Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The rakes of George Etherege's and William Wycherley's comedies of manners: A social and dramaturgical analysis based on the experiences of elite Restoration Royalist men
by Montgomery, Diane Turner, Ph.D., Union Institute and University, 2008, 282; 3302258
Abstract (Summary)

For centuries dramatic and literary criticism described the rake characters from the plays of George Etherege and William Wycherley as stereotypical libertine playboys and sex addicts. This dissertation explores a deeper critical analysis of the rake characters in Etherege's and Wycherley's plays based on the experiences and analysis of the young royalist elites and the society from which they came.

In 1660, Charles II was restored to the throne of England after ten years in exile. With his return came an awakening of the public theatre (restricted during the Interregnum) and a group of young elite Royalist men who had suffered great financial loss and displaced social standing in England. These were the libertine wits who became the models for the rake characters in a new genre of comedy—the Restoration comedy of manners. Brought back to social power, the young libertines lived with the knowledge that their fathers had experienced severe loss, some even of their lives, during the civil war and the subsequent Interregnum period. Guided by libertine and Hobbesian philosophies, the elite royalist men existed in a society where people wore masks, both figuratively and literally, to disguise fear and present an air of confidence. The court libertines' facades displayed wit and social and sexual superiority. This dissertation suggests penetrating the masks to explore the fear and insecurity that may be found deeper inside the rake characters in Etherege's and Wycherley's plays.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Meeker, Joseph
School: Union Institute and University
School Location: United States -- Ohio
Source: DAI-A 69/02, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: European history, Theater, British and Irish literature
Keywords: Charles II, King of England, Comedy of manners, English Restoration, Etherege, George, Rakes, Restoration, Restoration theatre, Royalist, Wycherley, William
Publication Number: 3302258
ISBN: 9780549477884
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