This essay considers three plays by women playwrights produced in 1701 - Jane Wiseman's Antiochus the Great, Mary Pix's The Czar of Muscovy, and Catharine Trotter's The Unhappy Penitent - to be heirs to the Restoration plays of Thomas Otway and Nathaniel Lee, as well as the dramatic works of female predecessors Elizabeth Cary, Aphra Behn, and Margaret Cavendish in their focus on politics. Although these plays have not received the attention they deserve either from contemporaries or from modern scholars, they provide commentary on contemporary political concerns, most notably the declining popularity of William (criticized for the pernicious influence of his favorites), the opposition he faced in the House of Commons from the Country Whigs, and the resulting and significant curtailment of his royal powers in the Act of Settlement of 1701. All three playwrights set their plays far away from England, examine abuses of monarchical power, and demonstrate an interest in women as political agents, anticipating the ascension of Anne as William's health was in visible decline. While it is not surprising that the plays produced or published during Anne's reign would praise women's involvement in politics, it has not been recognized that plays from the end of William's reign criticized his rule in an oblique, but still recognizable, manner.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Gender Studies
- Literature and Literary Theory