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Title: The sword as a didactic tool on the London comic stage, 1660-1740
Author: MacNeill, Máire Anna
ISNI:       0000 0004 8499 2923
Awarding Body: Royal Holloway, University of London
Current Institution: Royal Holloway, University of London
Date of Award: 2016
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The aim of this thesis is to demonstrate the importance of the sword to men between 1660 and 1740. I argue that the comic stage had a privileged position as an important contributor to shaping ideas about the sword's function, operating didactically as a tool to teach Restoration and eighteenth-century playgoers were taught how to read the sword. Using a framework of new historicism to explore theories founded upon Althusserian Marxism, Bakhtinian ideas about the body, and gender studies, I interrogate the texts in order to show how the sword's use changed over time from being a vital indicator of masculine worth, to a debased, even neutral hand-prop, largely influenced by both the sword's increased use by unaristocratic men, and attacks on the duel by important culturemakers like Richard Steele. Chapter One argues that cavalier comedies used the sword in order to justify their own position within the social hierarchy. Chapter Two shows that as the sword became (mis)used by a wider range of men, the stage endeavoured to show its 'correct' use in men who were also prepared to reason. This knock was then epitomised in The Conscious Lovers, the subject of my third chapter. Chapter Four argues that the stage then turned to mocking the sword by placing it in the wrong hands and at the wrong times. We end at the fifth chapter, in which the sword is celebrated through its use by a woman, representing a divorce from its traditional tie to aristocratic masculinity. By examining comedies from this period, we can analyse the changing role of the sword within a society that was becoming increasingly hostile to private violence.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available