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Table of contents :
Part I: Towards a Transgeneric and Contextual Theory of Narrative in Drama, Or, Reframing ‘Drama’ as a Narrative Genre
1 ‘Enter Drama!’ Putting the Genre (Back) Centre Stage in the Study of Literature and Culture
2 Rising Action: Towards a Narratology of Drama
3 Suggestions for a Peripeteia in Drama and Narrative Theory: A Culturally Sensitive Narratology of Drama and Dramatic Narration
Part II: The History of Narrative and Narration in British Drama – The Cultural Dynamics and Performative Power of Dramatic Storytelling
4 Stories in Conflict and Competition: Alternative Histories, Complementary Tales, and Lies in Early Modern Drama
5 The Containment of Different Narratives and of Narratives of Difference in Drama: The Renewal and Self-Definition of a ‘Sleeping’ Genre as well as Theatrical Configurations of Restoration and Early Eighteenth-Century (Drama) Cultures
6 From Stage to Page, from the Publicly Politic to the Metaphysically Private: Late Eighteenth-Century and Romantic Drama as a Genre in Transformation, Dramatising Diegetic Storytelling and Narrativising (Revolutionary) Change in Society and Conflict in Selves
7 Expanding the Allowances of Drama by Generic Encounters with Narrative in Victorian and Early-Twentieth-Century Plays: Intersecting Drama and Narrative as Means to Fight against Hypocritical Hegemonies as well as to Perform and Forestall Political Change
8 From Stories in Drama to the Drama of (Performed) Stories: Late-Twentieth and Early-Twenty-First-Century Dissolutions of Established Generic Traditions and Cultural Histories as Well as the Generation of New, ‘Ex-centric’ Genres and Histories through Narrative
9 Conclusion: ‘The Contextual Dynamics of Dramatic Storytelling’ and the ‘Performative Power of Narrative in British Plays’
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Christine Schwanecke A Narratology of Drama


Contributions to Narrative Theory

Edited by Fotis Jannidis, Matías Martínez, John Pier, Wolf Schmid (executive editor) Editorial Board Catherine Emmott, Monika Fludernik, José Ángel García Landa, Inke Gunia, Peter Hühn, Manfred Jahn, Markus Kuhn, Uri Margolin, Jan Christoph Meister, Ansgar Nünning, Marie-Laure Ryan, Jean-Marie Schaeffer, Michael Scheffel, Sabine Schlickers

Volume 80

Christine Schwanecke

A Narratology of Drama Dramatic Storytelling in Theory, History, and Culture from the Renaissance to the Twenty-First Century

The author is grateful to the University of Graz, which provided the appointment fund that financed this publication.

ISBN 978-3-11-072137-9 e-ISBN (PDF) 978-3-11-072411-0 e-ISBN (EPUB) 978-3-11-072414-1 ISSN 1612-8427 Library of Congress Control Number: 2021946666 Bibliographic information published by the Deutsche Nationalbibliothek The Deutsche Nationalbibliothek lists this publication in the Deutsche Nationalbibliografie; detailed bibliographic data are available on the Internet at http://dnb.dnb.de. © 2022 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston Typesetting: Integra Software Services Pvt. Ltd. Printing and binding: CPI books GmbH, Leck www.degruyter.com

To Luzie and to Felix

Foreword How many people do you need to write a habilitation? Certainly more than just the author. Consequently, I could not have written this book without the substantial support of plenty of other people. Here, I would like to extend my thanks to them. I am especially grateful to my mentor, Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Ansgar Nünning (Giessen), who not only inspired me to write on the fascinating topic of drama and narrative but also – extensively, energetically, and untiringly – supported me throughout the various stages of the writing process. He shared his vision of a narratology of drama with me, caringly gave advice and motivation, and, with the International Graduate Centre for the Study of Culture, Giessen, provided the stimulating working environment that is needed to take on and conceptualise a challenging project like this. I am very happy that, in this environment, I had the opportunity to meet Professor Patrick Colm Hogan (Connecticut) and Professor Brian Richardson (Maryland), who were so kind as to discuss my initial ideas concerning the project with me. I am indebted to them and to Professor Tiffany Stern (Birmingham) as well as Prof. Dr. Stella Butter (Landau), who, at a later stage in the writing process, were so kind as to share their expertise with me, too. I am very thankful to the researchers who kindly agreed to assess the habilitation and did so in a both critical and generous manner: Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Ansgar Nünning and Prof. Dr. Annette Simonis (Giessen) as well as Prof. Dr. Roy Sommer (Wuppertal). I am also obliged to the Fritz Thyssen Foundation, which kindly sponsored a research stay at the University of Oxford. Finally, I am indebted to the editors of the Narratologia Series – in particular, Prof. Dr. Wolf Schmid, who has kindly agreed to accept my manuscript for publication. I am also grateful to the series’ anonymous peer reviewers, who increased this study’s theoretical depth, as well as to Lydia White, Stella Diedrich, and Dr. Myrto Aspioti from De Gruyter, who saw me through the publication process in a professional and attentive manner. To write a habilitation, it not only takes brilliant mentors, but also wonderful colleagues and friends: I am especially grateful to Prof. Dr. Caroline Lusin (Mannheim), Dr. Stefan Glomb, Anika Conrad, and the rest of the A II staff, without whose invaluable support I would not have made it to the finish line. They gave me the structural and temporal means that it took to write and finish the habilitation, dedicatedly discussed my arguments with me, and provided me their friendship and emotional support. I am also grateful to the Giessen people, who, in the postdoc-colloquium and beyond, gave me advice and motivation, among them Dr. Doris Bachmann-Medick, Dr. habil. Michael Basseler,




Dr. Nora Berning, Prof. Dr. Hubertus Büschel, Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Hallet, Dr. Jens Kugele, Dr. Elizabeth Kovach, Rose Lawson, Dr. Beatrice Michaelis, Dr. Imke Polland, Dr. Alexander Scherr, Dr. Philipp Schulte, Ann Van de Veire, Dr. Anna Weigel, and Prof. Dr. Martin Zierold. Finally, what would I have done without the support of my friends Nicole Becker, Petra Eggensperger, Annette Rothenberger, Dr. habil. Stefanie Schäfer, Prof. Dr. Regina Schober, and Dr. habil. Matthias Seedorf or without the people dedicated to the proofreading and formatting of the manuscript, Hannah Hellmut, Sofia Kouropatov, and Madeleine LaRue? There are still more people to be grateful to and for: my mother and father, Ilse and Hans Schwanecke, who lovingly and tirelessly took care of our children so as to ensure carefree periods of work and concentration. My brother, Fritz Schwanecke, whose training in the natural sciences and critical teasing helps me to appreciate the importance of literary and cultural studies even more. My husband, Alexander Sperl, who manages to stay calm even when I do not (which is, of course, very rarely the case) and cheers me up in times of doubt. And my four-year-old daughter, Luzie, as well as my little son, Felix, whose very existence along with their shining morning faces (I finally understand Shakespeare), chocolate-smeared smiles, and lively, sparkling eyes make me very happy. So, how many people do you need to write a habilitation? Obviously, an entire army of researchers, friends, elves, and other magicians. Thanks to all of them! Mannheim, June 2021 Christine Schwanecke.

Contents Foreword




Part I: Towards a Transgeneric and Contextual Theory of Narrative in Drama, Or, Reframing ‘Drama’ as a Narrative Genre 1 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4

1.5 2 2.1



‘Enter Drama!’ Putting the Genre (Back) Centre Stage in the Study of Literature and Culture 3 A Neglected Subject Matter: On the Need of Reframing Drama as Narrative in the Twenty-First Century 7 ‘Drama and Narrative’: The State of the Art in Literary Studies and Arising Research Desiderata 12 Narratology of Drama: Delineating Objectives and Research Questions 22 Resolving Pressing Problems in the Study of Dramatic Storytelling and Narrative in Drama: Methodology and Corpus 25 Outlining This Study’s Structure 31 Rising Action: Towards a Narratology of Drama 35 Theorising the Processes of Intersecting Narrative Theory with Drama Theory and of (Re-)Writing Drama History: Challenges, Necessities, and Theoretical Premises 35 Drawing the Consequences of the ‘Instability’ of Genre in General and Drama in Particular: Suggesting a Conceptual Reframing of Drama as a Potentially (Highly) Narrative Category and Taking Up the Cudgels for a Narratological Examination of ‘Dramatic Narration’ 45 Intersections of Drama and Narrative in and around Drama: Placing and Characterising Them 53




3.2 3.3



Suggestions for a Peripeteia in Drama and Narrative Theory: A Culturally Sensitive Narratology of Drama and Dramatic Narration 57 Four Basic Concepts at the Heart of the Intersection(s) of Drama and Narrative: Framing ‘Drama’ and ‘Narrative’ as Cognitive Schemata and as Modes; ‘Narrativity’ and ‘Dramatic Quality’ as Transgeneric Qualities of Difference 58 The Semantic Dimensions of ‘Narrative’ and ‘Drama’ as Modes and Features in Dramatic Storytelling 67 Narrative Matters in Drama: Story and Discourse in Drama as Core Levels of Narratological Analysis and a Narratological Communication Model of Drama 78 The Cultural Dynamics and the Performative Power of Dramatic Storytelling: A Culturally Sensitive Approach to Narrative in Drama 91

Part II: The History of Narrative and Narration in British Drama – The Cultural Dynamics and Performative Power of Dramatic Storytelling 4 4.1




Stories in Conflict and Competition: Alternative Histories, Complementary Tales, and Lies in Early Modern Drama 97 Emplotting Competing Narratives in Dramatic Narration: The Dramatic Retelling of English National History in William Shakespeare’s Meta-Histories of King Henry IV, Part One and Part Two 98 The Dramatic Exploitation of Biography and Processing of Jacobean Culture: Tales of Duplicity, Janus-Faced Worlds, and Violence in John Webster’s Revenge Tragedy The White Devil 119 The Bending and Expanding of Dramatic Conventions as Problematisations of Simplistic Worldviews and Morals: William Shakespeare and George Wilkin’s Romance Pericles Exploiting the Generative Narrator and the Genre of the Medieval Short Story Cycle 132 Dominant Forms and Potential Functions of Narrative in an ‘Age of Lying and Dissimulation’: The Exploitation of Conflicting Stories to Cultural Ends in Early Modern Dramatic Narration 143











The Containment of Different Narratives and of Narratives of Difference in Drama: The Renewal and Self-Definition of a ‘Sleeping’ Genre as well as Theatrical Configurations of Restoration and Early Eighteenth-Century (Drama) Cultures 148 The State and the State of the Art in Restoration Drama: John Dryden’s Epically Construed Tragicomedy Marriage à la Mode as Philosophy of (Marriage, Sex, and) State and as Poetological Definition of Drama 151 Narrative and Moral Double Binds in Aphra Behn’s The Rover: Experiments in Narrative Perspective and Authorial Comment by Way of Dramatic Expression as well as Assessments of Female Life Options in the Restoration Period 165 Analogy and Difference in John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera: Generative Narrators as Playwrights and Actors and their Narrative Resistance to Genre Conventions as well as to the Aberrations of an Emerging Capitalist Culture 180 Dominant Forms and Potential Functions of Narrative in Restoration and Early-Eighteenth-Century Plays: The Exploration of Contained Difference in Dramatic Narration as a Means of Genre-Definition and Political Engagement 194 From Stage to Page, from the Publicly Politic to the Metaphysically Private: Late Eighteenth-Century and Romantic Drama as a Genre in Transformation, Dramatising Diegetic Storytelling and Narrativising (Revolutionary) Change in Society and Conflict in Selves 199 Educating the Nation, Domesticating the Colony, and Moralising (Old and New) Money: The Dramatisation of Diegetic Storytelling and of Elocutionary Didactics in Richard Cumberland’s Sentimental Comedy The West Indian 201 The Transgressive and Transformative Power of the Gothic Tale: The Increasing Narrative Infiltration of Dramatic Discourse in Joanna Baillie’s Romantic Tragedy Orra as a Revolt against Genre Boundaries and Patriarchal Subjugation 218 From the Theatre to the Mind, from ‘Drama as Was’ to the Romantic Gesamtkunstwerk: Lord Byron’s Closet Drama Manfred as a Dramatic Focalisation on and of a Self in Conflict 235












Dominant Forms and Potential Functions of Narrative in LateEighteenth-Century and Romantic Plays: The Dramatisation of Storytelling and the Narrativisation of Drama as Way of Forging a Nation, Revolting against Society, and Tearing Down (Genre) Borders 248 Expanding the Allowances of Drama by Generic Encounters with Narrative in Victorian and Early-Twentieth-Century Plays: Intersecting Drama and Narrative as Means to Fight against Hypocritical Hegemonies as well as to Perform and Forestall Political Change 254 Reducing Dramatic Modes in Favour of Narrative (sensu Diegetic) Modes in George Bernard Shaw’s Mrs Warren’s Profession: Politicising Drama and Attacking an Ideologically Blinded Middle and Upper Class with ‘Stories’ that Counter Hegemonic Narratives of Society 255 Modernising Traditional Dramatic Modes and Theatrical Qualities, Using Them as Instruments of Political Pressure: Cicely Hamilton and Christopher St John’s How the Vote Was Won as Performance of Gender Inequality and Political Conversion 272 Coping with Events That Defy Their Telling, with National Trauma, Personal Loss, and Disjointed Time between the Wars: The Foregrounding of Story Mise en Abymes, Narrative Instance, and Character Focalisation in J. M. Barrie’s PostWorld War I Play Mary Rose 284 Dominant Forms and Potential Functions of Narrative in Victorian and Early-Twentieth-Century Plays: The Narrativisation of Drama as a Ways of Partaking in Political Debate and Coping with Post-War Realities 300 From Stories in Drama to the Drama of (Performed) Stories: Late-Twentieth and Early-Twenty-First-Century Dissolutions of Established Generic Traditions and Cultural Histories as Well as the Generation of New, ‘Ex-centric’ Genres and Histories through Narrative 304 Staging and Questioning Authorial Omnipotence: Desecrating the ‘Holy Trinity of Protagonist, Narrator, and Focaliser’ in Peter Shaffer’s Post-Modern Gesamtkunstwerk


Amadeus as a Means of Unveiling and Undermining Traditional Normalisation and Unification Tendencies 305 Making Drama Ex-Centric with Ex-Centric Narratives: The Shaking Up and Re-Juggling of Genre Conventions and Naive Worldviews in debbie tucker green’s Drama of Stories, stoning mary 323 Forming and Performing Speculative and Narrative Bubbles in Lucy Prebble’s Enron: A Dramatic Excess of MultiGenericity as an Approximation of the Mechanisms of an Excessive, All-Devouring Global Market and a Critique of the Post-Industrial (Mis)Information Age 337 Dominant Forms and Potential Functions of Narrative in LateTwentieth-Century and Early-Twenty-First-Century Plays: Forming New Dramatic Genres By Way of (Intermedial) Narrative and, in Performing Them, Reforming Hegemonic Histories and Societies in the Information Age 352




9 9.1 9.2 9.3

Conclusion: ‘The Contextual Dynamics of Dramatic Storytelling’ and the ‘Performative Power of Narrative in British Plays’ 358 Isolating the Dominant Trans-Historical Forms of Dramatic Storytelling and Narrative in British Plays 360 Abstracting Four Hypotheses as to the Broad, Trans-Historical Contextual Function of Narrative in British Plays 368 Outlining Possible Directions and Suggestions for Further Research 372

References Index




Prologue By way of a prologue, this study starts with two text excerpts (Figs. 1 and 2) and a thought experiment.

Fig. 1: Text excerpt one.

Having read both of the excerpts, you are invited to consider the following questions: Which one of the excerpts would you consider a narrative text? Which a dramatic one? Please stop reading and take a minute to think about this. When you have decided, read on. To continue with the little thought experiment: Which of the text excerpts do you think is taken from a novel? Which one from a play? Once again, please stop reading to ponder these questions. When you have reached a decision, read on. You might be startled to learn that text excerpt one (Fig. 1), which arguably appears dramatic, is taken from Jane Gardam’s novel The Man in the Wooden Hat (2014 [2009]), while text excerpt two (Fig. 2), which is likely to be perceived as narrative, is taken from J. M. Barrie’s play What Every Woman Knows (2008 [1908]). As drama and narrative have long been considered mutually exclusive, https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110724110-204



Fig. 2: Text excerpt two.

the outcome of this thought experiment might come as a surprise to you. It has certainly taken me by surprise. Along with my infatuation with the theatre and my love of drama theory and narratology, it has become part of my motivation to investigate drama anew (under the auspices of transgeneric narratology) and to conceptualise dramatic storytelling, on the one hand, and narrative in drama, on the other, no longer as generic impossibilities but as literary historical and cultural historical facts – facts that need to be investigated, conceptualised, analysed, and interpreted. I have done so with this book. Reading it, may you continue to be – hopefully positively – surprised.

Part I: Towards a Transgeneric and Contextual Theory of Narrative in Drama, Or, Reframing ‘Drama’ as a Narrative Genre

1 ‘Enter Drama!’ Putting the Genre (Back) Centre Stage in the Study of Literature and Culture Nature, not art, makes us all storytellers, but narrative art reflects and explores the nature of storytelling, in art and life outside art. Narrative art takes many different forms: drama is one of these forms. (Hardy 1997, 13)

Although I do not wish to enter into the debate of whether storytelling comes to humans naturally or culturally, this study does take its cue from the above assumption that plays, just like novels, tell stories, and that they are no less narrative than prose fiction is conventionally held to be. Despite a certain conservatism in some fields of literary studies and in ways of teaching literature in Europe, this assumption has recently gained traction across the disciplines, as a variety of studies on the relationship between drama and narrative shows. Epic elements in plays, which have arguably been imported from traditionally narrative genres, such as medieval short story collections or novels, have been analysed just as often as traditional dramatic forms which bear narrative traits, like the messenger report, teichoscopy, the generative narrator, the commenting choir, diegetic spots in the action, and storytelling characters. Even transgeneric and transmedial phenomena such as focalisation, perspective, and/or point of view, have been considered in the research on a genre that used to be well-known for its allegedly ‘unmediated’ ways of presentation and its depiction of ‘external’ realities rather than internal, psychological ones. Also individual, overtly narrative plays have been increasingly recognised as such, like William Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale (Shakespeare 2010 [1611]), which carries ‘story’ even in its title, George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion (Shaw 2002), which is based on a myth and whose end is narrated instead of shown, or J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan (Barrie 2008 [1904]), in which bedtime stories and fairy tales play a crucial role in both story and structure. And yet, the narrative structures of plays like these, plays that appear narrative ‘somehow,’ have yet to be exhaustively explored. In addition, there is a vast territory of plays which prominently feature novelists or the process of writing narratives and plays which refer to or are based on popular narratives, like fables and rumours, or well-known narrative genres, such as romances, fairy tales, or Gothic novels, and which imitate their structure. So, to put it in a nutshell: While the presence of story-levels in drama and the existence of narrative matters on this level will hardly be a matter of dispute, the narrativity brought about by dramatic discourse, as well as the communicative situation of dramatic narration, are issues that urgently need to be discussed and conceptualised. https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110724110-001


1 ‘Enter Drama!’ Putting the Genre (Back) Centre Stage

Scholars have pointed to promising research possibilities sketched above and begun to carry out first, fundamental studies. But they have not yet set out to sufficiently map the both vast and multifaceted field. At the same time, calls for the establishment of a narratology of drama have become louder (Bonheim 2000, 2; Claycomb 2013, 159). And indeed, as the introductory examples and the remainder of this book aim to show, it does make sense to put drama ‘centre stage’ in the transgeneric study of narrative and the study of (narrative as) culture. Even if there are laudable exceptions to the rule, drama as a genre has often been neglected by narratological research. Especially before the establishment of narratology’s intermedial and transgeneric branches,1 researchers were happy enough to focus on fiction and film (cf., e.g., Bordwell 2014 [1985]; Chatman 1978, 1990).2 Albeit not wholly forgotten or regarded as too old-fashioned in the recent bloom of transgeneric and cross-disciplinary literary research, drama has been regarded as a less attractive field for narratological research. Scholars have preferred to focus on TV series (cf. Mittell 2007, Bronfen, Frey, and Martyn 2016), video games (cf. Grimm 2014), digital narratives (cf. Ryan 2001), and other hybrid or intermedial genres (cf. A. Nünning and Schwanecke 2013; Grishakova and Ryan 2010). This study aims at filling the lacuna of considering drama as a narrative genre. It will hopefully show that drama, across all times and cultures, deserves as much narratological attention as those genres which have been traditionally or more recently been granted it. This study rests on the thesis that drama has to be examined from a transgeneric point of view because, just like the proverbial “cannibal,” the novel (Woolf 1966 [1927], 224), it has devoured many forms of art and genres. It is a literary and, in its theatrical realisation, performative genre that, throughout its history, has developed alongside other genres within the system of genres. It has been inspired by their shifting characteristics as much as it has, in turn, inspired them. Drama is thus essentially multi-generic, and it has a special history with the genre of narrative, even across all dramatic sub-genres. With

1 There are researchers who use the terms ‘intermedial’ and ‘transmedial’ interchangeably; I, however, hold with Irina Rajewsky (2002). She defines all those phenomena as ‘intermedial’ which occur between two or more distinct media within one medium (e.g., pictures in narratives). In contrast, she conceptualises all phenomena that are, in principle, independent of (their realisation in specific) media and can occur in any given medium as ‘transmedial’ (e.g., ‘metalepsis’). An intermedial narratology, thus, is concerned with specific interrelations ‘between’ two or more media (as its Latin prefix ‘inter’ suggests); and a transmedial narratology considers certain phenomena quasi ‘from above,’ supra-medially (as its Latin prefix ‘trans’ indicates). 2 “[The] transposability of a story is the strongest reason for arguing that narratives are indeed structures independent of any medium” (Chatman 1978, 20).

1 ‘Enter Drama!’ Putting the Genre (Back) Centre Stage


narrative modes, the allowances of dramatic storytelling are expanded. These narrative modes,3 textual features within plays that are likely to trigger the realisation of the cognitive frame of narrative (rather than that of ‘drama’) in readers’ minds, arguably exert a certain performative power. They shape mental schemata of genre and socio-cultural mind-sets; by doing this, they construct realities. In being read or performed, the plays examined here and their particularities are likely to both remediate existing socio-cultural problems and to suggest or premediate alternative realities. They inspire generic and socio-political innovations in individual and collective minds, first and foremost those of their contemporary audiences, and might ultimately advocate or even trigger change in a whole culture – and this across all dramatic sub-genres and from the Renaissance to the present time. This study aims at proving these theses. The chapters to follow focus on the intersections of dramatic and narrative modes within the super-genre of drama, which are plentiful in number and rich in form.4 Starting from the premise that all drama necessarily bears narrative traits, this study considers drama from the perspective of transgeneric narratology. In Part I, the long-required narratology of drama is devised. Here, the characteristics of dramatic narration – i.e., the ways in which plays present their stories – are conceptualised. In Part II and with the help of the narratology of drama, the history of British drama5 is reframed as a transgeneric, especially narrative, history. Looking at plays from the Renaissance to the present which feature particularly high degrees of narrativity – by including salient forms of narrative and/or an especially high number of narrative modes –, I examine not only the text-internal and generic function of narrative in plays, but also 3 With ‘narrative mode,’ I am referring to features within any given genre (i.e., material realisations of them) which further the cognitive application of ‘narrative’ frames. This is why ‘mode’ is used in a cognitive sense in this study: as stimulus and trigger of the corresponding generic (macro-)frame. Using ‘mode’ in this way, I am not referring to ‘mode of communication’ in the sense of the Aristotelian/Platonic “Redekriterium” (as used in classical narratology to define ‘genre’ and as described by Hempfer 2010). For a detailed historical discussion of the academic uses of ‘mode’ as well as for my definition of it, see Sect. 3.1. 4 There are also studies that focus on the intersection of dramatic and narrative modes from another perspective, for instance, Kai Merten (2014), who studies theatrical and dramatic qualities of texts (cf. Sect. 1.2). 5 I am well-aware that the term ‘British’ is anachronistic regarding certain periods in this study. Even if it is therefore, at times, imprecise, the possible alternative, the term ‘English,’ offers no real solution. It brings about other problems. Since English is now a language of many nations beyond the UK and since many Scots or Welsh would feel understandably uncomfortable if I equalled them with the English, I will still talk about ‘British drama’ here. Thus, I am referring to a drama that has been primarily penned and received in the geographical entity that is called Great Britain today and/or that belongs to Great Britain’s literary canon.


