is a "depreciation of the plot" as a major concern
in Restoration tragedy. Drake says:
The Parts therefore of a Play, in which the
Morals of the Play appear, are the Fable, the
Characters, and the Discourse. Of these the Fable
(in Tragedy especially) is the most considerable,
being (according to Aristotle) the Primum Mobile
by which all the other parts are acted and govern'd,
and the principal Instrument by which the Passions
are weeded and purg'd, by laying before the Eyes of
the Spectators examples of the miserable Catastrophe
of Tyranny, Usurpation, Pride, Cruelty, and Ambition,
&c. and to crown suffering Virtue with Success and
Reward, or to punish the unjust Oppressors of it
with Ruine and Destruction.109
Drake then evaluates a number of plays by examining how poetic justice
works to convey a moral understanding. He sees Sophocles' Oedipus as
instructive in the ways of God, for viewers will see "that the Will of
Heaven is not to be disputed by Mortals, how severe soever, even to
Injustice, the Conditions of it may seem to us; and that whoever sets
up his own Wisdom in opposition to it, shall in that Presumption meet
both his Crime and his Punishment." He later defends the moral of the
fable in Hamlet by saying that "nothing in Antiquity can rival this Plot
for the admirable distribution of Poetick Justice." That moral for him
is "That the Greatness of the Offender does not qualify the Offense, and
that no Humane Power, or Policy are a sufficient Guard against the ImÂ¬
partial Hand, and Eye of Providence, which defeats their wicked purposes,
and turns their dangerous Machinations upon their own heads." Drake
singles out King Lear, TimÃ³n of Athens, and Macbeth as among other
tragedies by Shakespeare which "are Moral and Instructive" before moving
on to defend Otway's The Orphan from Collier's abuse. He then describes
how Dryden's Don Sebastian presents "a very Religious Moral, and consonant
to the Tenour of the 2d Commandment shews, that the Punishment of Mens
crimes, shall extend not only to their own persons, but if unrepented
shall reach their Posterity likewise." As for Congreve's The Mourning
Bride he has special praise, for "the Fable of this Play is one of the
most just, and regular that the Stage, either Antient or Modern, can
boast of. I mean, for the distribution of Rewards, and Punishments. For
no virtuous person misses his Recompence, and no vitious one escapes
Vengeance." Even in comedy, which he feels does not require the strict
observance of poetic justice, he finds the contemporary dramatists have
generally taken those characters of wit and sense from a debauched
condition "to a solemn Resolution of Reforming at last." And in any
case, whatever success this character achieves in comedy, it is not due
to his imperfection or "Licentiousness, but to the Wit and Sense, or
other good Qualities, which are predominant in the Character. "HO
Clearly, then, the critics and playwrights who defended the
stage in the Collier controversy saw the Restoration stage as a "little
world" upon which the dramas of man were represented to entertain and
instruct. For them, the features of variety, pageantry, and Providential
testing and justice, so important in Elizabethan drama, were still
recognized as parts of those moral designs which Jeremy Collier could
see only as patterns for vice.
Hopefully what has emerged from this discussion of the Collier
controversy is a better critical basis for understanding the drama of the
Restoration period. It should be clear that those critics who defended
the stage recognised that there were abuses, but they also saw therein a
moral value which they maintained was an essential part of its artistic
value. Thus, unlike many modern critics who have rejected Collier and
with him any consideration of morality, they answered Collier on grounds
that were at once moral and artistic. In explaining how the stage funcÂ¬
tioned, they felt that the representation of "evil" on the stage (in
the actions and speeches of characters) was not only proper but necessary
if the audience was to know and admire "good." Rather than seeing the
dangers of imitation as Collier did in his Platonic reaction to evil,
they felt the plays offered just choices for all whose understanding and
judgment were not depraved. In addition, they exposed Collier's gross
errors in reading and argument, while consistently asserting the value
of the plays he attacked. Enough evidence is obvious in the criticism
of the controversy to assume that the dramatists consciously patterned
their plays to represent a world where man is tested in much as he is
tested under the eye and judgment of the Divine Dramatist.
-'-Theatre of the World (Chicago: Chicago University Press,
1969), p. 164. With an emphasis on the architectural sources of ElizaÂ¬
bethan theatres, Professor Yates says that "abroad, churches and cathedrals
were being built to express the religious spirit in neoclassical archiÂ¬
tecture. In England perhaps only the public theatre was able to share to
some extent in this movement and to anticipate the English neoclassical
church architecture of the future" (p. 168).
