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Prologues and Epilogues of Restoration Theater

Gender and Comedy, Performance and Print

Diana Solomon

Often perceived as merely formulaic or historical documents, dramatic prologues and epilogues— players' comic, poetic bids for the audience's good opinion—became essential parts of Restoration theater, appearing in over 90 percent of performed and printed plays between 1660 and 1714. Their popularity coincided with the rise of the English actress, and Prologues and Epilogues of Restoration Theater unites these elements in the first book-length study on the subject. It finds that these paratexts provided the first sanctioned space for actresses in Britain to voice ideas in public, communicate directly with other women, and perform comedy—arguably the most powerful type of speech, and one that enabled interrogation of misogynist social practices. This book provides a taxonomy of prologues and epilogues with a corresponding appendix, and demonstrates through case studies of Anne Bracegirdle and Anne Oldfield how the study of prologues and epilogues enriches Restoration theater scholarship.

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University Press Copublishing Division / University of Delaware Press
Pages: 272Size: 6 1/2 x 9 3/8
978-1-61149-422-8 • Hardback • April 2013 • $75.00 • (£49.95)
978-1-61149-576-8 • Paperback • April 2015 • $39.99 • (£24.95)
978-1-61149-423-5 • eBook • April 2013 • $39.99 • (£24.95)
Diana Solomon is assistant professor of English at Simon Fraser University.
Table of Contents
What can prologues and epilogues tell us about Restoration theater?
Prologues and epilogues as paratexts
Gender as a defining element
Comic Performance
Audience Taste and Influence
Betweenness, the actress, and the epilogue
Agency: Actor, Author, Audience
In print: Broadsides, Quartos, Compilations, Pictures
Chapter overview

PART I: Prologues and Epilogues: A Gendered Taxonomy
Chapter 1: Male and Female Cloaked, and Male Exposed, Paratexts
Cloaked and Exposed Paratexts: Some Definitions
The Male Cloaked Paratext: Thomas Betterton and Congreve’s
The Way of the World; Charles Hart and Dryden’s The Conquest of Granada, Part I
The Female Cloaked Paratext: Elizabeth Barry’s Popish Prologues; Mary Porter and Pix’s
The Different Widows
The Male Exposed Paratext: Joseph Williams and the “drunken prologue” to
The Mistakes; Joseph Haines and the “Ass Epilogue” to Scott’s The Unhappy Kindness
Chapter 2: The Female Exposed Paratext, Part one: Actress as Joker and Target
Revived Epilogues: Nell Gwyn and Dryden’s
Tyrannick Love; Mary Lee, Lady Slingsby and Otway’s Alcibiades
Gender Confirmation and Transformation through Breeches: Hester Santlow and D’Urfey’s
Don Quixote Part II
The Virgin’s Self-Marketing: Letitia Cross and Pix’s
Ibrahim, Cibber’s Love’s Last Shift, and Vanbrugh’s The Relapse
Tendentious Paratexts: Mrs Bowman and Hopkins’s

Chapter 3: Female Exposed Paratexts, Part two: Solidarity and Social Critique
Female Solidarity: Sarah Cooke and Rochester’s
Valentinian; Dryden’s The Princess of Cleve
Social Critique: Critiques of Love and Marriage: Charlotte Butler and Behn’s
The City-Heiress; Mocking Male Sexuality: Mrs Knepp and Wycherley’s The Country Wife; Male Mistreatment of Women: The Constant Nymph

PART II: The Impact of Paratexts
Chapter 4: Vestal Interests: Anne Bracegirdle’s Paratexts
Credibility of the virgin actress: Satires on Bracegirdle
Bracegirdle’s self-constructed virginity
Raped heroines: The virtuous non-virgins
Rape roles with prologues or epilogues
Nonvirgin roles

The height of fame: Bracegirdle’s prologue to Congreve’s Love for Love
Chapter 5: Bawdy Language: The Reception History of Addison’s Epilogue to The Distrest Mother
The bawdy epilogue: why all the fuss?
The Epilogue in question: Addison’s contribution to Philips’s
The Distrest Mother How to watch epilogues: The Spectator weighs in
Pamela as Theater Critic
Appendix: Female Prologues and Epilogues by type

Although prologues and epilogues are a large part of Restoration drama they have rarely been studied in depth. This work by Solomon begins to rectify that lack by considering how these types of paratexts supportor underminegender norms when an actor speaks the words. Solomon begins by defining types of prologues and epilogues and then she explores those types in detail. She also offers several case studies, one of Anne Bracegirdle (a famous and famously virginal actress) and the other of an epilogue as famous as its play, which serves as an example of the period's conflict between tragic plays and comic, often bawdy, epilogues. The author argues that the body and persona of the actress worked as a prop or metatext, so that Nell Gwyn's well-known affair with Charles II supported the shift from tragic denouement to comic epilogue, and Anne Bracegirdle's customary virginity allowed her to speak directly, even radically, to her female audiences. Although sometimes overly reliant on comparisons to modern female stand-up, Solomon's work is nonetheless thoughtful and very well supported, offering a new way of understanding particular Restoration plays and the wider theatrical world of the period. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty.

Illuminating and insightful.
Times Literary Supplement