1 ‘Enter Drama!’ Putting the Genre (Back) Centre Stage

the performative power and the cultural thrust that narrative in plays potentially develop. In general, ‘drama’ and ‘narrative’ are thereby regarded as mental schemata or cognitive macro-frames,6 whose generic features vary with time and culture. These features appear in concrete, tangible, material, and textual modes and trigger, in recipients, the realisation of the respective frame. Recipients are able to recognise and understand, on the basis of their respective world knowledge, a given artifact as drama, dramatic, or narrative and interpret it accordingly (cf. Sect 3.2). Even though the cognitive macro-frame of drama may entail semantics that link it to ‘performance’ or the ‘theatre,’ this study honours the widely accepted distinction between ‘drama as literary text’ and ‘theatre as its performance’ (e.g., Horstmann 2018). Drama is regarded as one of the three literary super-genres and I will focus on play scripts, i.e., written texts. While analysing them, I still try to stay aware of their cultural contexts (that is, the cognitive dimensions and historical semantics in which they are originally embedded). In consequence, I, firstly, aim at reconstructing the historical macro-schemata and semantic fields that are likely to have accompanied the script when each play was first written or staged. Secondly, I pay heed to possible performances latent in the play texts as well. In particular, I conceptualise drama as narrative; that is, even if the macroframe applied to a given written text (i.e., a play) is ‘dramatic,’ in general, there may be salient modes of narrative within that text which allow for a realisation of the mental schema of ‘narrative’ on a sub-ordinate level of the play’s generic processing, as well. I revisit pertinent questions of genre theory and, in doing so, also reframe narrative as both a transgeneric concept and an essential part of dramatic literature. After all, there are, in the history of the literary-theoretical debate on drama and narrative, multiple and often divergent ways in which ‘narrative’ is defined and applied; and it is deemed necessary to discuss which conceptualisation(s) of narrative are most likely to facilitate the establishment of a narratology of drama. I examine the treasure trove of forms and potential functions of dramatic storytelling, and bring (back) drama ‘centre stage’ – a genre that used to be the foundation of all literary theory (cf. Aristotle 1996 [c. 335 BC]) and that, unfortunately, seems to have lost its academic appeal since the ‘rise of the novel’ in the eighteenth century (cf. Watt 1987 [1957]), in periods in which the “novel

6 Referring to ‘mental schemata’ and ‘cognitive frames,’ I base this study on concepts of cognitive and transmedial narratology. I use the terms synonymously and sensu Wolf (2014; 2017, 258–265); cf. esp. Sect. 3.2.

1.1 A Neglected Subject Matter: On the Need of Reframing Drama


[was said to] reign[. . .] supreme” (Bakhtin 2000 [1941], 71), and particularly in a time in which research in digital, visual, and multi-modal narratives thrives (cf. Ryan and Thon 2014; Hallet 2015a, 2015b).7 With this, drama will hopefully become more prominent once again in academic disciplines such as literary studies, narratology, or the study of culture, and beyond, in European and transatlantic thought and in the implicit cultural evaluations of genres and ‘genre hierarchies of the mind.’8 Grounding my research in the pioneering and inspiring work on drama and narration in narratology and drama studies published since the 1980s, I work towards a narratology of drama (cf. Ch. 2, 3). On the basis of seminal work in cultural theory and history which frames ‘narrative’ as a political and ideological instrument, as an ‘institutional tool of power exertion,’ I examine not only the various forms that ‘dramatic narrative’ and ‘narrative within drama’ have taken, but also the cultural functions of narrative in English drama history. Acting on the established ideas that genre conventions are mental schemata (cf. Hallet 2007; Jahn 2008; Zymner 2011a) and that narrativity is a gradable quality which, in principle, can characterise any art form (cf. Prince 1996; Wolf 2002), I would like to put forth two major hypotheses: Firstly, all drama can be gainfully examined with the help of the tools of transgeneric narratology. Secondly, plays that display a heightened degree of ‘narrativity’ or appear particularly ‘narrative’ do more than play a vital, hitherto neglected part in the genre of dramatic literature. By way of example, I look at British dramatic literature from the Renaissance to the present to show that narrative plays have a wide-ranging, performative, and formative cultural drive; they both reflect socio-historical realities and shape them (cf. Part II).

1.1 A Neglected Subject Matter: On the Need of Reframing Drama as Narrative in the Twenty-First Century To reframe the nexus of drama and narrative and, with this, to raise the genre of ‘drama’ to the level of narratological consideration that it deserves, promises to go beyond merely filling the lacuna of a narratology of drama (or, at least, taking some further steps towards filling it), not only for English literary studies, but across all national literatures. This study also caters to the pressing need to re-examine a traditional genre in a way that is appropriate for the

7 A process I am also guilty of having furthered (cf. Schwanecke 2012). 8 The notion of ‘genre hierarchy,’ introduced by Russian Formalism, refers to the implicit ‘ranking’ of genres within a certain culture and time.


1 ‘Enter Drama!’ Putting the Genre (Back) Centre Stage

twenty-first century due to and with the help of up-to-date research in four topical fields: transgeneric narratology, genre theory, the study of narrative as the study of culture, and drama history. Firstly, the development of a transgeneric narratology has opened up possibility for narratologists to conceptualise genres as narrative ones that lie beyond narratology’s classical subjects, such as the epic, the short story, or the novel. In fact, as an evolving discipline, transgeneric narratology almost demands the removal of narratology’s traditional “bias toward the written text that leaves underexamined all performed narratives” (B. Richardson 2001, 681). It asks for a wider application and differentiation of narrative theory and the inclusion of a genre that is usually linked to ‘performance’ and can be realised on both the page and the stage. Looking at drama with the newly established concepts that transgeneric narratology has provided, I am firstly and most importantly able to carry out basic and essential research into the manifold forms of dramatic narration with topical tools. I also attempt to set in motion the heuristically valuable process of reconsidering ‘narrative’ itself. I compare it to and differentiate it from concepts hereto neglected in narratology, such as ‘drama,’ ‘theatricality,’ ‘performativity,’ and ‘staging,’ so that that which has up till now been regarded as typically narrative might have to be reframed as transgeneric in the future. Especially in the last two decades, in which narratologists have jointly worked towards a transgeneric and transmedial narratology as well a ‘crossdisciplinarily’ applicable narrative theory,9 it has become vital to revisit historically embedded, complex (highly plurimedial) genres like drama with a newly established, up-to-date approach. This promises valuable new insights into the genre, its relations of difference and similarity to other genres within the genre system, and its historically changing influence on culture(s).10 To look at drama in this context is especially exciting, both because storytelling seems the “default case of dramatic [. . .] entertainment” (Sommer 2008, 119) and because drama, by its very nature as artefact to be plurimedially performed in the theatre (and in minds, as in Romanticism), lies at the fascinating intersection of dramatic and

9 For a widely-received and fairly popular conceptualisation of ‘transmedial storytelling’ see D. Herman (2004); for a comprehensive overview of transgeneric and transmedial narratological approaches at the turn of the twenty-first century see V. Nünning and A. Nünning (2002); and for a pertinent example of how to apply narrative theory to a range of disciplines see Heinen and Sommer (2009b) or (from the vantage point of ‘narrative unreliability’) V. Nünning (2015). 10 Cf. also Peter Hühn (2013, 33), who states that a “[h]ighly differentiated narratological methodology promises new and precise insights into the structure and meaning of poems and dramas, highlighting not only the similarities [. . .] in [. . .] [the genres’] use of narrative but also their specific differences.”

1.1 A Neglected Subject Matter: On the Need of Reframing Drama


alter-generic modes. Apart from this, the present generic meeting point is in need of particular attention due to the tantalising, culturally and historically variable dynamics of complementariness and friction at its very heart. Secondly, due to the recent findings of transgeneric and transmedial narratology and to new developments in (cognitive) genre theory, the need has arisen to revisit not only drama, but genre theory more generally. The discoveries of multimodality research, a branch of both linguistics and transmedial literary research (cf., e.g., Kress and van Leeuwen 2001; Hallet 2011, 2014), seem to indicate that genre concepts that follow a purist agenda fail to acknowledge the transgenerically informed cultural contexts in which genres arise, the multi-generic character of most literary works, and the fact that genres have always evolved alongside other genres – by entering into dialogue with them, experimenting with them, ‘devouring,’ and adapting them. In other words, the necessity for criticism and genre theory to cease their simplistic and homogenising categorising has become pressing. As the tools for doing so are being developed, it has become mandatory for genre theory to acknowledge the complex, multi-generic reality of literary history and to finally start coping with it. Re-examining the relationship between drama and narrative from the point of view of transgeneric narratology and recent findings of genre theory, especially its cognitive branch, has the potential to generate more differentiated and precise research findings in narrative theory, drama theory, and genre theory – a potential which must not be wasted. From a transgeneric point of view, literary forms and structures which have been traditionally framed as narrative have to be re-examined and re-evaluated. They may turn out to not be genuinely narrative at all, but transgeneric, or even dramatic. This is not to say that all genres and their specific characteristics should be levelled and genre distinctions annihilated. But a reconsideration of the relationship between drama and narrative necessarily also calls for a re-examination of how ‘narrative’ and ‘drama’ should be defined in the first place; long-standing concepts and beliefs might have to be updated. New claims in genre theory necessitate not only the reframing of drama, but also a further differentiation of how genres are to be conceptualised. The insight into the multi-dimensionality of the conceptual compound genre (cf. Gymnich and B. Neumann 2007) and the fact that “genres are curiously Janusfaced” (Basseler et al. 2013b, 1) have especially wide repercussions: On the one hand, they are characterized by more or less fixed sets of conventions or features that make up the repertoire of the respective genre and that fulfil important communicative functions [. . .]. On the other hand, genres are also subject to historical change and cultural variation. Genres, thus, not only tend to encompass a number of generic


1 ‘Enter Drama!’ Putting the Genre (Back) Centre Stage

variants; they also respond to various cultural contexts and economic, political and social changes. (Basseler et al. 2013b, 1; cf. also Pyrhönen 2007)

The instability of generic concepts in general and the cultural and historical conditionality of narrative and drama in particular have to be accounted for (cf. Sect. 2.2). When establishing a narratology of drama and looking at the history of narrative in plays, scholars must look for genre concepts that allow for generic stability and change to be taken into account, such as cognitive genre theory (cf. Sect. 3.1). They must also delineate differentiated concepts of narrative and drama as well as dramatic storytelling. They must necessarily take up the diachronic and archaeological endeavour of digging up the historically and culturally variable meanings of ‘narrative’ and ‘drama,’ as well as the semantic dimensions in which these concepts were and are used (cf. Sect. 3.2). Thirdly, emergent fields of research, such as contextual approaches to literature and the study of narrative as the study of culture (sensu A. Nünning and Sommer 2004b; Sommer 2013b) have – despite all their conceptual and methodological drawbacks (cf., e.g., Sect. 2.1) – prepared the groundwork for examinations of both synchronic meetings of narrative and drama within the system of literature and beyond (context) and for gauging the cultural repercussions of literary texts. Having engaged in establishing a ‘cultural theory of narration,’ researchers have thus far presumed that there is an “unprecedented development of this instrumental use of narrative” (Salmon 2010, 10) and that narrative is being put to “new uses” (Salmon 2010, 11) in opinion-making politics, which have been formative of European and US-American ‘modern minds’11 at the turn of the twenty-first century. However, even a cursory glance at the history of British drama advises us to modify this assumption: Narrative has always been an ideological instrument, at least in dramatic writing and the social institution of theatre. There are Shakespeare’s ambivalent histories, which take part both in criticising political institutions of storytelling and constructing the ‘Tudor Myth’ by telling England’s (hi)story according to the needs of its monarchs. His plays are a dramatic means of political criticism that both question and strengthen the reign of Elizabeth I and England as a nation. There are plays which not only explore, but even herald political crises, such as Richard Brome’s comedy A Jovial Crew (2014 [1652]), which discusses the dialectics between gentry and beggars, between kingships and commonwealths at the dawn of a civil war which was to result in “the beheading of the King and the establishment of the Commonwealth” (Stern 2014, 13; cf. also Schwanecke 2016). There are plays like Aphra Behn’s The Rover

11 See the subtitle of Christian Salmon’s sociological study (2010).

1.1 A Neglected Subject Matter: On the Need of Reframing Drama


(1677), which attacks Puritan ways of life in favour of the author’s libertine (and royalist) beliefs. Throughout all drama history, there have been plays marginalising certain groups of people by depicting them as ‘irrational’ (e.g., the black characters of Othello, Titus Andronicus, or The White Devil) or reducing them to minor characters. Throughout all theatre history, there have been practices of excluding certain groups of people (e.g., the non-existence of female actors on stage in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries; the open discrimination against female playwrights in the eighteenth century; the institutional discrimination against black British playwrights in the twenty-first century; cf. Sect. 8.2) in times in which these groups actually have been seen as marginal. At the same time, there were always dramatic narratives which tried to change society for the better: e.g., feminist plays which sought – and helped – to form a theatre and a society in whose narratives women were to play parts that equalled men’s, such as Elizabeth Robins’ Votes for Women! (1909 [1907]) or plays which, with heightened degrees of narrativity, sought to understand social problems and to ‘cure’ society from them, such as David Hare’s The Permanent Way (2007 [2003]). Accordingly, to reconceptualise drama means to further develop the study of culture. A ‘cultural theory of narrative’ thus must be refined by the inclusion of genres only recently reframed as narrative, such as drama. While the social, political, and cultural allowances of narrative form (cf., e.g., A. Nünning and Sommer 2004b; Levine 2015) and dramatic form (cf., e.g., Greenblatt 1988; M. Bauer and Zirker 2009a) have been widely, but separately, considered, the cultural merits and performative power of narrative in dramatic form and dramatic contexts have yet to be examined. In order to partake in a refinement of contextual approaches to literature, it is mandatory not just to include unconventional and transgeneric subject matters, but also to expand the discipline’s historical scope. How genres change alongside and with other genres and what this means for the particular historical contexts in which they emerged are questions which urgently need to be tackled. Fourthly and finally, it has become necessary to reframe drama in order to write a history of British drama that bears witness to the realities of res gestae, which are, generically speaking, more heterogeneous than historiae rerum gestarum would have it. The theoretical insights gained in the aforementioned disciplines of transgeneric narratology, (cognitive and contextual) genre theory, and the study of narrative as the study of culture suggest that drama has evolved alongside and with narrative genres. To trace the history of these mutual cross-fertilisations from the perspective of drama and from the Renaissance to the present time has become imperative in an age of transgeneric and crossdisciplinary research. In reframing drama as narrative and writing a transgeneric history of drama – one that particularly focuses on the diachronic intersections


1 ‘Enter Drama!’ Putting the Genre (Back) Centre Stage

with narrative – I am responding to the call to revise drama history for the twenty-first century: My study seeks to take up the challenge of examining plays that are generically difficult to categorise; of not overlooking the narrative quality of drama and its potential cultural merits; and, in a generically, historically, and culturally sensitive manner, of laying bare the genre’s dynamics within the system of genres and its politics within British (drama) history. To study the lively history of British drama and the generic changes that occurred within it due to an active interaction with narrative and its cultural contexts – especially at critical points, e.g., when social fissures became evident and historical change had to be processed – helps not only to contextualise prevailing but slightly erroneous assumptions of a recent proliferation of narrative on which some cultural and sociological theories of narrative rest (cf., e.g., Salmon 2010), but also to historicise, refine, and eventually perfect the cultural theory of narrative. In summation, the reframing of drama and the conceptualisation of the intersection of drama and narrative has not only become crucial due to recent calls for a narratology of drama and new theoretical insights; the reframing of drama as narrative also paves the way for understanding how dramatic storytelling works. Moreover, it also helps to further flesh out transgeneric narratology, genre theory, and the study of narrative as the study of culture. Finally, it hopefully triggers an indispensable revision of British drama history (which has to be continued; cf. Sect. 9.3) as one that does not ignore evident narrative forms and their potential functions, but examines them. To study the entanglements of dramatic storytelling in general and of narrative in British plays in particular against the backdrop of the culture in which they emerged, as well as to expose the hidden power mechanisms by which they were shaped or which they helped to shape, fosters an up-to-date, narratively and culturally sensitive modification of transnational drama theory and narratology, as well as of British drama history.

1.2 ‘Drama and Narrative’: The State of the Art in Literary Studies and Arising Research Desiderata Genres are not to be mixed. | I will not mix genres. (Derrida 2000 [1980], 220)

By way of an academic messenger’s report, this section gives an overview of the state of the art in research on the intersection of drama and narrative. I focus here, once again, on the four fields of research introduced and dealt with above (cf. Sect. 1.1), that is, (A) transgeneric approaches to narrative, (B) cognitive

1.2 ‘Drama and Narrative’: The State of the Art in Literary Studies


and contextual genre theory, (C) the study of narrative as the study of culture, and (D) drama history. To set the agenda for this study, I not only outline the individual approaches’ accomplishments, but also tackle the lacunae that still need to be filled. Regarding (A): Interest has steadily risen in recent years in ‘drama and narrative’ – in Britain, on the Continent, and in the United States, as well as across manifold disciplines, among them literary studies, theatre studies, and sociology. In the recent works on transgeneric and transmedial narratology (cf. A. Nünning and Sommer 2006; Rajewsky 2007; Fludernik 2008; B. Richardson 2007; Hühn and Sommer 2013 [2012]), drama studies (cf. Claycomb 2013), theatre studies (cf. Tecklenburg 2014; Worthen 2003a), and performance studies (cf. Horstmann 2018; Vanhaesebrouck 2004) people have agreed that a separation of the concepts in question that, until today, has been nourished by the assumption that ‘novels tell stories, while plays (and performances) show them’ is rather dated (cf. A. Nünning and Sommer 2006, 128).12 Since the 1980s (cf., e.g., B. Richardson 1988), many have taken initial steps to bring together what has come to be traditionally separated: ‘drama’ on the one hand, narration/narrative on the other (cf. Fludernik 2008, Sommer 2008); ‘mimesis’ on the one hand, ‘diegesis’ on the other (cf. Bonheim 2000; A. Nünning and Sommer 2006, 2008); or concepts like ‘narrators/narrative voice’ on the one hand and drama’s Nullerzähler (zero narration) on the other (cf. Chatman 1990; Rajewsky 2007). The transdisciplinary approaches are manifold; each of the articles and book chapters cited above are, in their own right, fascinating and inspiring. At the same time, they generate a variety of problems, from which at least six areas of research desiderata arise. Firstly, there is a great deal of terminological and conceptual fuzziness. Some speak of drama’s narrative (cf., e.g., Hogan 2006), some of its epic structures (cf., e.g., A. Nünning 1994). Some implicitly equate these narrative qualities to qualities traditional to the novel, even if narrative has, throughout literary history, taken many evolving and declining generic shapes (e.g., in genres as diverse as ancient and medieval epics, ballads, or prestige TV series) and literary forms (e.g., the narrator, the frame narrative, focalisation, emplotment; cf. Sect. 3.2). Some do not specify what exactly they mean when they talk about ‘epic strategies’ and appear to equate them to those of the epic theatre and those of (medieval) epics at the same time. Terminological clarity is therefore needed. Secondly, in trying to overcome binaries between allegedly narrative and dramatic qualities, they are still thinking in oppositions, juxtaposing narrative

12 Even sociolinguists have been attracted to the topic (cf. Bowles 2010).


1 ‘Enter Drama!’ Putting the Genre (Back) Centre Stage

spots to mimetic action (cf. Brandstetter 1999) or the narrative’s narrators to drama’s lack thereof (cf. Hühn 2013), and thereby paradoxically perpetuating the tradition they aim to revise. They tend to ask, ‘What is narrative in drama?’ (again, often meaning ‘novel-like’ or ‘related to a diegetic instance’ and assuming the novel and its characteristics to be the default case of narration) rather than, more neutrally, enquiring, ‘How does drama narrate?’ All have in common that they have tried to take a meta-, and/or transgeneric perspective, only to look at a single genre from within the framework they have established for one particular genre, the novel. Thus, they have equated ‘narrativity’ to ‘narrator’ and consequently reduced narrativity to this particular anthropomorphic instance (and categories related to it, such as ‘the speech act’). Often, they have also reinforced the word and verbal diction as primary constituents of narrative mediation, thus neglecting their transmedial and -generic starting point and intention. With this, they have largely excluded all of the manifold drama-specific narrative forms beyond the narrator figure and his or her verbal narratives which are just as capable of making any art narrative (e.g., pantomimes, dumb shows, visual signs, or sound). And sometimes, they have neglected to flesh out special dramatic strategies (and dramatic sub-genres) which might make a play (or any other artefact) narrative, i.e., which carry narrative meaning, as, for instance, dialogue, special kinds of scenic action, or special narrative stage descriptions. Therefore, we need a narratology of drama that is aware of and able to counter narratology’s logo-, novel-centric bias: Besides alter-generic forms of narrative in drama, the specifics of dramatic storytelling have to be conceptualised. Thirdly, in focusing on examples from one author or one era, in some research, narrative and drama appear as stable entities (cf., e.g., Hardy 1989; Tönnies and Flotmann 2011b). However, those concepts vary historically and cultur-ally, and maybe even with regard to the sub-genres in which they are implemented. Sophocles exploits different semantic dimensions of narrative in his plays than debbie tucker green, Henrik Ibsen different ones than Yasmina Reza. In tragedies, narrative is likely to be put to other uses than in histories or musical comedies. This historical, cultural, and generic difference has to be foregrounded and problematised – concerning both narrative and drama. Apart from this, a diachronic study which considers a range of different dramatic sub-genres is called for. Taken together, the diverse approaches and studies to narrative in drama feature, fourthly, anything but consistent corpora: Bonheim (2000), Muny (2008, 23–28), and A. Nünning and Sommer (2002, 108, fn. 5), either explicitly or implicitly, focus on the play as a ‘written text’; Brütsch (2013; 72, fn. 1) and Hühn theorise drama “in the sense of plays performed on stage” (Hühn 2013, 31; emphasis in original) but do not consider performances; Horstmann (2018) focuses on plays and

1.2 ‘Drama and Narrative’: The State of the Art in Literary Studies


other literature adapted for the stage which are actually performed on stage; Tecklenburg (2014) and Vanhaesebrouck (2004) exclusively look at post-dramatic performances, which usually do not relate to any written text; and literary scholar Sue Ellen Campbell, narratologists Manfred Jahn and Irina Rajewsky, as well as theatre scholar W. B. Worthen promote a synthetic approach: Albeit differing in their individual conceptualisations,13 they argue that “the reader’s awareness of a potential performance partially constitutes the text’s meaning; [. . .] we must read [plays] with especially active visual imaginations” (Campbell 1978, 187) and “to get a real sense of drama we must see play both as literature and as theatre” (Worthen 2003a, 6).14 Especially this last approach seems worthy of further elaboration. Fifthly, the articles and book chapters introduced here display very different research foci. While some focus on storytelling characters on a play’s diegetic level (cf., e.g., Hardy 1997), others are interested in applying narratological categories to drama (e.g., point of view, voice, and narrative construal as in B. Richardson 1988, 2001 or Hogan 2014). While some look at the ways in which plays foreground instances of diegetic frames and acts of storytelling (cf. A. Nünning and Sommer 2008, 2011), others conceptualise plays and especially their secondary texts as narrative staging directions (Claycomb 2013). While some are concerned with the ‘theatricality’ or ‘drama-like’ quality of playwrights’ prose texts (G. Neumann 2007; Merten 2014), others deal with stories within stories, assuming that “narration is largely a matter of inserted reports” (Bonheim 2000; cf. also de Jong 1991). Certainly, all of these concepts (as well as further [transgeneric] ones, such as matters of time and space, mise en abymes, or meta-narrativity and -theatricality in plays) have to be considered together under one theoretically coherent and sufficiently refined point of view. The various studies can be considered individual components of what has yet to become a full-fledged narratology of drama. So far, they have appeared as multifaceted but separate pieces. To view them together, as I have done here, in a kaleidoscopic fashion, is to express the hope that, even though the individual units do not yet disclose a coherent picture, a consistent theory is still constructible. Besides the aforementioned scholars, I would like to

13 Cf. Jahn (2001) and Rajewsky (2007, 28). 14 Of course, other categories of difference than the above have been applied in research. By way of example, I would like to mention Manfred Jahn’s distinction between three ‘interpretative approaches’ to drama, which he calls ‘poetic drama,’ ‘theatre studies,’ and ‘reading drama’ (cf. 2001, 660), or distinctions which refer to the medial forms in which drama can be actualised, that is, the ‘written play,’ its (‘imagined’) ‘staging/s,’ and the different actual ‘performances’ of a staging (cf., e.g., Claycomb 2013). In contrast to the categories of difference introduced above, these distinctions do not consider performances without any written, textual ‘basis.’


1 ‘Enter Drama!’ Putting the Genre (Back) Centre Stage

foreground five researchers who have shared this hope: Eike Muny and Holger Korthals, scholars of German literature and comparative studies, respectively; Barbara Hardy and Kai Merten, specialists in English literature; and Nina Tecklenburg, performance artist and researcher in performance studies, have worked towards more extended theories. Taking his cue from an alleged lack of theatricality during Romanticism, Kai Merten (2014) productively examines Romanticist theatre concepts, their emanations in politics and culture, and the way they informed verse and prose narratives of the time.15 He points to the interrelatedness between theatre, literature, and culture while leaving the interrelatedness of drama sensu theatricality and narrative sensu storytelling and literariness to be explored from the angle of dramatic narratives. Nina Tecklenburg (2014), in contrast, considers post-dramatic performance and shows that despite predominant assumptions to the contrary, the genre does, in some of its current forms, feature instances of marked narrativity on various levels.16 She introduces a concept of performed narrativity which, if applied to conventional drama, especially contemporary forms, promises valuable results, too. As these brief summaries aim to show, Merten’s and Tecklenburg’s research is, in spite of their contrasting perspectives, foci, and concepts of ‘theatricality’ and ‘narrative,’ complementary to this study’s concerns. If the results from their respective research angles are kept in mind, they might even illuminate some of the problems dealt with in this study. Most importantly, together with the research mentioned above, Merten and Tecklenburg bear witness to the heterogeneous ways in which ‘narrative’ has been used – across disciplines, within disciplines, in different academic national traditions, and in different decades.17 They testify to the sometimes even contradictory explicit and implicit meanings that the respective uses carry and, in consequence, practically call for a comprehensive, minute clarification of the concepts’ semantic layers and dimensions (cf. Sect. 3.2).