Ibid., p. 168. Also see Thomas B. Stroup, Microcosmos: The
Shape of the Elizabethan Play (Lexington: University of Kentucky Press,
1965), pp. 34-35 & 46.
Stroup, p. 5.
^Ibid., pp. 8-16.
â€œ^Shakespeare and the Idea of the Play (London: Chatto &
Windus, 1964), p. 83.
^Ibid., p. 84.
7'"All the World's a Stage' Some Illustrations of the Theatrum
Mundi," Shakespeare Quarterly, 17(1966), 174-175.
^Stroup, pp. 41 & 21.
"Poetical Justice, the Contrivances of Providence, and the
Works of William Congreve," ELH, 35(1968), 550. Also, see the following
articles by Williams: "The 'Utmost Tryal' of Virtue and Congreve's
Love for Love," Tennessee Studies in Literature, 17(1972) , 4-5 and "The 'Just
Decrees of Heav'n' and Congreve's Mourning Bride," in Congreve Consider'd:
Papers Read at a_ Clark Library Seminar, December _5, 1970 (Los Angeles:
William Andrews Clark Memorial Library, 1971), pp. 5-8.
-^Williams, "Poetical Justice," 551-554.
A Short View of the Immorality and Profaneness of the English
Stage (London, 1698), pp. 148-149.
"Of Dramatic Poesy" and other Critical Essays, ed. George
Watson (London: J. M. Dent & Sons, Ltd., 1962), I, 146.
l3Ibid., I, 2.
-*-^The Campaigners: ov_ the Pleasant Adventures at Brussels
(London, 1698), preface, p. 8.
-'-'â€™The Complete Works of Sir John Vanbrugh, eds. Bonamy DobrÃ©e
and Geoffrey Webb (Bloomsbury: The Nonesuch Press, 1927), I, 206.
Short View, p. 12.
The Complete Works of William Congreve, ed. Montague Summers
(London: The Nonesuch Press, 1923), III, 175. Congreve continually
defends an accurate depiction of characters on stage, telling Collier
that "when Men neither sneak, nor prevaricate, nor do any thing unbecomÂ¬
ing their Office in the World, they ought not to be expos'd at all in
Comedy; for the Characters expos'd there, should be of those only, who
misbehave themselves" (III, 197).
19Ibid., II, 193.
2Â®The Complete Works of William Wycherley, ed. Montague
Summers (Soho: The Nonesuch Press, 1924), IV, 241.
See n. 7 above.
The Complete Works of George Farquhar, ed. Charles Stonehill
(London: The Nonesuch Press, 1930), I, 285.
The Critical Works of John Dennis, ed. Edward Niles Hooker,
I (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1939), 313-314.
2^An Act at Oxford (London, 1704), epistle dedicatory.
22A Defence of Dramatick Poetry (London, 1698), p. 80.
Love's Victim: or, the Queen of Wales (London, 1701),
29The Post-Man Robb'd of His Mail (London, 1719), p. 216.
He may be thinking of Dryden specifically here, since The
Pilgrim (1700) had recently been published, and the epilogue, in part,
says of Collier that
He tells you, that this very moral age
Received the first infection from the stage;
But sure, a banished court, with lewdness fraught,
The sees of open vice, returning, brought.
Thus lodged (as vice by great example thrives),
It first debauched the daughters and the wives.
London, a fruitful soil, yet never bore
So plentiful a Crop of horns before.
Thus did the thriving malady prevail;
The court its head, the poets but the tail. (The Works
of John Dryden, eds., Sir Walter Scott
and George Saintsbury, VIII (Edinburgh:
William Paterson, 1884), 502.)
I have reversed the italicized and unitalicized words.
Ibid., p. 26.
Ibid., p. 81. This author later explains how the microcosm
of the stage can be edifying to the spectators, for "The Stage sets
before their Eyes what Folly and Falsehood are, not in bare terms, which
want a comment, but in so plain and visible a dress, that you know them
off the Stage when you meet them every day in your Conversation, or in
your Negotiations, in your own inclinations or practice; so that after
the Spectator or Hearer has been shown the lively draught of Folly and
Falsehood on the Stage, he must know it where-ever he meets it, and
avoid it both in himself and others, if he be capable of Correction
~^The Antient and Modern Stages Survey1d (London, 1699) , p. 291.
Drake also used the metaphor in his preface to Thomas Brown's A Legacy
for the Ladies, or Characters of the Women of the Age (London, 1705) :
"It was his [Brown's] fortune to appear upon the Stage of the World when
Fears and Jealousies had sour'd the Peoples Blood" (xii).
