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English Drama 1660–1700$
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Derek Hughes

Print publication date: 1996

Print ISBN-13: 9780198119746

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198119746.001.0001

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‘Senseless Riot, Neronian Gambols’: Comedy, 1676–1682  

‘Senseless Riot, Neronian Gambols’: Comedy, 1676–1682  

(p.185) Chapter Six ‘Senseless Riot, Neronian Gambols’: Comedy, 1676–1682 
English Drama 1660–1700

Derek Hughes

Oxford University Press

By late 1676, the predominant character of comedy was clearly darkening, as dramatists reacted with various kinds of moral earnestness to George Etherege's morally dispassionate portrayal of Dorimant's sexual Machiavellism. Sex comedy became largely critical of the faithless male, and often very pessimistic in its portrayal of human sexuality. The transformation of drama was soon accentuated by the grave political crisis that began in September 1678, with Titus Oates's first allegations of a popish conspiracy to murder the King and initiate a general rebellion. The crisis produced a drama that was often heavily politicized, though not always in predictable ways, since several leading dramatists changed tack according to the fluctuating fortunes of the Exclusionist cause. The genre chiefly affected was tragedy, but in some of the comic work of Thomas Otway, Aphra Behn, and John Dryden growing concern with painful and unresolvable sexual dilemmas became a means for glancing at more comprehensive dilemmas of order.

Keywords:   comedy, George Etherege, Machiavellism, sexuality, drama, Titus Oates, rebellion, Thomas Otway, Aphra Behn, John Dryden

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