15 For a similar approach, in which theatre matters and theatricality in German novellas and novels around 1800 are examined, see M. Huber (2003). 16 Tecklenburg seems to continue a line of thought introduced by Gabriele Brandstetter in the 1990s, who proposed the intriguing notion of ‘narrative spots’ (cf. 1999, 29) or diegetic spots, to which I will return later (cf. esp. Sect. 6.2 and Ch. 8). 17 That narrative and narrativity feature so many semantic layers might not least be the result of their ‘travelling’ nature. For the problems involved in conceptual transfer and conceptual change related to the notion of ‘travelling,’ see Bal (2002), who also coined the metaphor, as well as Berning, A. Nünning, and Schwanecke (2014, esp. 4–9); for a critical reconsideration of narrative as a ‘travelling concept,’ see A. Nünning (2012).

1.2 ‘Drama and Narrative’: The State of the Art in Literary Studies


Sharing a concern for certain transgeneric similarities between prose and drama, Korthals frames prose and drama as geschehensdarstellende Literatur, i.e., literature which depicts ‘events’ (cf. Korthals 2003, 12, 86–98), while Muny tackles the difficult problem of ‘perspectivisation’ in drama (Muny 2008, 21, 87–88). Despite their extremely helpful research findings, parts of which I will return to at later points (cf. Sect. 2.2, 2.3, 3.1), their respective ‘narratologies’ leave at least three things to be desired. Firstly, Korthals highlights the narrativity of plays’ secondary texts, thereby omitting potential narrative structures in their primary texts (e.g., dialogue) and framing secondary texts as mainly narrative (not minding that they are usually rather of a descriptive and/or instructive quality). Secondly, Korthals’ and Muny’s approaches are rather text-centred, if not ‘logo-centred.’ Anything which lies beyond verbal dramatic representation – e.g., dumb shows, gesture, movement, pantomime, songs, or spatial questions – goes unexplored. Thirdly, both Muny and Korthals impress on drama an exclusively ‘prose-related’ stance and a point of view that is solely informed by narratological propositions, thereby eschewing the unique specifics of dramatic narratives.18 Thus, aesthetic qualities of drama other than instances of ‘marked narrativity,’ which nevertheless can be triggered by drama’s narrative structures and likewise can be seen as their characteristics, are largely neglected – e.g., ‘affective,’ ‘performative,’ or ‘theatrical’ aspects and traits. Although the title of her monograph might suggest otherwise, Barbara Hardy does not only focus on storytellers in Shakespearian drama; her scope of narrative constructions is much broader (cf. Hardy 1997, esp. Part One). She considers a variety of phenomena, ranging from Shakespeare’s beginnings and endings that feature a high degree of narrativity to inserted narrative episodes, from narrative as an underlying theme to explicit meta-narrative parts, and from generative narrators19 to allusions to great stories. She does so by always pointing out the theatrical and affective quality of dramatic narrative (cf. Hardy 1997, 26), as well as the psychological and sociological dimensions of “narrative life-forms” in drama (Hardy 1997, 92). Her approach sets the basic direction for this study. Considering dramatic narrative in a truly transgeneric manner, she values both the individual characteristics of drama and the narrative structures and qualities it shares with other genres. Although Hardy concentrates on Shakespeare and his time, her work

18 Already Irina Rajewsky has cautioned researchers to be wary of levelling qualitative differences between diverse genres and media, exclusively ‘imposing’ narratological terms and propositions on non-prose genres and thereby overlooking their valuable specifics (cf. 2007, 27–28, 64). 19 ‘Generative narrators’ are, according to Brian Richardson, storytellers who are “brought on stage to narrate a story. In doing so, [. . .] [they] generate a fictional world” (2001, 685).


1 ‘Enter Drama!’ Putting the Genre (Back) Centre Stage

allows the educated guess that the nexus of drama and narrative is worth exploring even beyond Shakespeare; it moreover offers points of contact to further sociohistorical and cultural questions. These need greater consideration, and so does the diachronic dimension, whose examination will shed light on the consistent entities, changing dynamics, and specific socio-political functions of drama as narrative and narrative in drama across English drama history. Regarding (B), cognitive and contextual genre theory: Further research gaps are not directly tied to the particular junction of drama and narrative, nor to distinct questions of narrative and dramatic theory within narratology and theatre studies, but, on a more abstract plane, to general questions of genre theory. Often, especially in shorter considerations of the topic, but also in full-fledged volumes, the essential problems of genericity itself are omitted or only briefly touched upon.20 If the latter, the authors tend to rely on antique or neoclassical categories, rather than up-to-date genre research.21 Put in terms of research desiderata: To clarify the status of one or more genres, understand the relations between specific genres, and gauge the saturation of a particular genre (e.g., drama) and its subgenres (e.g., tragedy) with respect to certain transgeneric as well as genre-specific modes and qualities,22 one, firstly, has to determine the general nature of genres within their system. Secondly, in doing so, one has to apply (naturally without abandoning a certain genre-theoretical historical consciousness) the most current genre theories, such as cognitive and contextual ones (cf. Sect. 2.3, 3.1). These theories are particularly concerned with questions of generic change, the constructedness of genres and modes, (changing) genre hierarchies, genres’ and genre systems’ historicity, and the ideological colouring and use of genres in general and drama in particular, as well as genres’ and dramas’ modes in literary research, art, and culture. If, against this backdrop, in genre and drama theory a reframing of drama as a genuinely narrative genre becomes not only possible but necessary, drama’s

20 In the monographs mentioned above, it is only Korthals who, before discussing particular genres, dedicates parts of a chapter to elementary questions of genericity (cf. 2003, 27–30). 21 Even though these normative and partially misinterpreted (cf. Genette 1992, 60–72) categorisations are critically discussed, they still serve as points of reference, both in literary and theatre studies (cf., e.g., Fludernik 2008, 355; Kolesch 2005, 217–219; Sommer 2008, 120–121). I do not wish to imply that a genre-theoretical historical consciousness is undesirable per se, however. Rather, I am questioning the necessity and benefit of foregrounding these categories when modern genre theory has already and repeatedly proven them to be erroneously interpreted or no longer applicable and when other matters seem to be of more pressing concern. 22 In its various forms and/or from different perspectives, narrative can certainly be either.

1.2 ‘Drama and Narrative’: The State of the Art in Literary Studies


history23 has to be rewritten, too – not only for English drama, as in this study, but for any drama of the world’s literatures. Only when predominantly synchronic perspectives or single-author approaches are replaced by diachronic ones will the generic history of drama in its fickleness and stability, as well as in its richness, become fully traceable. Moreover, it will become apparent when and how the genre itself has changed within its respective literary system/s, as, for instance, under the ‘critical’ influence of new narrative genres, such as the novel in the eighteenth century (cf. esp. Sect. 5.2), or new narrative media, such as film or TV (cf. Ch. 8) in our own time. This study takes up this task in relation to British drama history. Regarding (C), the study of narrative as the study of culture: Despite the notorious drawbacks of contextualism (cf. Sect. 2.1, 3.4), the zeal for framing the study of literature as the study of culture in general (cf., e.g., Grabes 2001; A. Nünning and Sommer 2004a; Berensmeyer et al. 2016) and the study of narrative as the study of culture in particular (cf., e.g., Sommer 2013b; Krauss et al. 2014; Sommer 2018) has permeated twenty-first century literary studies. If, however, drama is seen to be as much a part of literature as the novel and if, beyond this, drama is framed as narrative, it has to become part of both the study of literature as culture and the study of narrative as culture. Of course, the entanglements of drama, performance, and theatre, on the one hand, and their contexts on the other, have already been considered in essays, ground-breaking book-length studies, and anthologies.24 A study at the nexus of drama and narrative in its cultural and historical context has, to my knowledge, not yet been published. To illuminate the intricate, complex intertwinement of transgeneric phenomena and their contexts, as well as to expand and enrich the fields of the study of literature/narrative as the study of culture, research on both dramatic storytelling as study of culture

23 Not to mention literary history in general and the history and theory of narrative, which will have to reconsider its constructions of narrativity that are all too tightly bound to the novel. Even Paul Cobley, who, being aware of narrative’s transgenericity and ubiquity in both literature and extra-literary contexts (cf. 2013 [2001], 29–30, 209–212), binds narrative closely to the genre of the novel, i.e., to the nineteenth-century realist novel; he even calls it “the major narrative form” (Cobey 2013 [2001], 88). 24 Concerning the former, articles in collected volumes have to be mentioned (cf., e.g., Schwanecke 2016). Regarding the latter two, monographs on theatre and mnemonic (cf., e.g., Siegmund 1996) and socio-cultural questions (cf., e.g., Balme 2006 [1999], 2016) have to be mentioned as well as topical essay collections themselves, such as the special issues of the JCDE, which usually bring together current social issues with studies of contemporary drama (cf., e.g., K. Schmidt and Aghoro 2017; Bull 2018), or edited volumes that zoom in on drama, its historical or present context, and their intertwinement (cf., e.g., M. Bauer and Zirker 2009a; Frank and Lusin 2017).


1 ‘Enter Drama!’ Putting the Genre (Back) Centre Stage

and on narrative in drama and its contextual allowances must be urgently pursued (cf. esp. Sect. 3.4 and Part II). Finally, regarding (D), drama history: This paragraph requires a slight modification to this section’s title. To my knowledge, there have not been any previous deliberations on dramatic storytelling and narrative in drama in diachronic drama histories – at least, not in monograph-length studies. There are synchronic drama histories, especially on individual authors who wrote both prose and plays, like Aphra Behn or Oscar Wilde, which deal, in separate chapters, with the dramatic and narrative works in these authors’ oeuvres (cf., e.g., Hughes and Todd 2006; Raby 2012 [1997]). They do not, however, consider the intersections of dramatic and narrative modes within concrete, single works – a lacuna that still needs to be filled. Also, diachronically speaking, there is hardly any history of English or British drama that pursues questions of narrative in drama or dramatic narration. In a meta-study, theatre historian Thomas Postlewait (cf. Postlewait 1988) distils twentytwo ways in which drama and theatre histories have been structured. In examining how dramatic epochs are construed, he also displays the matters of interest upon which theatre historians have built their diachronic drama histories.25 Regrettably, changes in the genre system and drama’s evolution in dialogue with other genres are not among them, at least not in their diverse and multi-layered diachronic manifestations. Admittedly, there are some drama or theatre histories that do deal with the intertwinement of the genres. However, they do this just synchronically and punctually: Only one chapter of one volume (vol. 5, 1660–1750) of The Revels History of Drama in English, which encompasses eight tomes, sketches the interrelations between drama and the newly emergent genre of the novel (cf. Leech and Craik 1974–1977, 70–73).26 Similarly, in the three volumes of The Cambridge History of British Theatre (cf. Milling and Thomson 2015), there are only sporadic chapters on intergeneric exchange, e.g., on the Bible as play (cf. Whitfield White 2015).

25 The dominant matters of theatre and drama historians’ interest have so far been, for example: drama and its relation to political empires or dynasties (e.g., Egyptian, Roman), its existence in monarchies (Elizabethan, Restoration), drama and intellectual and artistic change (Middle Ages, Renaissance, Enlightenment), drama and philosophical schools (e.g., Humanist), drama and clearly delineated literary movements (Romanticism, Modernism), drama and influential and/or famous writers (e.g., Shakespeare), or drama and art history (cf. Postlewait 1988, 305–306). 26 A main thesis is that “[t]he period under consideration [1660–1750] is the last in which the drama, printed as well as acted on the stage, was the most popular form of non-devotional literature, [and] the period in which the supremacy of the novel was won. The declining vigour of drama and its replacement of popularity by the novel constitutes a chief fact of eighteenthcentury literary history, a fact sufficiently obvious in outline and yet difficult to describe closely and to explain” (Loftis 1976, 70). It is a thesis I cannot substantiate. As my analyses

1.2 ‘Drama and Narrative’: The State of the Art in Literary Studies


In consequence, at least four research desiderata become evident: Beyond drama histories that selectively focus on plays and their intertwinement with single narrative genres, such as the novel, or collections of different narratives of different origin, such as the Bible, firstly, a drama history is needed that is sensitive to the manifold historical emanations of narrative and dramatic form. It must trace the intersections of evolving dramatic genres and a multitude of equally changing narrative genres (e.g., the ancient epic, the medieval short story cycle with its frame narrative, gossip, or positivist historiography) and phenomena (e.g., omniscient narrators, the book market, reading habits, or bards), which might have once emerged, become dominant, declined, and sometimes even vanished at certain points in British literary and drama history. Secondly, a drama history is needed that – even though narratologically informed – looks as unbiasedly as possible at the equally varied non-verbal narrative forms particular to drama. Meta-theatrical mise en abymes (e.g., plays within plays; cf. Sect. 4.1), narratives conveyed via songs and dance, for instance, in the time in which opera was the narrative medium en vogue (cf. Sect. 5.3), and Renaissance dumb shows (cf. Sect. 4.2) are cases in point. Thirdly, in addition to single chapters on narrative and drama and synchronic approaches to this subject matter, a transgeneric history of British drama is needed. It must trace the varied, ever-changing interrelations between narrative and drama from the time when ‘new dramatic writing’ beyond the medieval morality and spiritual play emerged, i.e., early modern times, to the newest emanations of dramatic storytelling and narrative forms in drama, i.e., the early twenty-first century.27 Fourthly and finally, a drama history of dramatic storytelling and narrative in drama is needed that is attentive to what Jurij Tynyanov has called a “literary fact,” namely that every literary form hinges on its differential relationship to extra-literary others (cf. Tynyanov 1994 [1927], 155). Against this backdrop, the isolated, intra-textual study of the changing meeting points of drama and narrative

show (cf. Ch. 5), drama has lost nothing of its zest and vigour – especially in its emergent dialogue with the novel. 27 With it, the Russian formalist notion of literary evolution as outlined by Jurij Tynyanov (cf. 1994 [1927]) in his famous essay “On Literary Evolution” can finally be exemplified. Throughout British drama history, the dramatic genre has changed alongside the evolution of other genres within the genre system and has also triggered change. With a diachronic, transgeneric history of dramatic narration and narrative in drama, Tynyanov’s suggestion of a “tradition of breaches in tradition” (cf. Striedter 1994, xxiv) within the genre system can be illustrated in detail.


1 ‘Enter Drama!’ Putting the Genre (Back) Centre Stage

becomes impossible. The two genres emerged in a culture characterised by manifold extra-literary and work-external forms of transgeneric crossroads. The intrasystemic and work-internal intersections of drama and narrative are likely to carry ideological underpinnings28 and to have a cultural thrust. After all, as contemporary genre theorists have observed, “explanations of generic change need to account both for modifications within the literary system and for the impact of the larger sociocultural context” (Pyrhönen 2007, 122). Therefore, a diachronic, transgeneric, and contextually sensitive drama history is needed that takes all of these matters into account and that is able to trace the dominant forms and functions of dramatic storytelling, on the one hand, and narrative in drama, on the other, in British culture. To conclude, the academic messenger’s report on the research in transgeneric narratology, (cognitive and contextual) genre theory, the study of narrative as the study of culture, and drama history call attention to a curious condition. On the one hand, the studies point to what a full-fledged narratology of drama and a transgeneric history of British drama could look like: They provide useful bases for them, in that they highlight their necessity and reveal their analytical, interpretative, and cultural value. On the other hand – with the things they include in discussion almost as much as with the things they exclude – they indicate the gaps, inconsistencies, and problems both inherent in the subject matter and in previous conceptualisations. These have to be tackled by those who seek to further conceptualise this challenging terrain.

1.3 Narratology of Drama: Delineating Objectives and Research Questions Against the backdrop of the research desiderata outlined above, the following main objectives arise: Firstly, a narratology of drama has to be established. It needs to provide the concepts and categories with which the different kinds of – theoretically possible and actually manifest – ways of dramatic storytelling can be narratologically examined. These ways of dramatic storytelling might entail both general, drama-specific discourse structures of plays and alter-generic (here, mainly narrative) structures and modes. The narratology of drama has to be designed to accommodate these two possible dramatic realities (cf. Fig. 3), and it has to explain

28 Just like research on stories, research on dramatic storytelling and narrative in drama can “profit from greater attention to matters of ideology” (L. Herman and Vervaeck 2007, 217).

1.3 Narratology of Drama: Delineating Objectives and Research Questions


a phenomenon that, albeit ubiquitous, has so far been hard to grasp, namely, the fact that some plays appear more transgeneric, hybrid, or narrative than others. A narratology of drama should also put literary history and genre theory in a position to examine plays, whether they are perceived as hybrid or not, more adequately and comprehensively than before. It precludes the marginalisation or exclusion of plays because they do not fit genre-purist theories and on the grounds that they are experimental and not easily classifiable. Quite on the contrary, it accommodates one of their most valuable characteristics, namely, that they feature alter-generic – here, narrative – traits. It has to be an ‘inclusive’ theory, one that agrees that narrative matters – in individual plays, in concepts of drama, in drama history, and in culture. A Narratology of Drama needs to account for (a) dramatic storytelling in general (b) special instances of dramatic storytelling (dramatic discourse structures as they potentially (e.g., narrative in drama or, in other words, occur in any play) particular plays which feature, in a quantitatively and qualitatively salient manner, alter-generic modes; e.g., plays which ‘appear’ narrative or otherwise highly transgeneric) A History of Narrative in British Drama has to be transgeneric,

diachronic, and

culturally sensitive

and it has to take into account the most pertinent dramatic sub-genres of each literary period Fig. 3: The aspired to theory and history of drama.

Secondly, this narratology of drama may then become the basis for a new history of narrative in drama, a transgeneric one. Zooming in on plays that ‘appear’ narrative, i.e., that feature heightened degrees of narrativity (b; Fig. 3), it has to accommodate the hitherto neglected transgeneric and heterogeneous nature of drama. It has to bear witness to the facts that drama, like other super-genres, is often a conglomerate of alter-generic modes and that plays, like other altergeneric single works, tend to deliberately experiment with, break, or expand genre boundaries (cf. Derrida 2000 [1980]) across sub-genres. Apart from this, this history must be diachronic: It has to trace the dominant forms and functions of dramatic storytelling (a; Fig. 3) as well as narrative in drama (b; Fig. 3)


1 ‘Enter Drama!’ Putting the Genre (Back) Centre Stage

throughout the history of British drama and across many pertinent sub-genres. It has to show how drama evolves alongside other non-dramatic genres, how changes within the genre system inform drama, and how drama itself triggers developments in other genres. Finally, this drama history must be culturally sensitive: It has to ask how particular emanations of dramatic discourse structures, for instance, narrative modes, and topics such as meta-generic reflections of storytelling shed light on British culture’s collective social, political, and ethical values, norms, and mind-sets. Across British drama history, it has to gauge the broad, performative, and potentially formative power; the ideally or likely worldchanging affordances of dramatic storytelling in general (a; Fig. 3); and narrative in drama in particular (b; Fig. 3). Once it has been established that plays can be gainfully regarded as narrative, one can turn the spotlight onto a plethora of topical, research-advancing questions. This study departs from the dated and futile question of whether drama can be considered narrative at all and moves on towards the more sensible and rewarding examination of how plays tell their stories. First and foremost, I ask, what are the discourse structures of plays? How do the concepts of genre, drama, and narrative need to be reframed to best capture their changing semantic dimensions and layers, on the one hand, and to account for transgeneric matters as well as their historical variation and stability, on the other? Against the backdrop of these first terminological and conceptual clarifications, I examine the narrative strategies of drama and ask what kinds are there? And which of these strategies are actually narrative (in the traditional sense), which are actually transgeneric, and which are drama-specific (beyond narratorial and logo-centric ones)? I study the forms these strategies take and inquire how they have transformed over the centuries and/or to what extent they have remained stable. Finally, I assess if different qualities of narrative in drama and culture must be distinguished (e.g., theatrical narratives, performative narratives, visual narratives, or olfactory narratives). With regard to dramatic storytelling in general, I consider the particular qualities that characterise dramatic narration. I consider the question of which features dramatic storytelling shares with the ways of narration of novels, films, or other media that emerged at different points in cultural history and that have already been acknowledged as ‘proper’ narratological objects of study. I ask where these forms merge and how. And I constantly return to this question: If drama is reframed as a narrative genre, what implications does this have for up-to-date conceptualisations of ‘genre,’ the ‘system of genres,’ and for a transgeneric theory of narrative? To do this, I will have to deal with the question of ‘do we have to critically re-examine conventional narratological concepts and, if so, in which respects?’

1.4 Resolving Pressing Problems in the Study of Dramatic Storytelling


From the perspective of literary and cultural history, I abstract the dominant drama- and genre-immanent purposes of dramatic storytelling. I inquire into its cultural, social, and political functions and ask: What are the politics of dramatic storytelling, i.e., how has storytelling in drama been instrumentalised? How has it been (intended to be) put to use in the times when drama was censored (e.g., the Restoration), theatres were closed (e.g., the Interregnum), and plays were held less important than poetry (e.g., Romanticism) or TV (today)? And how have the functions of dramatic storytelling and narratives in drama changed throughout history? I try to determine general, broad cultural allowances of narrative form in drama and ask to what general purposes, throughout British drama and cultural history, narrative modes have been dramatically exploited. To tackle these and further questions shall be the task of this book.

1.4 Resolving Pressing Problems in the Study of Dramatic Storytelling and Narrative in Drama: Methodology and Corpus To face the challenges and necessity of intersecting narrative theory with drama theory, I start out by setting the theoretical premises for a revision of a predominantly mono-generic towards a transgeneric drama history. Because of any genre’s predominant character trait, namely, its ‘generic instability,’ I reframe drama as a potentially highly narrative category (both on its story and its discourse levels). To prepare the groundwork for a contextual history of (narrative in) drama, I theorise where in principle drama and narrative can intersect: on textual and contextual levels (both within the system of literature and beyond). After all, the importance of ‘authorial, medial, and reception-sociological aspects’ in constructions of literary histories has been universally acknowledged (cf., esp. A. Nünning 1998, 110). This study’s narratology of drama is built on these preparatory reflections: With the help of a contextually and cognitively oriented genre theory, ‘drama’ and ‘narrative’ are framed as cognitive schemata, while ‘narrativity’ and ‘dramatic quality’ are framed as transgeneric qualities of difference. On the basis of previous research at the intersection of drama and narrative (cf. Sect 1.2), readings of historical drama poetics, which often entail transgeneric deliberations, and an analysis of more than eighty highly narrative British plays (sixteen of which have been selected for an analysis in this study; cf. Part II), I abstract and present the semantic dimensions of narrative and drama as they have varied across history in criticism, historical poetics, and plays. At the heart of the


1 ‘Enter Drama!’ Putting the Genre (Back) Centre Stage

narratology is a conceptualisation of narrative forms in drama: The story and discourse levels of plays are framed as core categories of a narratological analysis of drama, and a narratological communication model of dramatic text is suggested based on previous research and my own analyses. In order to historicise the plays analysed here, I develop ways towards a culturally sensitive approach to narrative in drama. Once this theoretical groundwork has been laid, I analyse sixteen plays in detail with regard to their intersections of drama and narrative. The plays originate from five literary periods. In my construction of these periods, I have leaned on one of the lesser contested periodisations of English literary history (as res gestae), namely, the one most often used in seminal literary histories (as historiae rerum gestarum). In analogy to the Norton Anthology of English Drama (cf., e.g., Noggle and Lipking 2012) and English Literature in Context (cf. Poplawski 2014a), I distinguish between, firstly, the early modern period; secondly, the Restoration and the early eighteenth century; thirdly, the late eighteenth century and Romanticism; fourthly, Victorianism and the early twentieth century; and, fifthly, the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. In each of these periods, the circumstances, habits, and ways of dramatic production changed in important ways, along with theatrical practice and the dialogue between drama and other genres. This distinct periodisation thus helps to illuminate the scope and details of these changes. However, one must concede that, due to problems inherent in literary historical periodisation and selection processes, this scope will be necessarily fragmented, discontinuous, and incomplete (cf. also Sect. 2.1). At the same time, both the periodisation and selections of plays are hopefully exemplary and pertinent enough as to give sufficient evidence of drama’s narrativity in each period and to demonstrate its synchronic cultural and performative powers and developments. To account for Tynyanov’s ‘literary fact’ – that all literary forms, also transgeneric ones, have a differential relationship to extra-literary realities (cf. Sect. 1.2) –, the dominant intersections between drama and narrative in the respective plays’ specific, synchronic contexts are explored. These explorations entail, for instance, pertinent synchronic cultural aspects outside the literary system and within it, e.g., authorial, poetological, theatre-practical, or reception-specific facets. With these superordinate contextualisations, I hope to show that transgeneric facts of culture inform any author’s writing and, with it, her individual, often highly narrative plays. In any case, transgeneric realities and plays seem to be in a dialogic relationship. Furthermore, these contextualisations prove that narrative plays in British drama are not single, isolated phenomena; they are logical results of multi-generic contexts (within the system of literature and without, i.e., culture at large).