-^Stages, p. 272. Drake also defends the comic dramatists by
saying that whatever "is so common and obvious in the World, can't be
unnatural upon the Stage, but by using it improperly" (p. 237).
Ibid., pp. 118-119. Similarly, Drake defends Plautus and
Terence: "They have copyed faithfully from Nature, and their Draughts
come incomparably near the Life. No outrage is done to the Original, by
enlarging or contracting the Features, in order to entertain the Audience
with Monsters or Dwarfs, but Humane Life is depicted in its true and just
Proportion. If therefore the Images, which their Plays reflect, displease
any froward [sic] Cynic, the Fault is in the Face, not the Glass which
gives a true representation; and he quarrels with Providence, whose
Creatures Mankind is, if he dislikes the sight" (pp. 243-244).
^Consistent with Collier's Platonic view that the stage
brought about the wickedness of the age are his comments in A Short View: â€¢
The English stage "has not so much as the poor plea of a Precedent, to
which most other ill Things may claim a pretence. 'Tis mostly meer
Discovery and Invention: A new World of Vice found out, and planted
with all the Industry imaginable" (pp. 54-55). Far from reflecting
the world then, the stage, for Collier, created "a new World of Vice"
with which to debauch the age.
4 â– '"A Scourge for the Play-Houses: Or, the Character of the
English-stage (London, 1702), p. 9.
Maxims and Reflections upon Plays (London, 1699), p. 66.
Ibid., p. 6.
45Works, IV, 241-242.
4^Stroup, p. 41.
Essays, I, 58-59.
4^In discussing the relationship between God and his ministers
on earth, Dryden describes the "providential designs" almost as plots,
and he notes how God directs "all manner of events on earth" (Essays,
Stroup, p. 178; also pp. 119-177 (passim)
Essays, I, 155; see also II, 49.
-â€™llbid., I, 158. Dryden also says that "Tragedy is the
miniature of human life; an epic poem is the draught at length" (II, 226).
Ibid., p. 35.
â€œâ€™"â€™Farquhar echoes Dryden's passage on "the primum mobile" when
he says, "In all Productions either Divine or Humane, the final Cause is
the first Mover" (Works, II, 335) in discussing the origins of comedy.
~^Works, II, 337.
-^The old Mode and the New (London, 1709), dedication.
Stages, pp. 289-290.
^Critical Works, I, 224-225.
^Ibid., 226. Obviously, by "more ridiculous" Dennis means
more able to be laughed at and thus more pleasing and instructive.
Stroup, pp. 88-118, passim*
63Ibid., p. 116.
64Ibid., p. 89.
^Essays, I, 162. It is interesting that Stroup thinks
Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra is the best example of the pageant
of the world in Elizabethan drama (p. 99); this provides for some
speculation that Dryden's All for Love might capture much of that same
F. Vernon, in his article, "The Marriage of Convenience
and the Moral Code of Restoration Comedy," Essays in Criticism, 12 (1962)
says that not only Restoration comedies but heroic dramas and tragedies
are almost always concerned in some way with the proper arrangements for
'Ibid., 375-376. There may also be a ritualistic aspect in
matchmaking, for it does reflect part of the pageant of life, and in
the plays brings order to those matches justly made.
Â°Ben Ross Schneider, The Ethos of Restoration Comedy (Urbana:
University of Illinois Press, 1971), pp. 55-59. Also, Yvonne Bonsall
Shafer in "The Proviso Scene in Restoration Comedy," Restoration and
Eighteenth-century Theatre Research, 9, no. 1(1970), says that the
proviso scene was not cynical, but "was basically a serious attempt to
form a union which would last, and which would allow liberty to both
parties without leading to a corruption of their relationship" (9).
A Short View, table of contents. He maintains this position
in answering Vanbrugh in A Defence of the Short View (1699) , pp. 125-126.
7^A Short View, p. 142.
^Schneider, pp. 183-190; Williams, "'Utmost Tryal,"' 12-16.
73John Dennis, of course, links man's desire for happiness to a
way of reflecting the order and harmony with which God regulates the uniÂ¬
verse. One important way for man to reach a state of happiness, and thus
be in tune with God's grand design is through the stage, as Dennis atÂ¬
tempts to show (Critical Works, I, 148ff). While Dennis probably saw
instructive examples in both the disorder created by marriages and
courtships based on deceit, profit, lust, etc. and the harmony suggested
by relationships founded on love and honesty; a critic like the author
of Occasional Paper, III, ix (1719) saw only an abuse of marriage on
stage, which meant an inversion of the "Order of Things" and promised
to "throw all into Disorder and Confusion" (14).
