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Title: Re-enacting gentility on London's comic stage during the later seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries
Author: Dawson, Mark Stanley
ISNI:       0000 0001 1443 3040
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2001
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The basic aim of the thesis has been to investigate what it meant to claim gentility, the status of a 'gentleman' or 'gentlewoman', in early modern England. Arguing that gentility should be viewed as a highly contingent socio-political rhetoric, the study concentrates on how that rhetoric was deployed and contested at one particular cultural site, namely, London's comic stage during the period c. 1690 to 1725. Chapter one focuses on the most common of 'would-be' gentleman figures, the prosperous London citizen. Recovering previously unremarked features of the citizen's portrayal as cuckold, particularly his ritualistic humiliation elements of the ritual of skimmington (or charivari), the chapter disputes the idea that the stage figure was a representation of class struggle which was declining the popularity. Ideally, 'gentlemen' were society's elite on the basis of a complex configuration of birth, wealth and political authority. What to do when the citizen's wealth and authority (but not his birth) equalled or surpassed that of the gentlemen? Chapter two suggests that the citizen's cuckolding was a means of address this troubling social inconsistency, relating his satirical treatment to changes in the economy and politics of late Stuart London. Attempting to overcome the paucity of direct audience response to the cit-cuckold stereotype, chapter three shows how the theatre space conditioned the meaning of the onstage action. Contrary to prevailing views, it maintains that the audience was mainly genteel (or 'would-be' genteel) and that competing perceptions of the social order frequently sent waves of tension rippling through the playhouses in Drury Lane and Lincoln's Inn Fields, thereby influencing possible interpretations. The fourth chapter directs our attention back to centre-stage, introducing its most popular funny (gentle)man, the fop or beau.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available