1.4 Resolving Pressing Problems in the Study of Dramatic Storytelling


Then, keeping both the theoretical and historical frameworks in mind, I analyse and interpret the plays. Their forms are examined and their text-internal and contextual potential functions – within the genre system and culture at large – are gauged. These preliminary observations have informed my method of examining the dramatic: Drama, as W. B. Worthen states, has, in contrast to most literature, “generally been composed for performance, confronting the audience in the [. . .] theatre” (Worthen 2003a, 1).29 Consequently, in both literary and theatre studies, there is an awareness of a ‘sharp’ distinction between drama and theatre (cf. Rajewsky 2007, 28, fn. 12). There is even talk of a ‘schism’ between drama as literary text and drama as theatrical performance, which was already seeded by Aristotle’s theory and has grown ever since (cf. Bayerdörfer 2005, 73). At least in English literary studies in Germany, an otherwise unusual distinction between ‘a play’ as drama performed and ‘drama’ as written text has been established (Hühn 2013, 31). In consequence, both contemporary literary historians and theatre historians are faced with a challenging double bind in their explorations of the genre: Dealing with drama, do they consider the published text,30 actual performances,31 potential or possible performances,32 intended performances,33

29 Publishing and reading plays, as W. B. Worthen reminds us, is, in the history of the genre, a relatively new phenomenon (cf. 2003a, 2). 30 Ansgar Nünning and Roy Sommer (cf. 2002, 108, fn. 5), for instance, exclusively focus on dramatic texts and deliberately exclude aspects of performance and staging; so do Eike Muny (cf. 2008, 23, 24–28) and Holger Korthals (2003, 53–74). While the former make this fact implicit, there are narratologists who implicitly reduce drama to the ‘written text’ (cf., e.g., Bonheim 2000). 31 Peter Hühn, as a narratologist, looks at drama in the sense of “plays performed on stage” (2013, 31). For their explorations of drama, theatre scholars have focused on drama as theatre and drama as performance. Against this backdrop, they have developed particular methods, like performance analysis (Fischer-Lichte 2005a, 23–26); cf. also Anneka Esch-van Kan (2016). They have suggested concepts like “integrated theatre studies” (Balme 2010 [2008], 3–11) to account for the reality of post-dramatic performances (cf. Lehmann 2006), in which text is “peripheral” at most (Vanhaesebrouck 2004, 3), as well as of hybrid theatre and dance forms. All of these kinds of performances reach far beyond drama as written text and/or theatrical production. 32 Cf., e.g., Sue Ellen Campbell (1978, 187). 33 Cf. Ryan Claycomb (2013).


1 ‘Enter Drama!’ Putting the Genre (Back) Centre Stage

possible productions,34 or a combination of some or all of those? While there used to be an unsatisfactory distribution of labour, with literary historians focusing on the written, dramatic text and theatre historians concentrating on performance and theatre history,35 recent works on drama – both in theatre and literary studies – increasingly view drama holistically.36 Lately, the call for a study of drama as both published text and as (possible) performance has grown louder.37 W. B. Worthen asserts that “to get a real sense of drama we must see the play both as literature and as theatre” (Worthen 2003a, 6). What is more, the insight that any play is part of “an intimate dialogue between the page and the stage” (Baumbach and A. Nünning 2012 [2009], 12) has gained prominence in the otherwise relatively conservative realm of teaching, i.e., in textbooks for students. Even if the site of conceptualising drama is heavily contested;38 even if it is notoriously difficult to adequately deal with a genre that is so heterogeneous in its production, reception, and semiotics; and even if, for a literary historian, performances of the past are exactly this – past and, thus, beyond reach –, this study acknowledges drama’s inherent and challenging contradictoriness. It regards drama as an abstract, cognitive category, a conglomerate of genre knowledge based on drama’s history as written text (including the textually inherent potential for performance) as well as its actual historical realisations on stage.

34 Manfred Pfister, without making this explicit, seems, besides drama as text, to also include performative aspects; after all, he conceptualises drama as a “plurimedial form of presentation” (Pfister 1993 [1991], 6). 35 Andreas Höfele (1991) and Theresia Birkenhauer (cf. 2004, 12) give brief but illuminating overviews of what, in Birkenhauer’s terms, has been framed as a ‘history of conflict’ between drama and theatre. There are, however, exceptions to the rule. Theatre scholar Rick Knowles (cf. 2014, esp. 127–207) devises two complementary methods for the study of drama within theatre criticism. ‘Script analysis and devising’ focuses on written texts and can be complemented by ‘performance analysis,’ which accounts for (post-dramatic) stagings (and vice versa). 36 For more details on the topic, see Janine Hauthal (2009, 18), who has examined the conflicting and fraught relationship between drama and theatre, which she calls Spannungsverhältnis, in an enlightening manner. 37 Theatre scholar W. B. Worthen, for instance, asks students of drama to be sensitive to both approaches, reading plays and seeing them staged (2003a, 2), while literary historian Irina Rajewsky, considering drama, emphasises that when she speaks of drama, aspects of performance are always included (2007, 28, fn. 12). Manfred Jahn (2001, 662) even conceptualises a so-called ‘school of reading drama’ and “envisages an ideal recipient who is both a reader and a theatregoer” (662). 38 To make matters even more complicated, beyond the drama/theatre divide and with the rise of performance studies, there has even arisen a triangulation of drama, theatre, and performance (cf. S. Shepherd and Wallis 2010).

1.4 Resolving Pressing Problems in the Study of Dramatic Storytelling


In general, I still comply with the distinction that has become dominant in narratology and theatre studies between ‘drama’ (in a narrower sense) as the play script and ‘theatre’ referring to its performances (cf., e.g., Horstmann 2018). For my theory and analysis, I necessarily have to focus on the written and published dramatic text. I do, however, take into account the complementary form of realisation that has also defined and informed historical and contemporary mental schemas of drama as a genre. In other words, I am always acutely aware of the aforementioned scholars’ appeal to take into account drama’s dimension of theatrical performance as well. This is why, in the spirit of Manfred Jahn, who promotes regarding drama as text and possible performance (cf. Jahn 2001, 660–662),39 I consider drama as, firstly, written text and, secondly, the possible performances latent in the written text (e.g., I reflect on possible aspects of the play as performance and, where possible, include authorial references on how they expected their plays to be realised). Thirdly and wherever necessary, in the literary historical part of this study, I take into account actual and topical historical aspects of theatre and performance pertaining to the concrete plays discussed. After the above excursion on how I am going to approach and consider the possible forms in which dramatic texts may be realised, I turn to a penultimate step: For each period, I determine the predominant forms and functions of dramatic storytelling and narrative in drama. Finally, the results of all individual analyses are viewed together and the dominant diachronic forms and functions of narrative in British drama are isolated. It will be shown that, as Thomas Beebee puts it, “genre is a form of ideology, [. . .] [and] the struggle against or the deviations from genre are ideological struggles” (Beebee 1994, 19). Narrative drama always seems to be political, taking up ideological issues and commenting upon as well as partaking in socio-cultural debates. Even though my corpus selection differs from those of other literary histories, my way of making decisions resonates with those of other contemporary literary historians, especially Simon Shepherd and Peter Womack’s, who declare, rather than writing a continuous narrative of English drama, we have entered its history through a limited number of decisive moments; and within those moments we have highlighted a limited number of plays, not because we are trying to construct a new dramatic canon, but because these particular texts best illustrate the forces and developments we are seeking to understand. (Sheperd and Womack 1996, viii–ix)

39 Even though, admittedly, this is highly subjective, idiosyncratic, and as such methodologically somewhat unsatisfactory as well as heuristically vague, to my knowledge, this is the best compromise literary studies has come up with so far.


1 ‘Enter Drama!’ Putting the Genre (Back) Centre Stage

The limited number of plays on which this study is based were selected for similar reasons. From each period, I have selected plays which are likely to best illustrate the theses put forth in section 1.1 and to help answer the research questions posed in section 1.3. They are all plays that appear highly narrative. They thematise narrative matters and structurally include narrative modes in quantitatively and qualitatively salient ways and on many textual levels. From an original corpus of eighty-two plays, I have selected sixteen for an in-depth analysis, which I carry out in Part II. For each period, I consider three plays (except for the early modern period, where I have decided to include a duology and therefore analyse four plays). I have aimed at a relatively even stratification of publication dates40 across each period – at points, however, I had to deviate from this aim in favour of including plays which best bear witness to the dominant forms of narrative in drama at the time and which, taken together, give a complementary overview of those forms (this is why there are, for instance, two plays from the 2000s in Ch. 8). To show that narrative in drama has never been a marginal or unpopular phenomenon, I have furthermore chosen plays that were either very popular and/or widely discussed at the time of their production. Such plays often emerged at decisive points in British or drama history (e.g., after the theatres were re-opened in 1660 or after the financial crisis of 2007/08), reforming the genre and processing the times. At the same time – perhaps with the exception of Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus (cf. Sect. 8.1), which is still included because of its relevance to this study –, I have chosen plays that have not yet been (sufficiently) considered with regard to their exploitation of the intersection of drama and narrative. While all the plays have been canonised at one point or another in drama history, they have not yet been (fully) analysed with regard to their narrative forms and/or were marginalised in the canon and research because of (1) their inclusion of non-dramatic forms and the ensuing difficulty of classifying them (e.g., debbie tucker green’s stoning mary); (2) structural discrimination of ethnic minorities and gender (e.g., debbie tucker green’s stoning mary or Joanna Baillie’s Plays on the Passions); or (3) because other genres of the time in which the plays emerged were seen as more exemplary of the age (such as poetry in Romanticism). In summation, all of the plays selected here have been treated inconsistently to unfairly by literary criticism. Even though they are recognised for having been immensely popular in their time (or, at least, widely discussed), even

40 In the cases in which the performance pre-dates the publication, the date of the first performance has been used as the frame of reference.

1.5 Outlining This Study’s Structure


though they are known for having had a certain impact on the (generic and cultural) context in which they emerged, and even though they have been regarded as paradigmatic for the given period – not only in terms of their form, but also their content, as they always address topical subjects of their age –, literary criticism has not yet given them their due. Inclusive, transgeneric analyses and contextual interpretations of their inclusion of narrative matter in form and content are still pertinent research desiderata. And, with addressing these desiderata, I hope to contribute to a literary history whose “reward [. . .] at this moment is not the sense of knowing where we are but a sense of surprise, delight, and the unexpected – like finding a trout in the milk” (Lipking 1995, 12) – or, in this case, narrative in drama.

1.5 Outlining This Study’s Structure Before I come to the next act and continue to work towards a narratology of drama and a transgeneric history of narrative in drama, a short intermission shall be granted to the reader, in which I briefly outline this study’s structure. In Part I, I work towards a narratology of drama. In Part II, I propose a history of narrative in British drama from the Renaissance to the present day. Starting by preparing the grounds for my narratology with meta-theoretical reflections (cf. Ch. 2), I critically reflect on the act of intersecting narrative theory with drama theory (cf. Sect. 2.1). I outline the challenges and necessities of rewriting drama history and put forth some theoretical premises for doing so. After this, some meta-generic reflections are in order (cf. Sect. 2.2): I discuss the historical and cultural instability of ‘drama’ and ‘generic concepts’ on whose basis I make suggestions for a conceptual reframing of drama as a potentially highly narrative category, on both its story and discourse levels. Finally (cf. Sect. 2.3), I locate and characterise potential intersections of drama and narrative in plays and beyond. Against the backdrop of these preliminary reflections, I next suggest a peripeteia in drama and narrative theory – one that assumes generic heterogeneity as the default case, rather than mono-generic, homogeneous entities. Furthermore, I advocate that this theory be ‘inclusive’ – not only transgenerically, but also contextually designed. Chapter Three establishes a culturally sensitive narratology of dramatic storytelling and narrative in drama. I start out with the terminological and conceptual framing of four concepts important for any research interested in the intersections of drama and narrative. I construct ‘drama’ and ‘narrative’ as abstract, mental schema and, in their textual realisations, as ‘modes.’ Furthermore, I define ‘narrativity’ and ‘dramatic


1 ‘Enter Drama!’ Putting the Genre (Back) Centre Stage

quality’ as transgeneric qualities of difference (cf. Sect. 3.1). Afterwards, I sound out the semantic dimensions and changing layers of meanings of both ‘narrative’ and ‘drama’ as they have manifested throughout history in plays, narrative genres, authorial poetics, and literary criticism (cf. Sect. 3.2). I then turn to concrete narrative matters and modes in drama: I frame the narratological ‘story and discourse levels’ as defining of drama, too, and flesh out a narratological communication model of drama (cf. Sect. 3.3). Proposing a culturally sensitive approach to narrative in drama, I close the theoretical section by conceptualising the potential cultural dynamics and the possible performative power of dramatic storytelling and narrative in drama (cf. Sect. 3.4). Each of the five chapters in this study’s second part (Ch. 4–8) is comprised of four sections. In the first three sections, one play is examined according to my theoretical framework. Each of the sections is structured as follows: After a short introduction, the plays are contextualised. Both dominant emanations of narrative in the literary system (e.g., the author’s oeuvre, dominant poetics, dominant facts of theatrical production) and in the cultural context (e.g., politics, socio-cultural facts) in which the play emerged and which arguably define it (to at least some extent) are briefly presented. In the sections’ second parts, I examine each play’s text-internal narrativity. In a close reading, I study the individual play’s dominant narrative modes and gauge their potential text-internal and contextual functions (both in the literary system and in culture). Each chapter is concluded by a fourth section, in which the dominant forms and functions of narrative in drama in each period are summarised and abstracted. For the readers’ convenience, the essentials are presented in a table.41 In Chapter Four, entitled “Stories in Conflict and Competition: Alternative Histories, Complementary Tales, and Lies in Early Modern Drama,” I first look at William Shakespeare‘s meta-histories King Henry IV, Part One and Part Two and examine how the duology dramatically retells English national history and forges Renaissance present truths (cf. Ch. 4.1). Afterwards, I study John Webster‘s revenge tragedy The White Devil and its dramatic exploitation of the narrative genre of biography as a way of processing Jacobean realities of violence. I close my investigation into early modern drama with William Shakespeare and George Wilkins’ Pericles and its dramatic problematisation of what has been called an ‘age of lying’ (cf. Sect. 4.3). In a concluding section, I theorise the dominant forms and potential functions of narrative in early modern plays (cf. Sect. 4.4).

41 Concerning these tables, I have been inspired by Stella Butter, who has used this concise mode of breaking down and presenting her research findings before (cf. 2013, 89, sic passim).

1.5 Outlining This Study’s Structure


Chapter Five, on “The Containment of Different Narratives and of Narratives of Difference in Drama: The Renewal and Self-Definition of a ‘Sleeping’ Genre as well as Theatrical Configurations of Restoration and Early EighteenthCentury (Drama) Cultures,” starts with an analysis of John Dryden’s epically construed tragicomedy Marriage à la Mode, in which the state and the state of the art in the Restoration are discussed by epic means (cf. Sect. 5.1). Subsequently, I explore Aphra Behn’s The Rover and the author’s striking dramatic ways of experimenting with narrative perspective and exploiting authorial comment, with which she assesses gender imbalances after the Interregnum (cf. Sect. 5.2). The chapter then analyses John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera, in which special meta-theatrical ways of generative narration are exploited. Furthermore, the play’s narrative resistance to contemporary genre conventions and to an emerging capitalist culture is discussed (cf. Sect. 5.3). Finally, the dominant forms of narrative in Restoration and early-eighteenth-century plays are framed as a means of both genre definition and political engagement (cf. Sect. 5.4). In the next chapter, “From Stage to Page, from the Publicly Politic to the Metaphysically Private: Late Eighteenth-Century and Romantic Drama as a Genre in Transformation, Dramatising Diegetic Storytelling and Narrativising (Revolutionary) Change in Society and Conflict in Selves” (Ch. 6), I first look at Richard Cumberland’s sentimental comedy The West Indian and frame his dramatisation of diegetic storytelling and of elocutionary didactics as means of educating the nation and, among others, moralising old and new money (cf. Sect. 6.1). I continue by considering Joanna Baillie’s Romantic tragedy Orra and her increasing narrative infiltration of dramatic discourse as a revolt against both genre boundaries and patriarchal subjugation (cf. Sect. 6.2). The chapter’s final analysis concerns Lord Byron’s closet drama Manfred as Romantic Gesamtkunstwerk and a dramatic focalisation on and of a self in conflict (cf. Sect. 6.3). Finally, the dominant forms of narrative in late-eighteenth-century and Romantic plays are recounted, and their potential functions as ways of forging the nation and reforming the genre system are assessed (cf. Sect. 6.4). In “Expanding the Allowances of Drama by Generic Encounters with Narrative in Victorian and Early-Twentieth-Century Plays: Intersecting Drama and Narrative as Means to Fight against Hypocritical Hegemonies as well as to Perform and Forestall Political Change” (Ch. 7), I begin by studying George Bernard Shaw’s Mrs Warren’s Profession, in which dramatic modes are reduced in favour of diegetic ones to attack and counter hegemonic societal narratives (cf. Sect. 7.1). Discussing Cicely Hamilton and Christopher St John’s suffragist play How the Vote Was Won, I show how traditional dramatic modes are modernised by way of narrative and used as instruments of political pressure and conversion (cf. Sect. 7.2). The last analysis considers J. M. Barrie’s post-World War I


1 ‘Enter Drama!’ Putting the Genre (Back) Centre Stage

play Mary Rose, in which story mise en abymes, narrative instance, and character focalisation abound, arguably as means to process traumatic war experiences (cf. Sect. 7.3). In the concluding section, the dominant forms of narrative in Victorian and early-twentieth-century plays as ways of partaking in political debate and coping with post-war realities are reviewed (cf. Sect. 7.4). In the last analytical chapter, called “From Stories in Drama to the Drama of (Performed) Stories: Late-Twentieth and Early-Twenty-First-Century Dissolutions of Established Generic Traditions and Cultural Histories as Well as the Generation of New, ‘Ex-centric’ Genres and Histories through Narrative” (Ch. 8), Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus is examined and the post-modern Gesamtkunstwerk’s staging and questioning of authorial omnipotence surveyed (cf. Sect. 8.1). debbie tucker green’s drama of stories, stoning mary, then becomes the centre of attention. I trace how the playwright makes her drama eccentric by way of exploiting ex-centric narrative to re-juggle both genre conventions and simplistic worldviews (cf. Sect. 8.2). Finally, I deal with Lucy Prebble’s play Enron and map out the ways in which she performs and forms speculation and narrative and, with it, anatomises and criticises the post-industrial information age, or, rather, misinformation age (cf. Sect. 8.3). In the section that summarises the previous findings, I recount the dominant forms of narrative in late-twentieth-century and early-twenty-first-century plays, account for the formation of new dramatic genres on the basis of intermedial narratives, and discuss these genres’ possible function as triggers of revising hegemonic, continuous histories; of homogenising concepts of the nation; and of uncritical notions of society in the (mis)information age (cf. Sect. 8.4). In the concluding chapter (Ch. 9), I summarise this study’s most important findings. The dominant trans-historical ways of dramatic storytelling and narrative in British plays are tracked (cf. Sect. 9.1) and I establish three hypotheses on their broad historical and cultural functions (cf. Sect. 9.2). I close this study with suggestions for further research (cf. Sect. 9.3).

2 Rising Action: Towards a Narratology of Drama There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, | Than are dreamt of in your philosophy. (Hamlet, I.v; Shakespeare 2014 [1604])

The present chapter attempts to put its finger on some of those matters in the proverbial ‘heaven and earth’ of literary history and theory, those aspects the disciplines have so far neither dreamt of nor thought about. It calls for literary studies and genre theory to examine the intersections of research objects that have generally been considered to be different from each other, if not opposed to each other: narrative and drama (cf. Sect 1.2). On the grounds of this call, I reframe drama as a genre that, just like ‘the’ paradigmatic novel or short story (if one assumes there is anything like that), can ‘seem’ narrative as it displays narrative characteristics – sometimes even many. I furthermore reconsider it as a genre that can and should be examined accordingly. It will not suffice, however, to clarify how the impression that a specific drama is ‘somehow’ narrative arises and how it can be explained by narratology (cf. Sect. 2.3), and to place and characterise the intersections of drama and narrative within individual plays. The theoretical premises on which these hypotheses and the ensuing ‘narratology of drama’ (cf. Ch. 3) are built must also be delineated. This is why, in a first step and on a meta-theoretical plane, I make explicit the underlying assumptions and potentially veiled general processes that govern my endeavour of intersecting narrative theory with drama theory, on the one hand, and of rewriting drama history, on the other (cf. Sect. 2.1). In addition, I interrogate the concepts of genre in general and drama in particular. Moreover, I explicate and assess their characteristic instability before drawing theoretical conclusions. I suggest a conceptual reframing of drama as a potentially (highly) narrative category – both on its story level and its level of dramatic narration (cf. Sect. 2.2). On the basis of these considerations, I attempt to establish a ‘narratology of drama’ (cf. Ch. 3).

2.1 Theorising the Processes of Intersecting Narrative Theory with Drama Theory and of (Re-)Writing Drama History: Challenges, Necessities, and Theoretical Premises The writing of a theatre history reveals as much about contemporary tastes and values as it does about the cultural world of the past. Historians tend to organise their material into familiar explanatory or narrative structures [. . .]. (Milling 2004, 139) https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110724110-002


2 Rising Action: Towards a Narratology of Drama

What Jane Milling notes regarding the writing of theatre history arguably also holds true for the writing of literary history and theory. Not least due to the cultural and temporal contingency of constructing literary theories and histories, one has to take care not to fall into the trap of ‘familiarity’ and intuitive givens. When preparing the ground for a ‘narratology of drama,’ one must therefore consider general and contemporary problems of genre theories and histories, on the one hand, and revisions of genre and cultural histories, on the other. Much has been written discussing and problematising the notoriously thorny issue of (re)writing literary theories and histories. It would be grossly negligent, however, in a study that attempts to revise drama theory, further mould transgeneric narratology, and rethink the cultural and literary history of British drama not to reflect on these matters solely on the grounds that many (brilliant) things have already been said. Quite on the contrary, it is imperative to make oneself aware of the general pitfalls of theorising and historicising1 and the challenges of current conditionality. It is furthermore vital to detail one’s criteria and strategies for dealing with both pitfalls and challenges in order to make them transparent for one’s recipients. Nor does it hurt to convince one’s readership of the necessity of the present endeavours: the essentiality of establishing a narratology of drama as well as making suggestions for a history of drama that is conscious of its narrativity and this narrativity’s cultural conditionality and reverberations. In the subsequent paragraphs, I thus reconsider select points previously made on the (re)writing of literary theory and history that are especially relevant for my theorising and historicising endeavours. On their basis, I then delineate the theoretical premises on which this study is based. Two fields of debate in meta-theoretical reflection are especially central to my attempt to revise drama theory from a narratological point of view and establish a history that is aware of drama’s relatedness to narrative issues, which arguably have not only text-internal, but also text-external repercussions. One debate concerns the practices and results of writing literary theory; the other the perceived strenuousness and vanity of academic exertions in trying to write

1 It has been demanded for literary history that the actual exercise of writing literary theory should always be founded on self-reflective considerations regarding its practices and mechanisms (cf., e.g., Japp 1980, esp. 9–19, 233–239; Basseler et al. 2013b, 3–5). This certainly also holds true for the writing of genre theory. Scholars simply have to scrutinise and question their practice of writing their theories and the implicit assumptions, biases, ideologies, and preferences involved in doing this for the benefit of scientific clarity, academic precision, and intersubjective transparency.

