Patterns of mischief: the impact of the Gunpowder Plot on the Jacobean stage 1605-16

Buckley, Victoria (2013) Patterns of mischief: the impact of the Gunpowder Plot on the Jacobean stage 1605-16. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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Abstract

This thesis surveys the impact of the Gunpowder Plot upon the Jacobean stage
1605-16. While historians have long dismissed the Plot as a failed attack
undertaken by a group of disenfranchised radicals, its influence on the cultural
imagination of English dramatists has largely been overlooked. By surveying
details of the Plot itself, and the non-dramatic texts circulating in its immediate
aftermath, it becomes clear that non-dramatic Protestant authors responded to the
Powder Treason with fear and panic, writing alarmist and inflammatory texts
designed to demonise Catholics. These texts include ballads, sermons, and poetry.
This circulating Protestant discourse developed specific linguistic Gunpowder
paradigms and motifs, which subsequently began to appear on the London stage
from 1606. With close readings of a number of plays produced during this period,
this thesis demonstrates that playwrights incorporated specific Gunpowder tropes
into drama, leading to the creation of a number of Gunpowder plays in the years
1606-16. Gunpowder plays include motifs of undermining, witchcraft, possession,
demonic activity, equivocation, treason, and sedition. They also often include
depictions of the two women from Revelation, known respectively as the Woman
Clothed with the Sun, and the Whore of Babylon. In addition, this thesis reveals
that subsequent political events, such as the murder of Henry IV of France in
1610 and the Overbury Scandal of 1613-16, reinforced fear of Catholic terrorism,
and were thus incorporated into drama during this period, often conflated with
the Powder Plot by playwrights, and circumnavigated via the Gunpowder motifs
established in 1606. Moreover, one Gunpowder play, Macbeth, emerges as the
definitive dramatic response to the Powder Treason. This thesis seeks to establish
that the Gunpowder Plot had such a profound effect on the Jacobean cultural
imagination that it provoked a watershed in English drama.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of English > English
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DA History of Great Britain > DA020 England > DA129 By period > DA300 Modern, 1485- > DA385 Early Stuarts, 1603-1642
P Language and Literature > PR English literature > PR0161 By period > PR0401 Modern > PR0431 17th century
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 25 Jun 2013 09:37
Last Modified: 12 Oct 2015 11:42
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/45286

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