Ravishment of Reason: Governance and the Heroic Idioms of the Late Stuart Stage, 1660-1690 (Transits: Literature, Thought & Culture, 1650-1850)
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Ravishment of Reason examines the heroic dramas written for the restored English theatres in the later seventeenth century, reading them as complex and sophisticated responses to a crisis of public life in the wake of the mid-century regicide and revolution. The unique form of the Restoration heroic play, with its scenes of imperial conquest peopled by hesitating and indecisive heroes, interrogates traditional oppositions of agency and passivity, autonomy and servility, that structure conventional narratives of political service and public virtue, exploring, in the process, new and often unsettling models of order and governance. Situating the dramas of Dryden, Behn, Boyle, Lee, and Crowne in their historical and intellectual context of civil war and the destabilizing theories of government that came in its wake, Brandon Chua offers an account of a culture’s attempts to reconcile civic purpose with political stability after an age of revolutionary change.
interpretation were heavily reliant on the affections and the emotional bonds between character and reader that structure a literary public. Sympathy and compassion introduced a greater degree of complexity in the interpretive process, expanding the range of ethical judgment while preventing an overly narrow adherence to moral dogma and pedantic legalism. At the same time, the strength of emotional identification with characters was tempered and disciplined by conventions of genre, which
The play’s relentless interrogation of the private passions, juxtaposed with the artifice of its strict and rigid rhyme scheme, highlights the manipulative skill involved in every public presentation of private motivation. In a new, uncertain political terrain where affective politics were taking on an ambiguous urgency, Boyle presents the playwright rather than the sincere friend as the ideal political subject. In place of the romance of self-denying subjection to submit wholly one’s private
Roman play conforms largely to the mold of the heroic restoration plot, with its celebrations of regained autonomy and liberty from a tyrannical regime.3 Lee’s retelling of Lucretia’s rape by Sextus Tarquin harnesses contemporary anxieties over the profligate nature of the Restoration court, evoking an image of monarchy that has dangerously conflated private and public good, while at the same time realigning the heroic with selfless civic duty. In Lee’s adaptation, the hero Brutus performs a
agency, and purpose on their head, they also promised a recalibrated form of stability and order to a kingdom weary of civil war and willing to pay a high price for an enervating peace.15 This book explores the Restoration heroic play’s active engagement with the complex public debate over the place of the affections in a new political order whose terms and repercussions for civic purpose remained uncertain and contested. The primary dramatic vehicle for the depiction of autonomous and heroic
the promise is made has inspired a fear, not just but unjust, even though slight, and the promise has resulted therefrom, he is bound to release the promisor.32 For Hobbes, the potentially wayward nature of the fear of violent death could only be contained if that very fear were maintained ceaselessly by an absolute sovereign—one who induces terror in his subjects—guaranteeing stability through the perpetual preservation of the passion that produced it.33 Like Grotius, Hobbes’s contemporaries