2.1 Theorising the Processes of Intersecting Narrative Theory with Drama Theory


literary histories. The most striking common feature of these two fields must be pointed out early: Both ‘theory’ and ‘history’ are disconcertingly polysemous.2 To disentangle the resulting semantic and conceptual imbroglio, one has to distinguish the varying applications of each concept. Uri Margolin (2007, 196) discriminates between at least three meanings of ‘literary theory’: “a particular LT [abbr. ‘literary theory’], the totality of LTs available, and the activity of theorizing or theory construction.” Ansgar Nünning (cf. 2013a, 457), scrutinising the semantics of ‘literary history,’ similarly sets apart literary history as res gestae (the events in literary history, e.g., the publication of books, the staging of plays) from historia (e) rerum gestarum (the account[s] of events in literary history and the activity of history construction). He notes that some of the products of historia rerum gestarum – both concrete books and their actual and potential totality (cf. A Nünning 2013a, 457) –,3 are, to make matters worse, referred to as ‘literary history’ as well. The meanings abstracted for literary theory and literary history4 can be mapped onto those of their respective sub-disciplines, including the ones in which this study engages: ‘genre theory/history’ in general and ‘drama theory/ history’ in particular.5 Of all these meanings, these two are particularly relevant and need to be theorised. Firstly, I am constructing a narratology of drama; this process has to be reflected. Secondly, this study is a drama history (cf. Part II). Therefore, the relationship between British drama history as res gestae and as historia rerum gestarum needs to be considered. Starting with the former, I delineate the challenges and necessities connected to my activity of theorising drama. I also outline the theoretical premises on whose basis I aim to meet these challenges and with which I hope to take care of the necessities of theorisation. These necessities are, in my opinion, still

2 The term ‘literature’ is, incidentally, as polysemous as the concepts in which it features as a morphologic part, i.e., ‘literary theory’ and ‘literary history’ (cf., e.g., A. Nünning 1996, 5 or Grabes 2016, 4). What is more, literature is not just synchronically polysemous; its meaning is also “historically contingent” (Hutcheon and Valdés 2002a, ix) and changes with time. 3 Frederic Jameson (2008, 383) discusses the postmodern self-reflexivity of those ‘doing literary history,’ which has led to the insight of literary history’s relativity and, in consequence, its “multiplicity of possible narratives, possible histories, [sic] that accompanies the multiplicity of ways of constructing the objects of those narratives and histories.” 4 Among the multitude of literary history’s ‘sub-disciplines’ or ‘components’ are, apart from genre historical ones, for instance, histories of literary subjects, motifs, and periods; histories of certain literary devices and strategies; as well as contextual histories of literature (cf., e.g., A. Nünning 2013a, 457). 5 This is why, by extension, I am always also referring to these two sub-disciplines when I discuss the general concept.


2 Rising Action: Towards a Narratology of Drama

givens, even in the first decades of the twenty-first century, in which the uses of literary theory are questioned, if not seriously doubted. Having briefly reviewed the history of theory, Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht (2007, 215), for instance, diagnoses the 2000s as an “end of Literary Theory.” According to him, the discipline has always been ‘incapable’ of solving “its key questions” (Gumbrecht 2007, 215) and has never been “successful in producing generally accepted solutions to [. . .] [the] problems [of literary studies]” (Gumbrecht 2007, 213). Instead, literary theory appears to have “[replaced] much hoped for solutions through intense but unending discussions” (Gumbrecht 2007, 213). Underlying his daunting assessment are assumptions that answers are more important or productive than questions, that homogeneity (i.e., unanimous agreement) is somehow better than diversity (i.e., the broad spectrum between acceptance, partial acceptance, and disagreement), and that the definite answer and a final consensus is to be rated more highly than ongoing, lively debates. Since the present theoretical contribution to literary studies is far from definite and, therefore, highly debatable, I will argue in favour of the unfinished and the disputable in theory building. In a field as diverse as literary studies, there cannot be, nor should there be, a single, unifying theory of everything. Theories, very much like literary forms, have their affordances, i.e., potential uses, as much as their constraints (cf. Levine 2015, 6–11). The smaller the theory, the less extensive its field of application; the more concretely geared towards a particular phenomenon, the higher its affordances and the fewer its constraints, its applicatory limits. In other words, the more problems and research areas, the more varied are scholars’ interests – hence, the more diverse their theories, the more applicable is each one of these clearly demarcated, concise theories, and all the greater is their individual potential. Moreover, in designing theories, scholarly practice and development profits perhaps as much as from posing questions as from providing answers;6 the humanities in particular thrive on debate, from framing and reframing questions and answers, from adapting theories, transferring them, and modifying them. It is simply a – in my opinion, fruitful – given that literary theory is not a fossil but, thanks to its agents, a living organism. With time and shifting dominant interests, there is much movement and evolution, “paradigms gaining new ground, concepts moving from one place to another, and skirmishes shifting back and forth the boundaries between disciplines and knowledge cultures” (Koschorke 2007, 208).

6 Within the history of sciences, some of the most fruitful answers to pressing problems, like Penicillin in the fight against bacteria in the 1940s, were only found accidentally and in response to questions originally related to completely different topics.

2.1 Theorising the Processes of Intersecting Narrative Theory with Drama Theory


Of course, the theoretical diversity, liveliness, and constant change in literary studies brings about at least three major problems. Firstly, an “expansionist policy” of literary theory has been identified (Koschorke 2007, 208), which entails an accumulation and pluralisation of generic categories and terms (cf. Koschorke 2007, 208). Literary and genre theory have diversified and expanded so much that, secondly, already in the first decade of the twenty-first century, literary theorists have been forced to talk of a widespread “Begriffsanarchie” (B. Neumann and A. Nünning 2007, 1–3), a terminological and conceptual disorder. Even major terms, which happen to be central to this study, too, like ‘drama,’ ‘genre,’ ‘narrative,’ and ‘mode,’ have been defined in innumerable ways (cf. Sect. 2.2 and 3.2). Thirdly, sub-categories have been constructed and differentiated to the smallest degree in order to make them and their relation to other sub-categories, in theory, clear and comprehensible. Yet a complex, sophisticated terminology might, in everyday practice, be hard to operate with, increase conceptual confusion, expose fissures in theory, or reveal disparities between theory and practice.7 Despite the challenges of theory construction, literary studies cannot do without it: It is vital to reducing or avoiding veiled propositions or underlying biases and accounting for literary forms within a work of literature, the generic system, or cultural literary occurrences and practices in intersubjectively comprehensible and reproducible ways. Literary studies need theories that pose a manageable amount of questions and develop concrete terminological and conceptual tools for gaining insights into a clearly delineated and specified field of interest. The aims of such a theory are, among others, to define a series of regularities or generalities, determinate features or patterns with respect to a certain range of phenomena in the literary domain, from metrical forms to the social constraints on literary production. Some theorists go further and look for literary invariants or universals [and literary variants] as regards text types, basic plot structures (Frye, Shklovski), the structure of verse (Jakobson’s law of equivalence), underlying emotions (Hogan), or the laws governing the relations between two literary systems (Even-Zohar). The generality requirement is in fact the yardstick that tells apart poetics (theoretical, descriptive, diachronic) from textual interpretation. (Margolin 2007, 197; emphasis mine)

The constant renewal of literary theory is equally vital for literary studies. After all, literary theory’s significance lies in generating and articulating “new and

7 A frustration perhaps every practitioner in literary studies, teacher and student alike, encounters at least once in his or her academic life. I am thinking of all those in their introductions to literary studies who are struggling to apply Genette’s (of course, still valuable) refined concepts of autodiegesis, heterodiegesis, or homodiegesis and give up, sighing, upon realising that there are instances of narration where it is simply unclear or debatable which one applies.


2 Rising Action: Towards a Narratology of Drama

more complex ways [or, rather, ways that help literary scholars to cope ever better with the complexity of literary history as res gestae] to think through the already acknowledged importance of both literature and literary history to more general categories of social history” (Hutcheon and Valdés 2002a, ix). Taking the lists of challenges and necessities of constructing and renewing literary history seriously, one is forced to conclude that literary studies do not need a generally acknowledged ‘theory of everything.’ It needs but one with distinctly demarcated aims, one that leans towards its allowances more than its constraints, and one that, like a breathing organism, does not stop evolving. Manifold theoretical premises follow from both the challenges and the necessity of a literary theory in general and a clearly demarcated genre theory in particular. Any potentially applicable theory, which necessarily remains one among many,8 ideally (a) delineates concrete objects of interest (‘constructs’ it), (b) formulates specific problems, (c) establishes terms and concepts that help to analyse and solve these problems, (d) makes sensible, i.e., traceable generalisations (on a small scale), (e) points out exceptions to the rule, (f) is aware of its allowances and constraints, and (g) makes others aware of them. This list can be extended with reference to Uri Margolin (2007, 197), who demands a certain amount of rationality. He asks for “[h] explicit formulation of both problems and the solutions offered, [i] intersubjectivity, that is, proceeding in a way which can be both learned and taught (‘lern- und lehrbar’), [j] respect for the rules of logic, [k] consistency, and [. . .] [l] formulating claims which can be tested notionally or empirically.” And it is, finally (m) ever changing and diversifying, constantly being rethought. To account for narrative phenomena in drama and with the means of narratology, prevalent drama theory will have to be reframed in the knowledge of the endeavour’s necessity and under consideration of its challenges. Throughout the process, I attempt to pay heed to the premises and demands listed above. Just as there is no single ‘drama theory’ as such, there is also a plurality of ‘drama histories.’9 One can accuse each of these genre histories (and literary 8 It is a theory that stands alongside other theories and is aware of at least some of them. It can be discussed and developed, and, with newly gained knowledge, emergent literary realities, reframed older literary realities, and hopefully better tools, perhaps replaces older ones. It, too, will eventually be replaced when it no longer holds, when new knowledge is gained, new literary realities emerge, old ones are reframed, and better tools are provided. 9 Thus, the idea of one, encyclopaedic, and definite national literary history, which arguably emerged in the nineteenth century, has to be replaced by the twenty-first century acknowledgement of the multitude of ways in which the history of a period or a genre has been and could be written (cf., e.g., A. Nünning 2013a, 457). For an overview of the range of ways in which literary history has already been conceptualised and practiced see, for instance, Basseler et al. (2013b, esp. 18–21).

2.1 Theorising the Processes of Intersecting Narrative Theory with Drama Theory


history in general) of many things: first and foremost, of their problemridden relationship to theory, to res gestae, and to the cultural contexts of literary production and reception, as well as of their difficulties in ‘adequately’ constructing their ‘objects’ and presenting their findings. In the second half of the twentieth century, critics increasingly questioned positivist attitudes towards history and acknowledged that in the writing of literary or genre history, people select, construct, and assess things. Since the acts of selection and construction are based on explicit or implicit values, the resulting genre histories are, no matter how unintentionally, always ideologically biased and politically charged (cf. A. Nünning 1996, 1–2). Against this backdrop, critics have cautioned literary historians to acknowledge and explain the theoretical presuppositions on which they build their histories (cf., e.g., A. Nünning 2013a, 458).10 The selection of problems and the presentation of findings poses additional challenges to the writing of genre history. Despite thorough explanations and arguments, there is always an element of contingency in the writing and presenting of literary history. There is not just the unmanageable sum of potential ‘objects’ of literary history, among them particular texts, individual genres, genre systems, literary practices, literary strategies and tropes, or authors – and these all in their diachronic and synchronic dimensions – which has to be reduced in its complexity by selection. There are also the downsides of periodisation and canonisation, the latter of which can be accused of being either an anachronistic remnant of a bygone positivist era (i.e., nineteenth-century encyclopaedic endeavours) or a political instrument of hegemonic powers (cf., e.g., A. Nünning 1996, 8–9; Rippl and Winko 2013a, 1–3; Rippl and Straub 2013). But even if one abandons the utopian hope of tackling literary historical problems in their sum total, ignores the contingency of periodisation, and admits the drawbacks of canonisation, the unbridgeable temporal and conceptual divide between events in drama history (res gestae) and their chronicling and presentation in drama histories (historiae rerum gestarum) remains daunting. So daunting, indeed, that literary history has appeared, not least since the 1990s, as impossible to write as literary theory. As Lawrence Lipking (1995, 1), tongue-incheek, remarked, “Literary history used to be impossible to write; lately it has become much harder.” In the same vein, Gumbrecht (cf. Gumbrecht 2008),

10 In the early decades of the twenty-first century, there seems a dangerous tendency towards regression. As Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht (2007, 215) notes, there is an increase in literary historical practice that foregoes the inclusion of theory (or, rather, the acknowledgement of the implicit proto-theoretical presuppositions): “[T]he number of academic classes is clearly increasing [. . .] that simply concentrate on the oeuvre of a literary author [. . .] and sometimes even on an individual literary text, without any perspectives of theoretical or political legitimation.”


2 Rising Action: Towards a Narratology of Drama

ever the provocateur, even calls for dispensing with writing literary history altogether. Due to the gap between res gestae and historia rerum gestarum, another difficulty arises: the seeming hopelessness of ‘contextualism’ (see, e.g., Perkins 1992, esp. 121–152), that is, the effort of coming to terms with the complicated relationship between the historical, cultural circumstances in which literature is produced and the – ideologically fraught – context in which it is evaluated and received. Despite the methodological and conceptual difficulties inherent in these efforts, literary history must still seek to comprehend the complex intertwinement between changes in literature itself – i.e., the text-external literary system with its authors, markets, critics, and recipients – and those in the surrounding cultural, social, political, and historical realities. In spite of these challenges, it has been still deemed worthwhile to try to analyse, describe, and assess the dynamics between literature and culture, that is, “the particular role[s] of literature in motivating, instigating, channelling or hindering cultural change, and the influence of cultural change on literature” (Berensmeyer and Schillings 2016, xi; cf. also Basseler et al. 2013b). The necessity and productivity of a literary history that takes account of cultural issues has also been increasingly recognised (cf., e.g., A. Nünning and Sommer 2004a; Grabes 2004) and theorised (cf., e.g., A. Nünning and Sommer 2004b, esp. 11–21; Levine 2015). Despite the aforementioned challenges of writing literary history, despite all prophesies of its demise, literary history’s cultural work cannot be valued enough. To substantiate its necessity, Jan Borkowski and Philipp David Heine have abstracted some of its basic aims and uses. Some of its most essential purposes are (re-)constructing “propositions about literary texts in their contexts” (2013, 31), providing information on specific historical periods and their respective literature as a basis for the analysis of literary texts (cf. Borkowski and Heine, 31), and “forming and preserving literary tradition and handing it down” (cf. Borkowski and Heine, 32). In their list, they also include self-referential issues, such as literary history’s delineation and reflection of its own tradition and current practices (cf. Borkowski and Heine, 32). What they merely touch upon, however, is the fact that literary history’s considerations of res gestae, its analysis and interpretations, are an invaluable tool when it comes to tracing the history of the mentality of a culture: its values, ideals, and problems, which, in whatever way (i.e., oppositional, reinforcing, critical, etc.), always somehow crystallise in its literature.11 Just as the objects

11 For eighteenth-century cultures in England, Vera Nünning has exemplarily shown how and to what extent sentiments, moral values, and mind-sets can be reconstructed through the analysis of a variety of discourses, among them historiographical accounts and literary texts (cf., e.g., Sect. 6.1; V. Nünning 1996, 1998, 2005b).

2.1 Theorising the Processes of Intersecting Narrative Theory with Drama Theory


collected in a museum can offer insight into a culture’s material past, so too can literary texts illuminate its immaterial one. However problematic, literary history is consequently one of the ways that helps us to reconstruct and explain immaterial characteristics of otherwise unapproachable bygone eras. With new theoretical insights and emergent cultural givens, the ways in which literary history is done must of course change. In an age where the fissures in literary history and the challenges of its writing have been self-referentially foregrounded (as briefly delineated above), these fissures and challenges must necessarily be responded to. The increasing visibility of the deficiencies of positivist literary histories, then, has not only caused problems; it has, according to Roy Sommer, also led to the emergence of an immense space of ‘creative freedom’ for literary historians (cf. 2000, 320). Aware of their world-making power, literary historians have and are able to reconsider the mechanisms of exclusion and inclusion in their selection and canonisation practices, and, where necessary, try to counter and revise them. The facts and concepts of our emergent new realities, such as ‘globalisation,’ ‘cultural heterogeneity,’ ‘world literature,’ ‘digitalisation,’ and ‘interculturality’ (cf., e.g., A. Nünning 2013a, 459; R. Cohen 2008a, vii–xi), must also be accounted for. The ways in which they have been theorised must and can be considered and included in the current practice of writing literary history (cf., e.g., Hutcheon and Valdés 2002b; Lindberg-Wada 2006; R. Cohen 2008b). In light of the challenges and necessities of both writing and, with surfacing new realities and theories, rewriting literary history, the following seven theoretical premises become especially important for revising a literary history of English drama: 1. One has to acknowledge and cope with the challenges and necessities of the (re)writing of genre histories. 2. One has to consciously and closely interlace genre history with genre theory. 3. One has to both consider actual theories and histories (e.g., transmedial or culturally inclusive ones) and develop them further for the subject at hand. a. That is, the present history of drama has to be ‘rethought.’ It has to be written against the backdrop of the insights provided by inclusive literary histories, which consider both cultural matters and previously generically shunned or genre-transcending issues. b. Literary history also has to be rewritten, or, in Linda Hutcheon and Mario Valdés’ terms (Hutcheon and Valdés 2002a, ix), thought “anew” in the light of emergent theoretical concepts and changing social realities. That is, especially in the wake of a transgeneric narratology, thus far largely neglected narrative issues in most histories of drama and these histories’ general marginalisation of plays that highlight narrativity


2 Rising Action: Towards a Narratology of Drama

have to be critically reconsidered. Narrative generic subject matters and plays have to be integrated into the history of drama and granted due attention. 4. In the spirit of making literary history a process explicitly guided by theory, and having revised this theory, one has to integrate into drama the analysis of intra-textual structures and phenomena normally framed as belonging to the novel or other genres traditionally characterised as narrative. 5. Because of the importance of literary historical analyses for genre theory, the literary historical findings on the basis of new theoretical assumptions have to feed back into the theory. Literary theorists must ask how drama reframes narrative and/or whether the allegedly narrative forms and structures are really bound to narrative genres, or whether they have to be reframed as ‘transgeneric.’ 6. Recognising traditional, influential theories that consider the generic system at large (e.g., Russian Formalism), one has to analyse how drama, especially when it highlights narrativity, evolves in anticipation of, in response to, and alongside the development of other, especially narrative genres (be it in opposition, in analogy, or in dialogue of whatever shape). 7. Aware of the pitfalls but also productivity of contextualism, i.e., a literary history that includes social and cultural matters beyond the concrete literary text, one has to ask what cultural work narration and narratives do, both in the intra-textual worlds of drama and its extra-textual theatrical stagings as performative, cultural events. Having laid out the challenges of writing and rewriting literary theory and history and argued for their necessity, I have provided some theoretical premises as starting points for this project, which hopefully help to meet the outlined challenges and to make the best use of their allowances. In the following sections, I explore the creative space that post-modern relativism and emergent theories and realities have opened up for literary theory and history (cf. Sommer 2000, 320–321). I partake in the proverbial “continuing dialogue with the illustrious shades of the past, encountered and engaged while writing literary history [and theory] at a time when new methodological paradigms [and theories as well as realities] have offered new problematizing challenges” (Hutcheon and Valdés 2002a, ix) but also – not to be underestimated – unexpected possibilities. To begin, I clarify the ways in which the selected objects of this study are constructed (cf. Sect. 2.2). Then, I set out on the rather “epic [. . .] journey” (Harry Levin; quoted in Hutcheon and Valdés 2002a, ix) that attempts to rethink drama theory as a ‘culturally sensitive narratology of drama’ (cf. Sect. 3)

2.2 Drawing the Consequences of the ‘Instability’ of Genre in General


and to conceptualise a ‘different’ history of English drama. This drama theory and history is ‘different’ in that it is inclusive and considers intergeneric issues, transgeneric subjects, as well as cultural matters (cf. Ch. 4–8), which have thus far either been marginalised or neglected entirely. In short, this theory and history asks what cultural and performative work narrative has done in the genre of drama (and beyond) from the Renaissance to the present.

2.2 Drawing the Consequences of the ‘Instability’ of Genre in General and Drama in Particular: Suggesting a Conceptual Reframing of Drama as a Potentially (Highly) Narrative Category and Taking Up the Cudgels for a Narratological Examination of ‘Dramatic Narration’ In modern literary theory, few concepts have proved more problematic and unstable than that of genre. (Duff 2000a, 1)

To flesh out this study’s central subject matters and basic concepts of ‘drama’ and ‘narrative,’ as well as important related issues, namely, ‘performativity’ and ‘theatricality,’ one has to start by considering general characteristics of the super-ordinate concept of ‘genre.’ The instability of genre definitions highlighted in the introductory quote is not just due to genre’s varied conceptualisations in the history of the writing of genre theories from, say, Aristotle to Romanticism to the twenty-first century, which David Duff describes (cf. Duff 2000a, 1–6) and substantiates with excerpts of seminal genre theories (cf. Duff 2000b).12 The volatility of genre theories results from at least four major characteristics of genre itself: the inherent plurality of one genre (cf., e.g., Genette 2000 [1979], 213), genre’s essential two-facedness (cf., e.g., Basseler et al. 2013b, 1–2), its multidimensionality (cf., e.g., Gymnich and Neumann 2007, 34–48), and its basic ‘impurity’ (cf., e.g., Derrida 2000 [1980], 224). Genres, firstly, tend to encompass a number of generic variants: One (super-)genre encompasses a plurality of (sub-)genres. There is not just ‘drama’ as such, but also tragedy, Noh theatre, liturgical drama, puppet theatre, the closet play, the

12 In addition to the diachronic variation of genre definitions, synchronic heterogeneity also contributes to genre’s fragility. In Rüdiger Zymner’s handbook of genre theory alone (cf. 2011b, 29–46), thirteen different ways on the basis of which genres can be and have been distinguished are listed, among them, for example, form, function, and content.


2 Rising Action: Towards a Narratology of Drama

post-dramatic performance, the farce, and multiple other dramatic sub-genres. And any of these sub-genres may encompass a variety of additional sub-genres: There is not just tragedy, but revenge tragedy, domestic tragedy, tragicomedy, or Restoration’s heroic tragedy. As the last example, which denotes both a period and a genre, shows, there is even historical and cultural variation within sub-genres and super-genres. What is, for instance, exemplarily ‘dramatic’ or regarded as the prototypical drama, respectively, differs by period and culture. And this also holds true for dramatic sub-genres and their materiality. The romantic comedy, for instance, has travelled from early modern theatres to twentieth-century cinemas.13 Whereas ‘narrative’ as a super-genre in Homer’s Greece of the seventh or eighth century BC tended to be predominantly realised in the ‘epic,’ it was, in nineteenthcentury Britain, the ‘novel’ that was regarded as prototypically ‘narrative.’ Nowadays, in our transnational streaming culture, it is perhaps the TV or Netflix series that is regarded as the most blatantly narrative genre. One generic label such as ‘drama’ therefore denotes the sum of an almost inconceivable number of synchronic and diachronic variants, and “no one can set a limit on this [in principle, endless] proliferation” (Genette 2000 [1979], 213). Secondly, genres are inherently contradictory: On the one hand, a genre follows relatively fixed sets of conventions that constitute its repertoire. These basic generic rules fulfil important communicative functions: They are essential for literary communication to succeed. Authors are aware of generic principles – of a drama or a poem, a murder mystery, a Western, a soap opera, or a tragedy – and adhere to them (or deviate from them), while recipients expect them (or interpret any deviation from or variation on them). On the other hand, genres change and evolve. Tied to the historical and cultural circumstances under which they emerge and subject to changes within the system of genres, they change in response to their times and to other genres. The definitions and realisations of genres may also vary from cultural context to cultural context. As Heta Pyrhönen (2007, 119) puts it, “As historical phenomena, genres are subject to changes and modifications, even extinction.” The medieval liturgical play, for instance, not only radically differs in its content and possible functions from a nineteenth-century drawing-room comedy or a twentieth-century farce; it is nowadays not even written or produced at all.14 Thirdly, genres are unbelievably complex. Marion Gymnich and Birgit Neumann (cf. 2007, 35) have come to terms with this complexity by differentiating

13 For a transgeneric, pragmatic study of comedy, which tackles these and related issues, see Roy Sommer’s diachronic study (cf. 2012b). 14 Perhaps with the exemption of the Oberammergau passion plays in Bavaria, Germany, which are staged once in a decade.

2.2 Drawing the Consequences of the ‘Instability’ of Genre in General


four interrelated levels that make up the ‘compound term’ genre. There is (a) the level of the individual text or texts with its or their intra-textual characteristics, e.g., specific form and content (Gymnich and Neumann 2007, 36–38). There is (b) the cultural and historical level (in its synchronic and diachronic dimension) to which the respective text is tied – for instance, produced, stored, canonised, and/or received in (Gymnich and Neumann 2007, 38–45). There is (c) the cognitive level, referring to individuals’ actualisations of a text, in which they construct generic and textual meaning (Gymnich and Neumann 2007, 45–46). And there is (d) the level of possible and potential functions (Gymnich and Neumann 2007, 47–48), i.e., effects and syntheses that respond to special historical requirements and expectations of historical producers and recipients. Those potential functions may concern the (system of) genres and texts themselves, or they may be extra-textual and contextual. While all levels are in dialogue with each other, level (d) can be regarded as a super-ordinate level, on which all other levels are synthesised (cf. Gymnich and Neumann 2007, 47). Gymnich and Neumann’s conceptualisation of genre as a ‘compound term’ proves fruitful for an analysis of genres. It not only captures their complexity but also enables scholars to examine genres exhaustively and from diverse angles. In an investigation of level (a), generic features of individual texts or groups of texts can be determined, while an examination of levels (b) to (d) allows one to gauge the relationship(s) between genre realised as individual text, genre as constituent of a whole system of genres, and genre as cultural and political ‘institution.’ It helps to acknowledge contextual aspects of genres as well as to account for their historical variation, cultural diversity, and contextual, socio-political workings. Fourthly, genres are never ‘pure,’ but rather ‘mixed’ – despite all claims to the contrary. The modern triad of the three super-genres – epic, lyric, and dramatic – which was established in the Italian Renaissance (Hempfer 2008, 44–60; 2010, 40),15 has, historically speaking, proven astonishingly resilient. This ‘triad’ is, transnationally, still taught at schools and universities; it is still a manner of literary classification in research. Most scholarly work, whether literary historical or genre-theoretical, is based on it. It has resisted seventeenthcentury and eighteenth-century probing (cf. Kearns 2008, 202) and withstood neo-classicist indications that, in realisations of the three allegedly ‘natural’ forms of poetry sensu literature, traits of other genres are almost always present (cf. Goethe [1827] 2010, 227). It has weathered Romantic iconoclastic attempts at transgressing genre boundaries (cf. Pyrhönen 2007, 111). It has lasted through the

15 Cf. also Primavesi (2008).


2 Rising Action: Towards a Narratology of Drama

valuable reframings of genre as ‘mixed’ by Gérard Genette (cf. 2000 [1979]) and Jacques Derrida (cf. 2000 [1980]). The epic, lyric, and dramatic: Until the emergence of transgeneric studies, these three categories remained largely distinct objects of investigation and teaching subjects in literary studies, despite all challenging theories and historical evidence to the contrary.

