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date: 16 September 2019

Abstract and Keywords

The conservatism of satire calls for a return to lost virtues, whether aesthetic, social, or political. At the beginning of the century, under the influence of George Buckingham’s meta-theatrical satire, The Rehearsal (1671), virtue is restored in stage satire through acts of public humiliation, mockery, and punishment. By the end of the century, with the rise of sentimental comedy, lost virtues come to be represented as hidden dimensions of character to be retrieved through stimulating a sentimental response on the part of both protagonists and audience. This chapter characterizes stage satire in three stages. First, one of metonymy (1715–38): here, individual parts stand for depictions of systemic vice. Second, one of mimicry (1739–70): sentimental comedy becomes the vehicle for a satire of manners, fashion, and celebrity. And finally, one of metaphor (1771–1800): local political and aesthetic instances of vice were played out as matters of global concern.

Keywords: theatre, meta-theatre, comedy, censorship, rehearsal, John Gay, Henry Fielding, Elizabeth Inchbald, Oliver Goldsmith, Richard Sheridan

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