Princes, power, and politics in the early plays of Aphra Behn

Pirie, Jessica Kate Bentley (2019). Princes, power, and politics in the early plays of Aphra Behn. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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My thesis explores Aphra Behn’s early plays and their portrayal of monarchical power within the political contexts of Charles II’s reign. The plays are studied chronologically, beginning with The Young King – which Behn claimed she wrote in c.1664 – and continuing through the first four of her works performed on the Restoration stage: The Forc’d Marriage, The Amorous Prince, The Dutch Lover, and Abdelazer. These works have been largely neglected by previous Behn studies, dismissed as experimental forerunners of her better-known works, like The Rover. By contrast, this thesis argues that these plays contain complex analogies of the political concerns and events troubling Charles II’s reign. Behn is popularly remembered as an ardent monarchist and staunch supporter of the Stuart crown. However, these plays chart Behn’s increasingly questioning, troubled perception of Restoration politics. In them, she explores with progressively irreverent criticism the problematic nature of the divine right and absolute rule. She dramatizes the court’s rapacious reputation, queries popular sentiments regarding the Third Anglo-Dutch War, and confronts the looming Succession Crisis while constantly asking what it is that makes a king a rightful ruler. Ultimately, Behn’s early plays reveal her royalism was once far more conditional than how it is remembered.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
Licence: All rights reserved
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of English, Drama and American & Canadian Studies, Department of English Literature
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN2000 Dramatic representation. The Theater
P Language and Literature > PR English literature


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