Fig. 4: The qualities of genre that cause the instability and volatility of generic concepts and that have to be accommodated in the (re)framings of ‘drama’ and the narratology of drama.

These four challenging characteristics of genre demand the following theoretical deliberations: If drama is made up of innumerable generic variants, is a drama that displays narrative features just one variant of drama (like tragedy or epic drama), or is narrativity in drama a transgeneric, variant-transgressing feature of possibly any play? That is, can it, in principle, occur in any drama, just like prologues, stage directions, or asides? Is narrativity in drama in general and in ‘narrative drama’ in particular a stable, defining feature or a nondefining, varying characteristic? Can it be both defining and non-defining? If genres are always shaped by intra-textual aspects and extra-textual circumstances, how is this the case in drama in general and narrative drama in particular?

2.2 Drawing the Consequences of the ‘Instability’ of Genre in General


And are there any synchronic differences and diachronic developments? If genres are always internally hybrid, how can we define ‘narrative drama’? To what extent is drama always narrative? If there is a drama that is especially narrative, in which respects and through which techniques is it enhanced in its ‘narrativity’? Which text-internal and text-external (systemic and cultural) work does this ‘narrativity’ then do? What are its effects and potential functions? To answer these questions, which arise from genre’s (and drama’s and narrative’s in particular) general instability, one will have to consider the interrelations between drama and narrative anew. To reframe conventional, rather narrow definitions of drama, narrativity, and narrativity in drama, these four fundamental sites of theoretical dispute must, with the help of transgeneric narratology and cognitive genre theory, be reconsidered and reframed. Firstly, and thus far, drama has been largely regarded as either narrative or non-narrative.16 After having spelt out the diverse definitions of ‘narrative’ on which these assumptions rest and having differentiated them from each other (cf. esp. Sect. 3.2–3.3), it will become clear that drama has to be reframed as potentially (highly) narrative. Secondly, in ground-breaking transgeneric discussions of dramatic narration, the gradeability of narrativity has been highlighted (cf. A. Nünning and Sommer 2008, A. Nünning and Sommer 2011; Wolf 2002, 96), and this productively so. What has been neglected thus far, however, is a clarification and systematisation of the manifold narrative strategies employed in plays that determine different grades of dramatic narrativity. A no less pertinent corollary has also been lacking: When narrativity (in drama and any other genre) is gradable, so are the states of being ‘dramatic,’ ‘theatrical,’ or ‘performative’ (in drama and any other genre). Thirdly and even more importantly, it is time to start taking seriously the age-old observation that “[c]onsidered as frameworks of communication, genres can neither be fixed nor autonomous. Rather, their identities are always interrelated with those of other genres, so that contrast and combination are a key feature of the way genres develop and change” (Phillips 2003, 212). It is time to make use of Genette’s assumption that one genre consists of different (alter-)generic ‘modes’ (cf. Sect. 2.3, 3.1, 3.3). Fourthly and finally, in the age of transgeneric narratology and its heuristic potential, one not only can (cf., e.g., A. Nünning and Schwanecke 2015) but even has to abandon the idea that “it is the story dimension of drama, at best, that admits of narratological analysis” (Jahn 2001, 667).17

16 Cf. the meta-study by Matthias Brütsch (2013), in which he summarises, categorises, and problematises the most important positions on the subject. 17 Manfred Jahn refers to Gérard Genette here, who seems, according to Jahn, to reinforce the importance of story narratology; with his article, Jahn directly contradicts Genette, emphasising the need for a discourse narratology.


2 Rising Action: Towards a Narratology of Drama

Besides the question of ‘what stories are told?’ in drama, it can be and should be asked ‘how are these stories told?’ or ‘how can they be told?’ in drama and with dramatic means.18 In consequence, drama has to be reframed (cf. Fig. 5) as a highly instable and variable category. Across all times and cultures, however, it can be framed, like others (cf. Sect. 3.1), as a genre that is ‘multi-modal’ or ‘multi-generic.’ It consists, besides its dominant dramatic modes (that is, features that are traditionally regarded as defining of the genre of drama and trigger its mental actualisation), among them dialogue or the chorus (cf. Fig. 12), also of characteristics that trigger the actualisation of other genres. Individual plays, as such, can entail modes traditionally linked to narrative or poetry and thus potentially trigger the actualisation of these genres in recipients’ minds (cf. Fig. 8–10). Due to multi-modal latencies like these, drama can, upon their actualisation, be perceived as multi-generic and also, especially relevant in the context of this study, as narrative. In some of its concrete instances, it is even perceived as highly narrative (cf. this study’s Part II). It can be narrative in different respects (one has to consider the numerous semantic dimensions of ‘narrative’ and ‘narrativity’), on various levels (one has to take into account the manifold aspects of Gymnich and Neumann’s compound term model, including especially cognitive aspects), and to various degrees (one has to take seriously the insights of transgeneric narratology and further develop them). The degree of a drama’s narrativity hinges on the quality, quantity, and salience of the narrative features it displays, on the one hand, and on the grades of dramatic and theatrical qualities it features, on the other. Given a certain quality, quantity, and salience of narrative features (and sometimes even a concurrent reduction of dramatic ones), drama can appear highly narrative in its quality. Drama, therefore, has to be taken seriously as a multi-modal genre and a potentially highly narrative one. What I term ‘dramatic narration’ can be gainfully examined narratologically both on its story level and its discourse level. In this study, I conceptualise and examine ‘dramatic narration,’ that is, the basic ways in which playwrights have presented their plots with dramatic means. While the term ‘narration’ itself has been used in many senses – some of them narrow, some of them broad –,19 I am in favour of using it in an

18 Irina Rajewsky poses similar questions, albeit in a slightly different context (cf. 2007, 37). 19 H. Porter Abbott (2008) alone distinguishes four basic ways in which narration has been defined. One way of classifying narration presupposes a verbal act (‘verbal narration’); one is based on the use of a certain tense (‘past simple’); one centres on the presence of an anthropomorphic speaker (‘storyteller’); and another one is a transmedial, broad concept, comparable to what has been termed ‘narrative discourse.’

2.2 Drawing the Consequences of the ‘Instability’ of Genre in General


Drama can be (preliminarily) reframed as – – –

– –

a historically and culturally variable concept always a multi-modal genre (consisting of many alter-generic modes), albeit in different respects and instances always potentially narrative (in some emanations even highly narrative) depending on a certain quality, quantity, and salience of narrative features (and sometimes even a concurrent reduction of dramatic features; cf. Sect. 3.1) an entity whose potential narrativity concerns, in principle, all four levels of the genre distinguished by Gymnich and Neumann a play and its specific ‘dramatic narration’ can be rewardingly analysed and interpreted with the means of (transgeneric) narratology on both its story level and its discourse level (cf. esp. Sect. 3.3)

Fig. 5: Drama preliminarily reframed (to be continued in Sect. 3.1 and 3.2).

abstract, broad, transgenerically applicable way (cf. Sect. 3.3). Unless marked otherwise, I am not referring to a diegetic act, i.e., the act of someone, a narrator figure, telling a story, of verbally transmitting it. I am not referring to any category that is exclusively tied to narrative genres. Rather, as the prefix ‘dramatic’ in ‘dramatic narration’ or ‘dramatic storytelling’ signals, I am framing ‘narration’ as a broad, transgeneric concept, tied neither to any anthropomorphic beings and their utterances nor to a particular genre. ‘Dramatic narration’ is derived from a concept adapted from film studies: In his influential work Narration in the Fiction Film, David Bordwell (cf. 2014 [1985], esp. 27–47) frames narration as all elements of a film, verbal and non-verbal, that in their particular combination constitute the film’s meaning. In analogy to Bordwell’s conceptualisation of ‘filmic narration,’ I would like to understand ‘dramatic narration’ as all that which defines or constitutes a play – on both its level of story and its discourse. After all, as Monika Fludernik points out, the discourse vs. story distinction is fundamental to the drama, too, and in the wake of narratology one has to remind oneself that, actually, Aristotle’s model set out to discuss Greek drama and not narrative. Thus, paradoxically, narratology has taken its origin from a text of drama criticism, but this foundational frame has been repressed so successfully that drama has now frequently come to occupy the position of narratology’s nonnarrative Other. (Fludernik 2010 [1996], 333)

H. Porter Abbott (2008) alone distinguishes four basic ways in which narration has been defined. One way of classifying narration presupposes a verbal act (‘verbal narration’); one is based on the use of a certain tense (‘past simple’); one centres on the presence of an anthropomorphic speaker (‘storyteller’); and another one is a transmedial, broad concept, comparable to what has been termed ‘narrative discourse.’


2 Rising Action: Towards a Narratology of Drama

Against this backdrop, one has to emphasise that dramatic narration in general and any play in particular can be productively analysed with narratological means. Given the history of narratology, it is ignorant, highly reductive, and even grossly negligent to confine narratological analysis to drama’s story level. It is precisely, as Manfred Jahn argues, not just “the story dimension of drama [. . .] that admits of narratological analysis” (2001, 667). Examining plays and their idiosyncratic dramatic narration, one has ask both ‘which’ story is presented and ‘how’ it is presented, with which (dramatic or narrative) means it is constructed, and in which ways. To enquire into a play’s dramatic narration is to analyse its paradigmatic and syntagmatic arrangement, its story and its ‘discourse level,’20 independently of its grade of narrativity. Narratology, especially transgeneric narratology, is thus arguably a discipline from whose perspective plays that display a high grade of narrativity can be as meaningfully and fruitfully analysed as a play with a low grade of narrativity (but instead perhaps a greater dramatic quality or theatricality). This study, therefore, is part of that narratological scholarship that argues in favour of broadening the universe of narratological discourse (cf. Sect. 1.2, 3.3) to include what in pretransgeneric and pre-transmedial narratology, but also in contemporary handbooks for students,21 has been seen as the opposite of narratology’s ‘proper’ object of study: that is, drama and dramatic narration (Fig. 6). To illustrate: Starting from the ‘classical objects’ of narratology (as symbolised by the examples in the red boxes in Fig. 6), such as narrative text, narratology has become open to including transmedial ‘matters’ (as symbolised by the green boxes in Fig. 6), such as video game narratives, their stories, and their discourses. Now efforts have to intensify to theorise transgeneric objects of interest as well (as symbolised by the blue boxes in Fig. 6), especially drama and dramatic narration.

20 Cf. also Abbott (2008, 342), who draws a rough analogy between Bordwell’s concept and that which has been termed ‘narrative discourse’ in Anglo-American narratology. 21 Cf. Michael Meyer, in his definition of drama (and narrow conceptualisation of narration), equals narration to a ‘diegetic act’ and ignores the fact that all literary works display a certain kind of emplotment, that is, are somehow ‘framed’ or ‘mediated.’ Doing so, he puts dramatic and narrative texts in a seemingly implacable conceptual opposition to each other (2011 [2004], 114): “Drama shows characters interacting here and now and is therefore more immediate than narrative texts, in which a narrator tells a story.”

2.3 Intersections of Drama and Narrative in and around Drama

Traditional narratology

Narration in the novel

Story and discourse

Story and discourse

Short story narration

Narration in the epic Transmedial narratology

Story and discourse Video game narration

Narration in the fiction film

Transgeneric narratology


Poetry Narration

Story and discourse

Story and discourse

Story and discourse Narration in Story and a theatrical discourse performance

Dramatic narration in general

Story and discourse

Dramatic Story and narration discourse in plays (their scripts) with a high grade of narrativity Fig. 6: Transgeneric broadening of narratology towards objects that have tended to be and frequently still are ‘othered,’ such as ‘dramatic storytelling.’.

2.3 Intersections of Drama and Narrative in and around Drama: Placing and Characterising Them There are only three natural forms of poetry: [. . .] epic, lyric, and drama. These three modes of poetry can work together or separately. They can often be found jointly even in the shortest poem, [. . .] as we can notice clearly in the ballads of all nations. In early Greek tragedy we see all of them united as equals [. . .]. (Goethe 2010 [1827], 227; emphasis in original)

Before investigating the ways in which drama and narrative (as generic superconcepts in the form of mental schemata) have met in British drama history, one has to identify where, genre-theoretically and trans-historically, these concepts can meet. If one accepts the basic ‘impurity’ of genres (cf. Sect. 2.2, esp.


2 Rising Action: Towards a Narratology of Drama

Fig. 4), as illustrated by the introductory quote, ‘drama’ and ‘narrative’ can be found intertwined in and around any genre. They are joint in poetry; for instance, in the above-mentioned ballad or ‘dramatic monologues.’22 They are combined in narrative texts, such as Johann Wolfgang Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther (2012 [1774]), which displays a certain theatricality,23 or John O’Hara’s short story “Appearances” (1962), which most of the time reads like a play. And they are certainly united in drama (and not just in some Greek forms which Goethe references in the introductory quote). I therefore ask, ‘Where, in and around the genre of drama, do intersections of drama and narrative possibly exist?’ With Marion Gymnich and Birgit Neumann, I frame drama as a multi-dimensional genre (cf. Sect. 2.2, esp. Fig. 4), which is arguably best conceptualised as a compound of four different levels. On each of these levels, meetings of drama and narrative are possible. The first two are: (a) on the level of an individual play; in line with the premises of transgeneric narratology, both on a drama’s story and its discourse levels (cf. Sect. 2.2); and (b) on a contextual level; this level includes, firstly, the literary context in which the play was authored and/or produced (the system of genres and the literary theory or poetics at a certain time are of the essence); secondly, the level pertains to cultural and historical idiosyncrasies which shape a certain play (e.g., the circumstances of drama production, the politics and institutions related to playwriting, or other historical givens). The fact that intersections of narrative and drama are possible on these two levels is reflected in the structure of the literary historical sections (Sect. 4.1–8.3). Each section first presents a play in its narrative contexts24 before considering the meeting points of drama and narrative within it (i.e., the play’s ‘textinternal narrativity’). The nexus of drama and narrative, which is inspired and determined by contextual matters and crystallises in an individual play or the whole oeuvre of 22 The generic status of the dramatic monologue has been widely discussed (cf., e.g., V. Nünning and A. Nünning 2007; Rohwer-Happe 2011). Usually, it is framed as a sub-genre of poetry that displays both dramatic and narrative features (cf., e.g., Glennis Byron 2003). 23 Martin Huber reads this epistolary novel as a ‘theatrical text’ (cf. 2003, 100–130). 24 In early modern times, it is perhaps the wish to revise national historiography that makes playwrights’ explorations of ties between drama and narrative likely (cf. Sect 4.1). In the Restoration, it is arguably John Dryden’s transgeneric poetics that foster the intertwinement of the two genres (cf. Sect. 5.1). And in Romanticism, it is perhaps the genre-transcending desire to create a ‘progressive universal poetry’ that invites meetings of drama and narrative in different respects (cf. Ch. 6.3).

2.3 Intersections of Drama and Narrative in and around Drama


a playwright, also exists on the other levels of drama distinguished by Gymnich and Neumann, that is, (c) on a cognitive level, where individuals actualise triggers of narrativity and dramatic quality within a play; and (d) on the level of possible effects and potential functions of a play’s composition. This study accounts for level (c) by not only distinguishing structures of narrative and narrativity in drama in the analysis chapters, but also by always attempting to demonstrate how these structures may function as potential triggers of narrativity in recipients’ minds.25 Given the evidence abstracted from my considerations of levels (a) and (b), however, one can assume that a certain mental schema in its specific, historical shape was possibly or likely applied as a result of certain historical, textual triggers. To integrate level (d), possible effects and potential functions of certain structures will always be deliberated. To be sure, there will never be a simple, unifying ‘form to function’ mapping. But I will ask how the manifold culturally and historically shaped meeting points of drama and narrative in selected plays respond to, cater to, or oppose the historical requirements and expectations of the historical individual agents and social institutions taking part in the production and reception of these plays (cf. Sect. 4.4, 5.4, 6.4, sic passim). In other words, based on textual and contextual evidence, I ask which textual effect(s) or function(s) are or were historically possible, are or were historically likely to occur, and maybe even are or were historically more likely to occur than others (in historical recipients’ minds, upon their reading or watching a given play). I try to abstract which potential cultural, social, historical, or political functions certain narrative forms or structures fulfilled or were likely to fulfil within any given play (cf. esp. Sect. 3.4). Having sketched out the possible intersections of drama and narrative within drama, it remains necessary to outline their general character. This character seems paradoxical in that it is arguably both universal and specific. It is a basic hypothesis of this study that drama and narrative tend to intersect on all four levels of the compound ‘drama’ across all times and cultures (albeit to different degrees; cf. Sect. 3.1). In other words, that drama and narrative are intertwined

25 I deliberately formulate this carefully, using the modal ‘may’ and the adjective ‘potential.’ I am quite aware of, firstly, the problematic gap between res gestae and historiae rerum gestarum (cf. Sect. 2.1) and, secondly, the impossibility of deducing an individual’s response, possible and actual diachronic responses, or even the multitude of different responses to one and the same form by several recipients on the basis of the given textual evidence (plays, criticism, authorial para-texts, etc.).


2 Rising Action: Towards a Narratology of Drama

within the plurimedial (cf. Pfister 1993 [1991], 6), multi-generic, or multi-modal genre26 of drama seems a trans-cultural and trans-historical given.27 If the intertwinement of narrative and drama within drama is regarded as universal, one can deal with much more interesting questions: For instance, in which ways do narrative and drama intersect within plays from different literary periods? Are the forms and shapes of these meeting points synchronically heterogeneous or homogenous? Are there any specific emanations of drama-narrative connections in certain subgenres of drama within one or certain periods? Diachronically speaking, are there any recurring patterns of meetings between drama and narrative within British drama history? If so, where (on which level of the compound), when, and why? Keeping the paradoxical character of the nexus of drama and narrative within plays in mind (namely, its universality, on the one hand, and its specificity, on the other), I hope to be able to fully examine, gauge, and assess the junctions’ concrete shapes, general character, and levels of accomplishment across British drama history.

26 For a definition of ‘multi-generic’ see Sect. 2.2, where I explicate that plays can entail altergeneric modes (i.e., alter-generic features) and multiple alter-generic modes (i.e., it is multimodal), which – upon their realisation – show that drama is, in principle, multi-generic. 27 Part II of this study shows that this is the case in British drama history. The assumption of the transnational occurrence of the intersection of drama and narrative has been, at least to start with, substantiated by narratologists’ analyses of German drama (cf. Korthals 2003; Muny 2008), ancient Greek drama (cf. de Jong 1991), and Spanish meta-drama (cf. Jensen 2007). There still remains a lacuna to be filled for the study of drama in other European and non-European literary studies, as well as in comparative studies (cf. also Sect. 9.3).

3 Suggestions for a Peripeteia in Drama and Narrative Theory: A Culturally Sensitive Narratology of Drama and Dramatic Narration The following chapter seeks to lay the foundation for a peripeteia in drama and narrative theory. Firstly, it allows for an examination of two spheres conventionally considered to be divided by an unbridgeable chasm, “a contradiction in terms” (Tönnies and Flotmann 2011a, 9), or an “insurmountable opposition” (Genette 1988 [1983], 41): drama and narrative. Secondly, it proposes a narratology of drama that can be used to examine plays beyond their intersections with narrative, as well as beyond the realm of English drama history. Lyrical and documentary matters, for instance, can become the focus of attention, as can transgeneric matters, such as meta-reference, unreliability, affective and cognitive structures, or seriality – and this, hopefully, also in other national literatures and contexts (cf. also Sect. 9.3). Thirdly, the rather formalist narratological approach to narrativity in drama is framed in a culturally sensitive manner and in the awareness that “it is high time that narratologists made more sustained efforts to contextualize the texts that they subject to such close scrutiny” (A. Nünning 2009b, 65). For the sake of theory-building, we have so far assumed that drama and narrative modes do meet in drama in general and in individual plays in particular. The conceptualisations of drama and narrative that underlie this assumption have, however, yet to be specified. Moreover, we have not yet explained how these concepts meet and how this can be intersubjectively proven in individual plays. This section thus firstly collects, brings together, and develops basic concepts (‘drama’ and ‘narrative’ as well as ‘narrativity’ and ‘dramatic quality’) in a way that enables literary and genre studies to account for plays that – to different degrees – display a heightened degree of narrativity (cf. Sect. 3.1). Secondly, it dissects the palimpsestic polysemy that the synchronic and diachronic histories of the cognitive concepts of ‘narrative’ and ‘drama,’ as well as their semantic fields, have brought about, and maps the semantic dimensions of these concepts (cf. Sect. 3.2). After this, it becomes necessary to construct frameworks for analysing plays which thematise narratives and matters of narrativity, i.e., plays that feature references to both to the system of narrative literature at large (e.g., narrativity as a general quality of literature or certain narrative genres in particular) and to certain narrative texts (e.g., particular fictional narratives or the actual biographies of historical figures). This framework should also help to account https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110724110-003


3 Suggestions for a Peripeteia in Drama and Narrative Theory

for structural and discursive ‘infiltrations’ of drama by narrative techniques and modes (cf. Sect. 3.3). This framework hopefully goes beyond facilitating the study of narrative in drama; ideally, it will be a ‘narratology of drama’ that enables the examination of any drama – independently of its degree of its narrativity – with narratological means (e.g., to further the understanding of other alter-generic modes in drama, such as lyrical or descriptive modes; to further conceptualise unreliability in drama; or to theorise the mechanisms of metareference in plays). Since this study puts forth the hypothesis that the interconnections between drama and narrative are manifold – both within single texts, but also, and much more difficult to tackle, text-externally, that is, within their larger cultural and literary historical contexts – there is the need to gauge the dynamics between dramatic and narrative forms in plays, on the one hand, and between the plays and the culture in which they emerged and were originally received, on the other. This is why a case is made for a culturally sensitive approach to the otherwise formalist endeavour of designing a narratology of drama and analysing plays with it (cf. Sect. 3.4).

3.1 Four Basic Concepts at the Heart of the Intersection(s) of Drama and Narrative: Framing ‘Drama’ and ‘Narrative’ as Cognitive Schemata and as Modes; ‘Narrativity’ and ‘Dramatic Quality’ as Transgeneric Qualities of Difference To make transparent the basic meanings that underlie the following theses and conceptualisations at the intersection of drama and narrative (within dramatic narration), I will define four central objects considered in this study: drama, narrative, narrativity, and dramatic quality.1 All of these will be framed with the help of transgeneric narratology and cognitive genre theory. The latter helps especially to account for the instability of genre and to fruitfully work with it. The core concepts of this study, ‘drama’ and ‘narrative,’ have been used, in genre history and theory, as diversely as it gets.2 Here, they are primarily

1 These definitions are constructed in the full awareness of the disputability and drawbacks of theory building (cf. Sect. 2.1) and in an attempt to take into account and better work with the instability of genres and generic concepts in general (cf. Sect. 2.2) and the generic volatility at the nexus of drama and narrative in particular (cf. Sect. 2.3). 2 Concise overviews on the heterogeneous concepts of ‘narrative,’ ‘narration,’ and ‘narrativity’ as well as different approaches to these subject matters can be found in, for instance, MarieLaure Ryan (2008b), H. Porter Abbott (2008), and Gerald Prince (2008), respectively. Concise

3.1 Four Basic Concepts at the Heart of the Intersection(s) of Drama and Narrative


conceptualised in two ways: (1) as genres and cognitive schemata, and (2) as transgeneric discursive modes that trigger the actualisation of these schemata.3 Concerning (1): Drama and narrative, as genres, are defined in terms of cognitive information processing. For their conceptualisation, I build on the ground-breaking research that cognitive psychologists (cf. Rumelhart 1980), frame theorists (cf. Goffman 1976), transmedial narratologists (cf. Wolf 2002, 2011, 2017; Hallet 2007) and transgeneric narratologists (cf. A. Nünning and Sommer 2002, 2011; Fludernik 2008) have provided with regard to ‘cognitive frames/schemata’ and ‘narrative.’ I apply their findings transgenerically and use them to define drama and explain the mechanisms of cognitively processing plays. If the above theories can indeed be applied transmedially and -generically, then what Werner Wolf states for narrative must also count for drama: Drawing on [. . .] [frame] theory, narrative can be considered a cognitive frame (or schema), that is, a conceptual complex which allows us to decode certain individual phenomena as pertaining to this frame and to integrate them into a meaningful whole. This frame is distinct from other related frames [. . .]. (Wolf 2017, 258)

As ‘mental schemata,’4 drama and narrative can be framed as conceptual categories of genre knowledge. This knowledge is culturally acquired and mentally stored, and refers to what people of a given culture in a certain historical period conventionally and dominantly think is a prototypical drama or narrative. The cognitive images of ‘drama’ and ‘narrative’ are abstract entities. They are higher-level storage spaces into which concrete, experience-based knowledge of what is drama and what is narrative is fed and against which concrete plays are mapped upon reception. The mental schemata of genre, i.e., the knowledge of drama and narrative, are drawn upon and potentially actualised by people when they process a play and respond to one (or more) concrete textual or performative stimulus (or stimuli) within it.

overviews of what has been regarded as drama can be found, for instance, in William B. Worthen (2003a) or Erika Fischer-Lichte (2005b). 3 I am slightly contradicting Mieke Bal here, who states that, to her, “narrative is a mode, not a genre. [. . .] It constitutes a major reservoir of the cultural baggage that enables us to make meaning out of a chaotic world and the incomprehensible events taking place in it.” (2009, 16) In my opinion, it has to be framed as both, a genre and a mode, depending on one’s perspective and heuristic interest. 4 In cognitive and transmedial narratology, concepts related to ‘mental schema’ abound, which are sometimes used synonymously, sometimes differently. Cases in point are “cognitive frames” (e.g., Wolf 2017, 258–265), “preference rule systems” (e.g., D. Herman 2004 [2002], 11), and even “scripts” (cf., e.g., Hartner 2013, 165, fn. 7). For the purpose of this study, distinctions between these categories are not deemed necessary. This is why the terms will be used interchangeably.