Amusements Serious and Comical and Other Works, ed. Arthur
L. Hayward (London: George Routledge 4 Sons, Ltd., 1927), pp. 49-50.
^Stroup, pp. 179-180.
^English Domestic Or, Homiletic Tragedy 1575 to 1642 (New
York: Columbia University Press, 1943), p. 2.
^"Poetical Justice," passim.
^"'Utmost Tryal,'" 3 & 17, n. 5.
^p. 172. Out of 83 plays, "49 heroines in these plays test
Ibid., p. 182. Schneider also says that "libertines do not
marry in the end. If they did it would be unjust, especially poetically
unjust, for them to marry the splended kind of woman usually matched
with the hero of Restoration comedy" (p. 143). His point is that the
heroes of Restoration comedy are not libertines but "generous" men who,
finally, deserve the heroines.
^Williams, "Poetical Justice," 547.
The Critical Works of Thomas Rymer, ed. Curt A. Zimansky
(New Haven: Yale University Press, 1956). p. 22.
83Ibid., p. 75.
8Â¿tA Short View, pp. 154 & 157-159.
83A Second Defence of the Short View of the Prophaneness and
Immorality of the English Stage (London, 1700), p. 80 & A Short View,
^A Short View, pp. 100, 148, 152, 164 & 210.
^Essays, I, 218.
Ibid., 213. Other similar references to poetic justice in
his reply to Rymer are found on pp. 216, 217 and 219. See also "The
Grounds of Criticism in Tragedy" (Essays, I, 245-246).
^Essays, II, 48.
Ibid., I, 152.
91Works, III, 181.
92Works, I, 199.
95A Farther Defence, pp. 10-11.
96Ibid., p. 12
92Ibid., pp. 64-65.
Phaeton or, the Fatal Divorce (London, 1698), preface.
^^Critical Works, I, 183. See also p. 230.
101Ibid., II, 20-21.
103pp. 44-45 & 56-57.
3^4Maxims, pp. 54 & 116-117.
lO^Ibid., pp. 14-15.
u Some Remarks upon Mrâ– Collier1s Defence of His "Short View"
(London, 1698), p. 16.
3^Some of those who show the same special regard for the
primary moral implications of "Fable: are Rymer, Critical Works, p. 108;
Dryden, Essays, I, 59; Gildon, Post-Man Robb'd, pp. 44-45; Farquhar,
Works, II, 336; Filmer, Defence, p. 50ff. Even the author of The
Occasional Paper, III, ix (opposing the stage) calls the plot "the
Master-Wheel of this elegant Machine," the play. And Drake goes so far
as to say that the modern playwrights introduced "Poetic Justice upon
the Stage," and "they were the first that made it their constant aim to
instruct, as well as please by the Fable" (p. 229).
Restoration Tragedy: Form and the Process of Change (MadiÂ¬
son: The University of Wisconsin Press, 1967), pp. 15-16.
^9Stages, pp. 121-122.
â– 'â– '^Ibid. , pp. 144-145, 204-205 (These two passages were in
italics), 210, 215, 270-271.
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Joseph John Popson, III was born in East Cleveland, Ohio
on August 19, 1944. He attended public schools in Cleveland and
graduated from Maynard Evans High School in Orlando, Florida in 1962.
He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University
of Florida in 1967. He next attended Florida State University as a
graduate teaching assistant in English and received his Master of Arts
degree in 1969. While working on his Ph.D. at the University of
Florida, he was a graduate assistant in English (1969-1972) and an NDEA
fellow (1973). Presently, he is an Assistant Professor of English at
Macon Junior College in Macon, Georgia. He and his wife, Sandy, were
married in 1967 and have one boy, Joe-Joe.
I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion it
conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and is
fully adequate, in scope and quality, as a dissertation for the
degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Aubrey L. Williams
Graduate Research Professor
I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion it
conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and is
fully adequate, in scope and quality, as a dissertation for the
degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
. , ihi
Associate Professor of English
I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion it
conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and is
fully adequate, in scope and quality, as a dissertation for the
degree of Doctor of Phil oso phy.
Michael V. Gannon
Associate Professor of Religion
This dissertation was submitted to the Graduate Faculty of the
Department of English in the College of Arts and Sciences and to
the Graduate Council, and was accepted as partial fulfillment of the
requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Dean, Graduate School
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
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