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November 17, 2015

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Dr. Laura L. Runge
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ENL 6236 18th Century Women Authors in the Digital Archive

Class 14: Late Century Drama

    Frances Burney Witlings (HTML version by Ray Davis
    Elizabeth Griffith’s The Times (Finberg)
    Hannah Cowley Belle Strategem (Finberg)

    Article on Elizabeth Griffith in Canvas

    DUE: Post #13

    Review three comedies by female dramatists of the late eighteenth-century

    Table reading of crucial scenes from 1-3 plays

    Analyze critical essay by Elizabeth Eger

Notes and Discussion Questions

    Research each of the plays in The London Stage; record relevant information.

    Choose one scene from each play and defend it as the most interesting or pivotal scene in the play.

    As critic, examine the character types in the scene and offer a review. Alternatively, summarize the main and subplots of the whole and offer a review.

    As actor/director, cast the characters with contemporary actors and direct the scene.

    In your staging, consider Melinda Finberg's comment on Griffith's play that "Lady Mary's irritation with Bromley is part of the subtext of the comedy, and illustrates how Griffith's character dynamics are often manifest in what is not said rather than in what is said -- in this respect, Griffith can be viewed as rather a modern playwright" (xxxiii).

    Each of the plays satirizes contemporary London society. What are the common themes exposed in these plays? What makes them particularly apt for drama, or for (as in Griffith's play) The Times?

    In the suppressed play, The Witlings, Burney apparently satirizes Elizabeth Montagu as Lady Smatter. Compare this representation with Sarah Scott's portrayal of Lady Brumpton. What is at stake for the learned, wealthy female in these literary representations? What is the effect of the unflattering portrayals?

    Melissa Finberg compares Cowley's plays with those of her female predecessors, in particular Behn and Centlivre. She says "Adaptation has been a common practice in the history of drama, but it was not until the late eighteenth century that the tradition of women writing for the stage had become well enough established for female playwrights to look to their female predecessors for inspiration. Cowley was the first professional female dramatist to draw directly from the works of other professional female playwrights" (xxxix). This may be an appropriate critical thought upon which to close our study of eighteenth-century women writers. What does this development suggest about the status of the female author by this time in history? Can you place this in Staves' overarching narrative for women's literary history?

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