3 Suggestions for a Peripeteia in Drama and Narrative Theory

While drama is understood as a mental abstraction of genre, the concept of ‘play’ is understood as a concrete artefact. It is regarded as one possible realisation of the abstract entity ‘drama’.5 Consequently, I use ‘play’ and ‘drama’ in accordance with the British tradition of English literary studies (cf., e.g., Stern 2009, 2010). ‘Drama’ is predominantly applied whenever the genre, as an abstract mental category, is meant;6 ‘play’ is mainly used when a concrete dramatic work, say, Aphra Behn’s The Rover (1677) or debbie tucker green’s stoning mary (2005), is referred to.7 As this study’s Part II attempts to show, when conceptualising the genres of narrative and drama as ‘mental schemata,’ one must, firstly, deal with the genres’ essential ‘two-facedness’ (cf. Sect. 2.2), i.e., their relative stability and their cultural and historical variation. After all, “the schema concept [. . .] offers a flexible structure that links knowledge to creativity [and, thus, relative stability to historical change and cultural variation]” (Sinding 2012, 153). To frame drama and narrative as schemata will help, secondly, to consider the genres as a whole but all the micro-aspects of narrative and drama as multi-layered ‘compounds’ (e.g., their individual features, their typical modes, or their intersections). That is, the information structure of genre as a schema (i.e., its microstructure; cf. Steen 1999) is as multi-dimensional as Gymnich and Neumann’s conceptualisation of it as a whole (i.e., its macro-structure; cf. Gymnich and B. Neumann 2007 and Sect. 2.2–2.3); therefore the aforementioned information structure can be captured with the compound-conceptualisation, too. Thirdly, one will be able to explain how a play can be experienced and understood as narrative, while a narrative can appear like a drama (cf. Prologue in this volume).8 Finally, schemata are conventionally regarded as conceptual ensembles that are not necessarily dependant on any specific medial and generic materiality

5 The default relationship between drama and play, as it is framed here, is similar to the default relationship between narrative as an abstract concept of the genre and its concrete realisation in, for instance, a nineteenth-century fairy tale like “Little Red Riding Hood” or a twentieth-century short story like Katherine Mansfield’s “Miss Brill”. 6 As the term ‘predominantly’ implies, ‘drama’ is, at times, also used interchangeably with ‘play,’ when a concrete dramatic work is referenced. This study acknowledges and makes use of this possible application of the noun ‘drama,’ too. 7 With the exception of sub-genres of drama that in their generic title, too, contain phrases like ‘play’ and ‘theatre,’ such as ‘in-yer-face theatre’ (cf., e.g., Sierz 2001) or ‘memory plays’ (cf., e.g., A. Nünning and Baumbach 2011). 8 Solution to ‘Genre Quiz’ (cf. Prologue in this volume): Text excerpt one (Fig. 1), which arguably appears dramatic, is taken from Jane Gardam’s novel The Man in the Wooden Hat (2014 [2009]); text excerpt two (Fig. 2), which is likely to be perceived as narrative, is taken from J. M. Barrie’s play What Every Woman Knows (2008 [1908]).

3.1 Four Basic Concepts at the Heart of the Intersection(s) of Drama and Narrative


and, as such, can be and are transgenerically employed to navigate processes of (literary) communication, determine interpretation, and guide expectation (cf. Wolf 2002, 29). Concerning (2): One would not be able to come to terms with drama and narrative if one understood them exclusively as matter-free concepts. Quite on the contrary, cognitive schemata can only be abstracted on the basis of a previous knowledge of the genres’ material emanations in texts. That is, mental schemata of genres can only be generated by people or groups of people who have experienced drama and narrative’s typical realisation in concrete texts. Only if concrete (groups of) texts are processed can certain more or less prototypical features be abstracted and fed into mental schemata, against which, in return, other concrete examples of narrative and drama are matched. The concrete realisations of genre, here, drama and narrative will be framed as ‘modes’ of expression,9 on the one hand, and genre-specific features, on the other. These may serve as stimuli and triggers of the genre in which they originated. On ‘modes:’10 If one understands ‘mode’ as a “form or manner of expression” (cf. Schwanecke 2015, 267), one can conceptualise ‘narrative modes’ and ‘dramatic modes’ as syntactic or discursive strategies and styles11 that are conventionally regarded as typical of the respective genre. There is, for instance, the 9 Werner Wolf calls them ‘discursive modes’ (cf. 2002, esp. 40–41). Due to discourse’s polysemy, of which Wolf is also aware (cf. 2002, 40, fn. 39), I prefer to speak of modes of expression, a term which arguably lacks this polysemy and is broad enough to accommodate dramatic and narrative ways and styles of presentation. The problem of polysemy, however, cannot be circumvented, when it comes to using ‘mode’ as a core concept. I am aware of its ambivalent, even dichotomous usage in the history of genre theory: Plato uses ‘mode’ in a different way than Aristotle (cf. Ryan 2008a, 315); Genette applies mode even in two ways (cf. 1988 [1983], 41–43); and newer research in multi-modal narratology does it in yet another, a semiotic sense (cf. Hallet 2015b). Nevertheless, I deem it, following Wolf, to be the best term that helps surmounting what has been called “the truly insurmountable opposition between dramatic representation and narrative” (Genette 1988 [1983], 41). 10 Explaining my use of ‘mode’ and distinguishing it from other academic uses of it, I would like to point out the term’s notorious polysemy. In the history of literary theory, it is used in many different ways, even in ‘classical narratology.’ Here, it distinguishes, for instance, between a diegetic and a mimetic mode of communication but also between certain ways of storytelling in a novel (Franz K. Stanzel, [1979] 2008, introduces ‘narrative modes’ such as “berichtende Erzählung” or “szenische Darstellung”). It is applied in yet another way in current theories of multi-modality, which differentiate between various ‘medial’ modes in literature (cf., e.g., Hallet 2015b, who discusses ‘pictorial modes’ in narrative fiction). 11 Here, ‘discursive’ is linked to the ‘discourse level,’ as opposed to the ‘story level’ of a play. That is, these modes are employed on the level of dramatic discourse, by way of dramatic narration (cf. Sect. 2.2, Fig. 6). ‘Syntactic,’ in addition, indicates that a play’s structural level is referred to, rather than its semantic-content level.


3 Suggestions for a Peripeteia in Drama and Narrative Theory

narrative-specific diegetic mode (e.g., what Roy Sommer and Ansgar Nünning have termed “diegetic narrativity”; cf. A. Nünning and Sommer 2008) as opposed to mimetic modes of expression, which are conventionally tied to drama (e.g., “mimetic narrativity”; cf. A. Nünning and Sommer 2008). These genre-specific modes can, however, be applied independently from their generic sources and be employed and actualised transgenerically (cf. A. Nünning and Sommer 2008 and, e.g., Wolf 2002, 40–41). On ‘features:’ Besides these genre-specific modes of expression, there are features or characteristics that define a genre or are typical of it, and that may serve as stimuli or triggers that actualise the respective mental schema. Homodiegetic narrators, for instance, in narrative texts, and dialogue in dramatic ones; forewords in novels and prologues in plays; or epic qualities in narrative texts and theatrical qualities in dramatic ones. The existence of genre-specific modes and features, which are always transgenerically applicable, has the following implications for the present study on the intersections of drama and narrative within drama: Any play can potentially display, besides its default mode (i.e., the dramatic mode), modes that either originated in other genres and/or are conventionally tied to them. Besides conventionally dramatic features, it can entail narrative ones. Conventions developed in the Gothic novel (a narrative genre), for instance, which are even today predominantly linked to narrative as a mental schema, can be used to play with (schemata of) genres within a dramatic work. Gothic modes and features can be increasingly employed in a play to change mental frames of reception: what originally started as a realist play is turned into a Gothic tale (cf., e.g., Sect. 6.2). A play that, by way of its discourse, employs and highlights a lot of narrative modes, is likely to be, in analogy to the cognitive processing formula “seeing X as Y” (Jahn 2008, 67), regarded as dominantly narrative. Differently put, narrative modes in plays (given a certain quality, quantity, and salience, and given certain ways in which they are combined with other modes) potentially trigger the actualisation of the mental schema of ‘narrative’ in the mind of receiving readers or audiences, even if plays are conventionally categorised (and understood) as belonging to the generic category of drama. What is traditionally regarded as narrative mode (such as a narrator’s framing of a diegetic level) can be employed in a play (a narrative instance’s framing of a play’s diegetic level in the form of generative narrators like Gower in Shakespeare and Wilkins’ Pericles; cf. Sect. 4.3). Furthermore, this mode can be even combined with modes conventionally regarded as dramatic (e.g., dialogue) in a play and thus, develop new and fascinating genre-indeterminate modes of expression (as in the dialogic generative frame of John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera; cf., e.g., Sect. 5.3).

3.1 Four Basic Concepts at the Heart of the Intersection(s) of Drama and Narrative


What is more, narrative modes and features can be even employed in such a way – both in dramatic narration and on a play’s story level – that they come to outweigh dramatic ones: the latter diminish while the former, at the same time, accrue. When there is, for example, a reduction of dialogue in favour of monologue and the cut of action in favour of diegetic (sensu verbal) acts, as in Richard Cumberland’s The West Indian (cf. Sect. 6.1), the narrative frame is, upon the play’s reception, likely to be much more often actualised than the dramatic one. In this way (and others to be examined in Part II), narrative framings can be foregrounded even in a play – a concrete instance of a genre that has been traditionally believed to consist predominantly of dramatic modes and qualities. That is, for plays, a dominance of dramatic modes and features is typical. Yet, equally typical but less frequently acknowledged is the fact that modes and features of other genres can and do occur in drama. Non-dramatic modes can become dominant or visible to various degrees depending on their quality, quantity, and salience. ‘Narrativity’ and ‘dramatic quality’ are, accordingly, understood both as qualities of difference and as a latent potential that is inherent in certain genres or concrete (parts of) texts and that awaits its realisation there (cf. Wolf 2002, 42; see Fig. 7). They are characteristics of ‘narrative’ and ‘drama,’ respectively, that distinguish them from other qualities of difference, e.g., non-narrative or non-dramatic ones, like descriptive, argumentative, or poetic qualities. Like narrativity, dramatic quality is a gradable category (cf. Wolf 2002, 42, A. Nünning and Sommer 2008, 333–336, 2011, 207–208). Given a large quantity and/or a striking quality of dramatic modes and given a certain degree of their salience, dramatic modes present in any text (even a narrative one) are likely to become visible or even dominant. They might make a text appear ‘dramatic’ to different degree. Like dramatic and narrative modes or features, narrativity and dramatic quality are, in principle, transgeneric and can be actualised in any genre and medium. In consequence, the highlighting of narrative modes and features in a play, as well as their perceived dominance, might make it “more prototypically narrative-like, more immediately identified, processed, and interpreted as narrative” (Prince 2008, 387; cf. also Prince 1996). To sum up, if one defines narrative as a cognitive schema and narrativity as a gradable quality of narrative (as has been done in transmedial and transgeneric narratology; cf. above) that can be mentally actualised in any genre, one has to acknowledge that not only narrative matters can be potentially framed cognitively and regarded as transgeneric categories; drama, too, can be approached from a cognitive and transgeneric point of view (see Fig. 7). If one frames narrative as a cognitive schema, one has, in analogy, to conceptualise ‘drama,’ i.e., what has been conventionally held ‘drama-like,’ as a cognitive schema, too. Thus, drama is also a mental category in which genre knowledge is stored.


3 Suggestions for a Peripeteia in Drama and Narrative Theory

Four Basic Concepts at the Heart of the Intersection(s) of Drama and Narrative Drama and narrative as genres

• • • • •

Drama and narrative as modes and features

• • •

Narrativity and dramatic quality

• •

• • •

mental schemata abstract representations of genre conceptual genre knowledge, culturally acquired and mentally stored drawn upon and potentially actualised by people when they process a play and they respond to one (or more) concrete textual or performative stimulus (or stimuli) within it [concrete, conventional manifestations of mental schema of drama as play; concrete, conventional materialisations of mental schema of narrative as narrative text, e.g., fairy tale, short story, novel, and the like] concrete realisations of genre on different textual levels root in generic-specific tradition, but can be transgenerically applied textual stimuli that potentially trigger the application of the mental schema they have been traditionally tied to (given a certain quantity, quality, and salience) and can be intersubjectively traced qualities of difference latent potential inherent in certain genres or concrete (parts of) texts, awaiting its realisation there upon reception and the processing of specific stimuli (modes and features of a generic schema) traditionally related to a specific genre transgenerically applicable and recognisable gradable

Fig. 7: Drama and narrative and their intersections reframed.

Looking for dramatic features and modes in a play, one can abstract what is perceived as drama-like in a given culture and period of history. The presence and dominance of dramatic modes and features is responsible for recipients’ detecting, processing, and realising a dramatic quality in any given play – but potentially also in other genres and media. They trigger the processing and characterisation of a given play as ‘somehow’ belonging to the genre of ‘drama’ and actualise the respective mental schema. Analogously, when examining narrative features and modes in a play, one can also abstract what is perceived as narrative-like in a given culture and period of history. The presence and dominance of narrative modes and features is responsible for people detecting, processing, and realising narrativity in any given play. They trigger the processing and characterisation of a given play as ‘somehow’ belonging to the genre of ‘narrative’ and actualise the respective mental schema. If one conceptualises the present matters in this way, one is able to solve, at least initially, the riddle of how a novel or short story that is, in principle, counted among narrative genres, can actually display some ‘dramatic quality;’ and how a play, generally counted as ‘drama,’ features a certain degree of


3.1 Four Basic Concepts at the Heart of the Intersection(s) of Drama and Narrative

narrativity (cf. Prologue in this volume).12 Given a certain quantity, quality, and salience of triggers of ‘the narrative’ as mental schema, the schema is likely to be actualised even in an (non-)verbal artefact traditionally framed as belonging to another genre. A particular play, therefore, may contain features and modes of both ‘the narrative’ and ‘the dramatic’ (cf. Fig. 8–10). It may even contain additional features which potentially actualise poetic mental schemas (as, potentially, in Romantic verse drama; cf. e.g., Sect. 6.2 or Sect. 6.3), or which actualise schemata or qualities of difference that have been, in literary history, associated with drama, e.g., theatricality or performativity. Given a certain proportion and relation within a play of genre-specific modes and features of a different kind, these modes and features may trigger the application of the mental schema of ‘narrative’ and/or ‘drama.’ Consequently, the play is, in its entirety or in parts, experienced as ‘dramatic’ (Fig. 8), ‘less dramatic and more narrative’ (Fig. 9), or ‘generically hybrid or indeterminate’ (Fig. 10). Play with hardly any features/modes triggering the application of the narrative (‘FN’), which leaves the play’s conventional dramatic quality intact Vertical axis of textual levels

FD FD FD FD FD FD FD FD FD FD FD FD FN FN FD FD FD FD FD FD FD FD FD FN FD FD FD FD FD FN FD FD FD FD FD Horizontal axis of successive chapters or acts and scenes




Fig. 8: Schematic depiction of an assumed play that displays almost exclusively features of the dramatic (‘FD,’ blue). It is likely to be experienced as of solely dramatic quality.

Both dramatic and narrative modes and features can concur in a play, competing, blending into, paralleling, or working with each other. With the appropriate narratological framework, which is to be established in the subsequent sections, a play that is experienced as less dramatic and more narrative than others (or more narrative than one would conventionally expect) becomes not only a subjective impression or a hunch that can be rationalised, if at all, at best by way of metaphor. Rather, it can be cognitively explained, thanks to the

12 Holger Korthals (2003) comprehensively considers this conceptual ‘interspace’ between drama and narration, too. In contrast to the present study, he illuminates narrative and dramatic overlaps not by way of cognitive and transgeneric narratology, but largely by adopting Genette’s theorems.


3 Suggestions for a Peripeteia in Drama and Narrative Theory

Play with many features/modes triggering the application of the narrative (‘FN’), which is likely to enhance its narrativit y in a recipient’s mind at the expense of its dramatic quality Vertical axis of different textual levels

FD FD FD FD FD FD FN FD FD FD FD FD FN FN FD FD FD FD FN FN FN FD FD FN FN FN FN FN FD FN FN FN FN FN FN Horizontal axis of successive chapters or acts and scenes




Fig. 9: Schematic depiction of an assumed play that displays some features of the dramatic (‘FD,’ blue), but more features of the narrative (‘FN,’ red). It is likely to be experienced as both dramatic and narrative. Yet, as the colour ratio indicates, since the play’s dramatic quality is reduced in favour of its narrativity, it is probably experienced as more narrative than dramatic. E.g., Joanna Baillie’s Orra (cf. Sect. 6.2).

Play with many features/modes of different generic provenance that might trigger alternating applications of different mental schemas or cause generic indeterminacy Vertical axis of different textual levels

FD FD FD FN FD FD TF TF TF TF TF Fd FN FN PF PF PF FD FN TF FN FD FD FN TF FN FN TF FD FN FN PF PF PF PF Horizontal axis of successive chapters or acts and scenes




Fig. 10: Schematic depiction of an assumed play that displays some features of the dramatic (‘FD,’ blue), the narrative (‘FN,’ red), the theatrical (‘TF,’ yellow), and the poetic (‘PF,’ green). It is likely to trigger constant generic revisions in a recipient’s mind, or a degree of generic indeterminacy. E.g., Lord Byron or debbie tucker green’s experiments in genre (cf. Sect. 6.3, 8.2).

distinction and identification of intersubjectively traceable and verifiable textual features or modes that ‘make’ a drama more or less dramatic or narrative. There is just one caveat to be added: My intention is not to even out generic differences between drama and narrative. Even if there are inferences between the two in and around the compound ‘drama,’ and even if a play incorporates alter-generic features or modes, drama – both as a mental schema and in the concrete shape of a play – remains distinct from other genres.13 Rather, I wish 13 For instance, in drama’s distinct use of dialogues and soliloquies, or, in its use of dramatraditional features, such as teichoscopy or choruses; cf. Sect. 3.2. For an overview of features that usually define drama in contrast to features that are conventionally linked to narrative see Fig. 11 and 12.

3.2 The Semantic Dimensions of ‘Narrative’ and ‘Drama’


to investigate the following questions: in which drama-specific ways are narrative modes integrated in one or more plays at a distinct time in English drama history? And to which ends and effects is this done? But before these questions are tackled in Part II, we must specify which culturally and historically variable modes of narrative can possibly be integrated and were integrated into plays in British drama history (cf. Sect. 3.2).

3.2 The Semantic Dimensions of ‘Narrative’ and ‘Drama’ as Modes and Features in Dramatic Storytelling If the stimuli that trigger an abstract ‘mental schema’ or ‘macro-frame’, be it narrative or drama (or other), are concrete, tangible, material, textual modes and features, they are as culturally and historically variable as the texts themselves in which they appear. The semantics of ‘narrative’ and ‘dramatic’ are, then, likely to be just as variable. This conceptual polysemy is not only a diachronic fact, but also a synchronic actuality.14 In the twenty-first century alone, and even in a single discipline such as narratology, multiple meanings of narrative have been conceptualised.15 The same holds true for drama: its meanings and the semantic field surrounding the concept are just as diverse and have been just as hotly debated.16 For this reason, this section asks what was, what is, and what possibly can be meant by ‘drama’ and ‘narrative’ in any given period in British drama history? In the endeavour to dissect the semantics of narrative and drama, one faces at least three challenges: (1) to trace not only the core meanings of drama and narrative, but also the connotations which possibly inform and colour these meanings; (2) to abstract meanings that most of the time remain implicit in the history of English drama (as res gestae and historiae rerum gestarum); (3) to disentangle the diachronic and synchronic polysemy of both drama and narrative and their respective semantic fields. None of this can be done exhaustively; selections and reductions in complexity are necessary.

14 Cf. the problematisation of ‘genre’s essential two-facedness’ in section 2.2. 15 Upon listing a large number of meanings and uses of ‘narrative’ in just one handbook article, Marie-Laure Ryan (2008b, 344) acknowledges a “semantic broadening” of narrative for the present time. Having researched the history of narrative in drama, I have to expand her observation: the concept of narrative and its semantics seem to have always been highly polysemous (cf. Part II). 16 Sketching drama’s literary history and trying to extract the essence of drama, Simon Shepherd and Mick Wallis (cf. 2010, esp. 15–34, 56–69) lay bare drama’s polysemy.


3 Suggestions for a Peripeteia in Drama and Narrative Theory

Regarding (1): To be able to identify the historically and culturally specific stimuli that trigger the historically and culturally variable cognitive schemata of narrative and drama, I trace the (historically changing) semantic dimensions of drama and narrative as exhaustively as possible. In addition, I explore the semantic fields that were likely to pertain to these concepts at the time, since, as a rule, any lexical set of semantically related items is likely to inform the period-specific meanings of drama and narrative.17 These semantically related items and concepts are likely to become absorbed into the main meanings of either narrative or drama and become more or less visible in the form of connotations, implications, or other kinds of semantic associations. Regarding (2): Especially the concept of narrative, from its origins in the Aristotelian/Platonic “Redekriterium”18 and its definitions in classical narratology to its discussions in transgeneric and transmedial narratology, has had a long history of ambiguity. I will attempt to make explicit what I mean by ‘narrative’ and ‘drama’ when I analyse the intersections of narrative and drama, and I will try to find out in which senses playwrights employed ‘narrative’ and ‘narrative modes and features’ in their plays. This becomes especially necessary in light of some of previous research that, for all I owe to it, too often fails to explicate which meanings of narrative it is investigating or that tend to use narrative in contemporary senses, neglecting to reconstruct possible historical semantic dimensions. Previous studies of connections of drama and narrative, as stimulating and as ground-breaking as they are, have so far tended to, firstly, not only implicitly equal ‘narrativity’ with ‘narrator,’ but also to reduce narrativity to this particular anthropomorphic instance (Genette 1990 [1972], 1988 [1983]). They have given the impression that a narrator or an implied author is a human agent who actually tells a story, when ‘the narrator’ is, in fact, nothing but a narratological concept and tool to explain and analyse how a story is emplotted, framed, or presented. In doing so, narratologists have linked ‘narrative’ to an assumed anthropomorphic instance and nearly exclusively researched concepts such as ‘voice’ (Jahn 2001; B. Richardson 2001, 2007) or ‘diegetic acts,’ 17 This is likely to happen by way of conceptual blending and conceptual inferences. For more on these mechanisms, see, e.g., Markus Hartner (2013, esp. 168–171), who modifies Gilles Fauconnier and Mark Turner’s original blending theory (cf. 2010 [2002]) by reducing it in some of its complexity. To the lexical set of semantically related items that often occur with narrative and which are semantically blended with it (and crystallise in connotations) belong, for instance, narration or narrativity, diegesis, the epic, etc.; to the semantic field surrounding drama, lexemes like theatre, performance, and others. 18 The definition of genres according to the “Redekriterium” roots in Aristotle’s distinction between the modes of ‘telling’ (Bericht) and ‘showing’ (Nachahmung; cf. Hempfer 2010, 39) and Plato’s question of ‘Who speaks in this literary genre?’ (Cf. Fricke 2010, 11).

3.2 The Semantic Dimensions of ‘Narrative’ and ‘Drama’


i.e., acts of storytelling (B. Richardson 1988; Hardy 1989, 1997). They have excluded manifold other stimulating instances of narrative in drama. Secondly, they have reinforced the word and verbal diction as primary constituents in narrative mediation, thus, arguably at least to some extent, neglecting their transmedial and transgeneric starting point and intention (Brandstetter 1999, 29; A. Nünning and Sommer 2006, 2008, 2011). Thirdly, they have largely blocked out all of the narrative categories beyond narrator figures and their diegetic acts which, too, can make any art narrative (e.g., markers of sub-genres, narrative styles, focalisation, semantisation of space and time, character depiction and constellation, plot patterns, experientiality). Fourthly, they have neglected to flesh out special dramatic strategies (and the strategies of any of drama’s sub-genres) which might make a play (or any other artefact) narrative, i.e., a carrier of narrative meaning, for instance, dialogue, scenic action, ‘dumb shows,’ or special narrative stage descriptions. Because of this vicious circle and ensuing terminological and conceptual inconsistencies and ambiguities, Irina Rajewsky (cf., e.g., Rajewsky 2007, 36) suggests distinguishing between narration in a ‘narrower sense,’ which, as in the work of Franz Stanzel, is related to verbal transmission (narration as diegesis, i.e., ‘erzählende Rede’),19 and narration in a ‘broader sense,’ which is the subject matter of transgeneric/-medial narratology.20 To be precise, one must concede that one better talk of the plural here, i.e., of broader ‘senses.’ There are, firstly, in the context of transgeneric narratologies many approaches which root in the concept of narration in a narrower sense and broaden this concept only a bit. Jahn (2001), for instance, detaches his conceptualisation of narration from classical narratology’s criterion of verbal transmission; however, he still defines ‘narration’ in terms of diegetic modes of communication (Mittelbarkeit/ mediacy). Secondly, there are cognitive (cf. Sect. 3.1) as well as transmedial and transgeneric narratologists, like Seymour Chatman (1990, 117), who frame narration as any transmission/representation of a story, independent of its medium or genre, but who still hold on to a differentiation between narration in a narrower

19 In consequence, narration in a ‘narrower sense’ links ‘narration’ to a narrator as source of narrative transmission. As classical narratology holds there is no narrating instance and verbal transmission in drama, the genre is categorised as ‘extra-narrative.’ 20 Even if it is the subject matter of transgeneric and transmedial narratology, narration in a ‘broader sense,’ which also maps drama, theatre, or film, has its roots in French narrative theory of the 1960s (e.g., with Roland Barthes’ Elements of Semiology ([1964] 1997), in which even ‘clothing’ is narratively read) and in Gérard Genette’s Narrative Discourse Revisited ([1983] 1988), in which the author clearly distinguishes between a (negligible) story narratology and an all-encompassing discourse narratology.


3 Suggestions for a Peripeteia in Drama and Narrative Theory

and a broader sense. They also retain a categorical difference between diegetic versus mimetic storytelling. Thirdly, there are transgeneric perspectives like those of Ansgar Nünning and Roy Sommer (2011), which ‘broaden’ the concept of narration even further by going beyond a categorical or oppositional distinction between mimesis and diegesis. Instead, they propose a scale of diegetic and mimetic kinds of narrativity. Their argument is the most interesting to me because they imply that all genres (and media) are, in principle, potentially narrative and because they show that dramatic storytelling takes many shapes between the poles of diegetic and mimetic storytelling as well as between narrative in a narrower and broader sense(s). This is why I would like to position my study close to Nünning and Sommer’s approach. As I show below, there is a scale between the two poles of ‘narration in a narrow sense’ and ‘narration in a broader sense’ and there is a multiplicity of forms between the poles of diegetic and mimetic storytelling in drama. I will describe these as exactly and as meticulously as possible (cf. Fig. 11, 12). Regarding (3): I will try to disentangle the polysemy of both drama and narrative and their respective semantic fields. Literary historical changes in genres and the system of genres have triggered changes in the semantics of narrative and drama, as well as in the semantic fields surrounding them: Arguably, Dryden’s interest in epics made some plots in his drama epic-like (cf. Sect. 5.1); with the rise of the novel in the eighteenth century, narrative came to be understood to mean ‘being like a novel’ (cf. Sect. 5.2). Cultural historical developments have contributed to semantic broadenings and changes: With the invention of the printing press, drama became, beyond being theatrical, readable; with the vanishing of the chorus, drama became dialogic; with the Theatre Licensing Act, playwrights became novelists and the same transgeneric features copped up, at the same time, within plays and novels, semantically as well as stylistically linking them (cf. Ch. 5; Sect. 5.2, 5.4); with changing materialities of theatre, what was written for those places and stages changed, i.e., notions of how drama should be changed (cf. Ch. 6; Sect. 6.2, 6.4); and so on. With points (1) to (3) in mind, I will, with regard to narrative as cognitive macro-frame, try to capture a semantic field that expands between narrative’s broader and narrower senses (sensu Rajewsky 2007), even if this field is comparable to nothing less than a black hole. I hold that, in its semantics, ‘narrative’ is theoretically infinite; with time, changing culture, and alterations in literary res gestae, it absorbs ever more meanings of lexemes and concepts related to it; it thus seems, in its polysemy, ever-broadening and -expanding. The same holds true for the generic compound ‘drama.’ This is why I try, with my diagrams below (cf. Fig. 11 and 12), to approximate these historically variable and ever-expanding semantic fields, even in spite of the knowledge that they can never be fully and exhaustively captured. From a twenty-first-century vantage

3.2 The Semantic Dimensions of ‘Narrative’ and ‘Drama’


point and on the basis of historical evidence (the plays, authorial para-texts, authorial poetics, historical and contemporary criticism, as well as literary scholarship explored in Part II), I offer a snapshot of the two ‘black holes’ under discussion; this snapshot is necessarily selective, constructed, subjective, and ever incomplete, but it does, despite its shortcomings, hopefully (a) give an idea of the semantic multifariousness in which narrative can crop up and has historically cropped up in drama; (b) exemplify some of the possible meanings in which narrative can be present in drama as feature or mode; and (c) help us to grasp the ways in which these narrative features and modes are framed and integrated by way of dramatic storytelling in individual plays, and which semantic dimensions of drama are used to do so. That narrative in drama is more than storytellers, ‘narrative spots’ (sensu Brandstetter 1999, esp. 29), or the foregrounding of diegetic frames, and that it takes many shapes between the poles of diegetic and mimetic storytelling, should become clear when one looks at the schematic map of possible semantic dimensions of narrative and the semantic fields related to it within drama (cf. Fig. 12). Having looked at plays from the Renaissance to the present time and at historical drama-theoretical discourses by playwrights and other institutions, I assume four broad dimensions in which narrative has been and can be semanticised: as (AN) ‘narrative genres,’ (BN) ‘narrative/diegetic acts, which transmit different narrative contents,’ (CN) ‘cultural practices related to production and reception of narratives,’ and (DN) ‘styles, matters, and writing techniques that originated in narrative genres and are usually associated with them, but that are actually transgeneric and sometimes even transmedial.’ Regarding (AN): Playwrights have drawn on their and their contemporaries’ genre knowledge of narrative and – by drama-specific means – referred to, presented, or stylistically imitated narrative genres of a predominantly oral tradition in their plays; they have referred to concrete texts, as when John Webster presents the animal parable of a bird feeding on an alligator in The White Devil (cf., e.g., Sect 4.2), or when Percy Bysshe Shelley in Prometheus Unbound (1908 [1820]) reconsiders the myth of the play’s eponymous hero and alters his fate. They also refer to oral genres in general or imitate them with drama specific means, i.e., fairy tales, myth, folklore, fables, ballads in general. In Volpone (1984 [1605/06]), Ben Jonson moulds into drama what would otherwise be a beast fable, while John Gay uses the conventions of ballads and bards to design, in The Beggar’s Opera, a new dramatic genre, the ballad opera (cf. Sect. 5.3). The same holds true for print genres: playwrights have employed (features of) biblical parables, medieval epics, romances, and novels, and made concrete or


3 Suggestions for a Peripeteia in Drama and Narrative Theory

general references. William Shakespeare and George Wilkins, in their Pericles, do both (cf. Sect. 5.3): they refer to John Gower’s medieval tale collection Confessio Amantis, and, on a general pane, imitate the common structure of medieval tale collections – among which Boccaccio’s Decameron and Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales stand out – with their narrative frames and embedded stories, which are organised episodically. Besides narrative fiction, factual genres are also referenced or made use of in plays, such as historiography (in the form of national histories or stories, cf. Sect. 4.1, 5.2, and 6.1) and biographies of individuals (cf. Sect. 4.2 or 8.1). Regarding (BN): Playwrights have staged narrative acts, i.e., concrete acts of storytelling, which transmit certain narrative contents. These are not just conventional dramatic instances of storytelling, such as teichoscopy or messengers’ reports, but highlighted ‘narrative spots’, in which the act of telling a story is dramatised, that is, punctually highlighted or exposed and atmospherically exploited in a play. Private diegetic acts are staged, such as the telling of stories between friends (cf. Sect. 6.2) or the telling of lies by one of the most brilliant plotters in drama history, Iago from Shakespeare’s Othello (Shakespeare 2012 [1603]). Institutionalised diegetic acts may also be referred to dramatically, thus questioning or challenging the institutions in power to tell stories (cf. Sect. 4.1). These plays do not just ask who ‘owns’ the past and who the future (cf. also Koschorke 2007, esp. 209), but also gauge the truth value of historical narratives as well as of historiography as narrative fiction. Regarding (CN): Playwrights have thematised/appropriated and can thematise/appropriate cultural practices related to the production and reception of narratives. There might be the topic of novel production as part of the play’s plot (e.g., as in Noël Coward’s Blithe Spirit 1976 [1941]); concrete or fictional novel writers might be referred to (e.g., Richard Cumberland’s The West Indian mentions Laurence Sterne and Tristram Shandy [1759–67]; cf. Sect. 6.1) or become a main character of a play, like novelist James Joyce in Tom Stoppard’s Travesties (cf. 1975 [1974]). Reception practices usually related to books or narrative fiction can be and have been appropriated by playwrights. Playwrights’ works participate in print culture by being printed as well as staged; playwrights sometimes use the culture of ‘reading,’ which is predominantly linked to prose fiction and the like, for their own purposes, designing plays specifically to be read (cf. Sect. 6.3) or circumventing censorship (cf. Sect. 7.1). Regarding (DN): Playwrights have employed or imitated styles, matters, and techniques originating in and usually associated with narrative genres. They are, however, actually transgeneric (and sometimes even transmedial)

miseenabymes, metalepses, para-texts, forewords, afterwords book market, reading habits and practices, print culture, elocution (elocutionary didactics)

factual narratives (histories and biographies, counter-facts, fake news, and lies)

fiction, ‘the literary,’ narrativity, gothic style, ballad style, literary prose, episodic structures, epic styles, styles asscociated with ‘high art’ novel writing, written texts, books

institutionalised diegetic acts (national history; institutions in power to tell stories)

print genres (biblical parables, the medieval epic, romances, the novel)

story and plot, perspective, focalisation, narrative instance, unreliability, experientiality, telling and showing

(DN) styles, matters, and writing techniques originating in and usually associated with narrative genres (but actually transgeneric/-medial)

authorship, authors, bards (medieval and contemporary)

(CN) cultural practices related to production and reception of narratives

private diegetic acts storytelling, e.g., in family or nineteenthcentury salon culture

(BN) narrative acts, narration (sensudiegetic act), narrative contents

oral genres (fairy tales, myth, folklore, fables, ballad, etc.)

(AN) narrative genres (concrete and/or general references)

narrative and its semantic field (selection)

3.2 The Semantic Dimensions of ‘Narrative’ and ‘Drama’


Fig. 11: Approximating a ‘black hole,’ or, the semantic dimensions of the cognitive macroframe ‘narrative.’


3 Suggestions for a Peripeteia in Drama and Narrative Theory

and need to be acknowledged as such.21 Story and plot, perspective, focalisation, narrative instance, unreliability, experientiality, telling and showing have been repeatedly conceptualised for narrative fiction. But they are, in fact, transgeneric and will have to be conceptualised for drama, too (cf. Sect. 3.3). The same holds true for qualitative concepts like fiction and narrativity, as well as styles and qualities such as ‘the Gothic’ (cf. Sect. 6.2) or ‘the Epic’ (cf. Sect. 5.1). They originated in narrative fiction, but are, in principle, transferable to any other genre or medium. Likewise, stylistic devices such as mise en abymes or metalepses have been colonised by narratologists, who present them as “narrative strategies” (e.g., Sommer 2008, 121), even if they are transgeneric, and even if they have had a long dramatic history. One has only to think of ‘plays within plays’ of the Elizabethan tradition, such as in Thomas Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy (2010 [1587]), in which there is not only a play within a play and, with this, a paradigmatic mise en abyme, but also a metalepis, when ontological levels are crossed and fiction becomes real: Hieronimo stages a play, casting the two murderers of his son as main characters. On stage himself, Hieronimo stabs these characters. What first looks like onstage pretence turns out to be revenge: the murderers have been really killed. Modes and features of narrative in all the concept’s four semantic dimensions have occurred or can potentially occur within British drama history. They have been thematised on plays’ story levels and structurally employed in their dramatic narration. In drama history – past and future –, even more forms and semantic dimensions of ‘narrative’ in plays are thinkable and possible, which further research will have to abstract (cf. Ch. 9). All aspects of narrative (whether actual or possible ones or part of the semantic dimension AN–DN) are or can be moulded in dramatic form and/or combined with dramatic modes and features – which must themselves be dissected in their semantic dimensions (Fig. 11).

21 Roy Sommer (2008, 121) has pointed to the useful distinction between narrative elements in drama (what he calls “diegetic elements”) and transgeneric elements in drama. Some of the things he puts into these categories, I would, however, put elsewhere. Mise en abymes and metalepses, for instance, are transgeneric and transmedial; they were developed in painting and literary (dramatic and lyrical) texts before the ‘rise of the novel’ and can be realised transgenerically (e.g., in drama) and transmedially (e.g., in paintings, movies, or games). He also categorises stage directions as narrative or choric passages; I would have to contradict here, too. They are, in my opinion, not automatically narrative. True, they are verbally transmitted; that is, the telling frame is foregrounded rather than the frame of action; but, in drama history, this does not make them automatically narrative in their quality. They are far more often descriptive and assessing or commenting. And ‘direct audience address’ may be diegetically uttered, true; but that does not make it narrative. Prologues, epilogues, or asides are as often descriptive, argumentative, or ornamental as they are narrative.

writing plays, staging plays, and both; reading plays, watching plays, and both

theatre market, theatre as economy, censorship, theatre semiotics (light, music, sound)

spectacle, theatricality, performativity

special drama-theatrical conventions: plays within plays, dumb shows, songs, dance, pantomime, tableaux vivants

teichoscopy, messengers’ reports, chorus, music, song, dance, asides, stage directions, para-texts, prologue, epilogue

dramatic quality, mimesis, artificiality, audio-visuality, stylised movement, gesture, experientiality, dramaticism, styles associated with ‘entertaining, popular, and, therefore, low arts’

(D ) styles, matters, and presentation techniques originating in and usually associated with drama (but actually transgeneric /-medial)

theatrum mundi (performing rituals, dramatisation of real life, stagings of power, fashioning selves…)

theatres, actors, directors, embodiment, enactment, private theatricals

(C ) cultural practices related to production and reception of plays

dialogisation, monologisation, action, establishing a fourth wall

(B ) acts of dramatisation (of ‘making’ sth. dramatic)

staged fictions: medieval liturgical drama, history, revenge tragedy, opera, in-yer-face theatre, Noh theatre

(A ) dramatic genres

drama and its semantic field (selection)

3.2 The Semantic Dimensions of ‘Narrative’ and ‘Drama’


Fig. 12: Approximating a ‘black hole,’ or, the semantic dimensions of the cognitive macroframe ‘drama.’


3 Suggestions for a Peripeteia in Drama and Narrative Theory

In analogy to what has been stated for narrative, this study assumes that, firstly, the dramatic quality of drama is determined by many factors and aspects; and that, secondly, narrative modes, which are transgeneric in general, are embedded in plays in genre-specific, that is, in drama-specific ways. The schematic map of drama, as a cognitive macro-frame, and its semantic fields (cf. Fig. 12) illustrates that the meanings of ‘drama’ and ‘drama-specific’ vary synchronically and diachronically as much as those of narrative. From my theoretical and historical research, I have identified at least four broad dimensions in which drama has been and can be semanticised: as (AD) ‘dramatic genres,’ (BD) ‘acts of dramatisation,’ (CD) ‘cultural practices related to production and reception of plays,’ and (DD) ‘styles, matters, and writing techniques that originated in dramatic genres and are usually associated with them, but that are actually transgeneric and sometimes even transmedial.’ Regarding (AD): Drama has been and can be comprehended in terms of its fictitious and factual genres: as religious, medieval liturgical drama; as a genre of nation-building, like histories; or as a genre of entertainment, like revenge tragedies, operas, in-yer-face theatre, or Noh theatre. It has been and can be understood as real-life fact, as the metaphor of theatrum mundi indicates: dramatisations of real life are cases in point, such as stagings of power in crowning ceremonies, performances of the judicial system in medieval and early modern public beheadings, or private and political self-fashionings. Regarding (BD): Acts of dramatisation, of endowing something with dramatic quality, include text-internal techniques on the side of the author like putting something into dialogue, adding monologues, foregrounding action, including – depending on period and style – stage directions, and establishing a fourth wall. Acts of ‘making something dramatic’ can comprise text-external, drama-historical events of making something a spectacle, making something theatrical, or putting something up as performance (though that which is understood as spectacle, theatrical, and/or performative varies by time and culture). Finally, acts of dramatisation can refer to and have referred to particular drama-theatrical conventions, which can be both text-internal and text-external, that is, they can be part of a theatrical script or added in the performance of a play. These specific conventions include plays within plays, dumb shows, songs, dance, pantomime, and the like. Regarding (CD): Drama can and has been linked to the semantic field of cultural practices related to the production and reception of plays. This includes institutions like theatres, their concrete materiality in a city; but also theatrical spaces themselves, which vary and change with time (the theatre houses, theatre apparatus, stage practice, or stage technology); it entails semantics relating to actors, directors, producers, audiences, all of whom are involved in play-

3.2 The Semantic Dimensions of ‘Narrative’ and ‘Drama’


production and -reception, as well as practices and styles of embodiment and enactment. Drama has been linked to writing, staging, and producing plays, as well as to practices of reading, watching, and participating in plays. The compound of drama semantically also encloses matters as diverse as the theatre market, theatre as economy, cultures of censorship, and theatre semiotics (signs of language, gesture, light, and sound). Regarding (DD): When it comes to the semantic field of styles, matters, and writing techniques that originated in dramatic genres and are usually associated with them (but that are actually transgeneric and sometimes even transmedial), the following matters have to be mentioned. Depending on time and culture, specific triggers of dramatic quality, such as mimesis, artificiality, audiovisuality, stylised movement, gesture, experientiality (in Aristotle’s terms, eleos and phobos; in terms of the poetics of bourgeois tragedy, compassio), and different kinds of dramaticism have been linked to and associated with drama. Teichoscopy, messengers’ reports, chorus, music, song, dance, asides, stage directions, and para-texts are further categories that have informed notions of drama; they are, however, not dramatic per se and can be employed in other genres, too. To conclude, the (admittedly reductive and selective) synchronic ‘snapshots’ from today’s perspective of the semantic dimensions of these concepts will, I hope, enable researchers interested in the nexus of drama and narrative to gain a more exhaustive and differentiated view of this junction (even if what I have compared to two ‘black holes’ can arguably never be fully grasped). Analysing and interpreting narrative modes within a play hinges on determining and making sense of the quality of the nexus of drama and narrative within a play (both semantically and with respect to the ways of combination), the quantity of ties between drama and narrative, and the drama-specific ways in which these connections are highlighted or made salient (cf. Sect. 3.3). With the framework established in this section (the schemata of semantics and their combination), the specifics of dramatic storytelling can be determined. It has become furthermore possible to be more precise with regard to the main research question. We no longer biasedly ask ‘which typically diegetic or epic elements appear in written or staged drama?’, or ‘which supposedly diegetic or epic elements appear in written or staged drama?’, or ‘which elements conventionally or supposedly linked to fictional written texts appear in written or staged drama?’ Instead, we can start to pursue our actual interest and pose the question of how drama (written and/or staged) narrates. We can distinguish certain narrative or dramatic modes and features from each other and additional, other alter-generic ones; we can enquire into transgeneric modes and the ways in which they have been developed (sometimes at the same time) in different genres and are combined or presented in narrative and/or drama. In doing so, a


3 Suggestions for a Peripeteia in Drama and Narrative Theory

conceptually straightforward, truly transgeneric perspective may emerge, which allows us to determine, assess, and interpret the forms, qualities, and potential functions of the narrativity of drama in general and in certain plays in particular. While this section offers methods to assess, gauge, and grade the quality of narrativity of any given play, the next section clarifies how the second core claim of this study can be proven, namely, that any drama – narrative in appearance or not – can profit from narratological analysis.

3.3 Narrative Matters in Drama: Story and Discourse in Drama as Core Levels of Narratological Analysis and a Narratological Communication Model of Drama With this third section of my narratology of drama, I hope to further bridge what has been conceptualised as an abyss, the seemingly “insurmountable opposition between dramatic representation and narrative” (Genette 1988[1983], 41). As the pun in this section’s title emphasises, ‘narrative matters’ in the sense of narrative topics, objectives, problems, modes, and features do exist in drama. And they are not there by mere chance, nor are they peripheral trifles to be ignored; they do matter: they give a distinct shape to a play; they characterise it; and they carry meaning. Having delineated how one can examine, assess, and make intersubjectively traceable the specific semantics of instances of narrative in plays, their connotations, and allusions, as well as the particular quality of possible junctions of drama and narrative within individual plays, I now turn to the question of how any drama – but especially plays that feature high degrees of narrativity – can be productively analysed with the instruments of transgeneric narratology. If one accepts that “the discourse vs. story distinction is fundamental to the drama, too” (Fludernik 2010 [1996], 333), one must ask how narrative matters can and do occur on these two levels of dramatic storytelling (cf. also Sect. 2.2, Fig. 6; 9.1, Fig. 21). One must ask what is told in drama, particularly in plays that highlight narrative matters, and how it is told. The former is to examine a play’s story, the latter to enquire about its discourse. This is why, in the following, I first conceptualise ‘dramatic story-levels,’ in general and particularly when they highlight narrative matters; afterwards I attend to the construction of ‘dramatic narration,’ in general and particularly when dramatic matters are combined with narrative ones.

3.3 Story and Discourse in Drama and a Communication Model of Drama


In line with cognitive narratology, I understand ‘story’ as a “cognitive construct” (Ryan 2008b, 347)22 that is defined by three features: (1) a story world populated with anthropomorphic beings (what Marie-Laure Ryan links to a story’s “spatial dimension”, Ryan 2008b, 347); (2) this story world usually undergoes changes of state caused by physical events, i.e., accidents or conscious actions carried out by the existent anthropomorphic agents (what Ryan relates to a story’s “temporal dimension”, Ryan 2008b, 347); (3) the existence of a “network of connections” (Ryan 2008b, 347). That is to say, the physical events must be linked to mental states (plans, feelings, motivations, etc.). This connection brings into being cause and effect, coherence, and closure; in other words, it engenders a ‘plot’ (what Ryan calls the “logical, mental, and formal dimension”, cf. Ryan 2008b, 347). If a drama highlights narrative matters (sensu topics), this can, as regards the story world, happen in all of the three aforementioned parts of the story. Narrative and issues pertaining to its semantic fields have in any number of ways (cf. Sect. 3.2, Fig. 11) appeared in a drama’s story world. The anthropomorphic beings populating a play’s story world have been storytellers (cf., e.g., Sect. 6.2 or 8.3) and liars (cf., e.g., Sect. 4.2 or 5.1), autobiographers (cf., e.g., 8.1) and singers of narrative ballads (cf., e.g., Sect. 5.3); they have been concerned and even preoccupied with matters of historical storytelling and narrative self-fashioning (cf., e.g., 4.1 or 8.3); they have also spent their time listening to and telling stories (e.g., cf. Sect. 6.2), as well as reading and referring to fictions (e.g., Sect. 6.1). In their worlds, stories have competed with each other (cf. Sect. 6.1), been paralleled (cf. Sect. 4.2), and conflicting stories have been contained (cf. Sect. 5.1). Changes in the story worlds have been triggered by the dissemination of lies (cf., e.g., Sect. 5.1), of truths (e.g., revelations of past stories; cf. Sect. 5.1), or by the instrumentalisation and reversals of fictitious but hegemonic stories (cf., e.g., Sect. 7.2). These changes, brought about by the spreading of stories, are usually motivated by a variety of feelings and goals. This list of examples is, however, not intended to reduce narrative issues and objects to mere props or ornaments in the story worlds. Examining the quality and semantics of narrative matters that are selected and the ways in which they are embedded in the story worlds of plays from various historical periods, one gains insight into what was regarded as narrative at a certain time. Synchronically, it enables one to find out when and why narrative was deemed significant and which aspects of it seemed so central to a culture that it was

22 My definition of story is, consequently, in line with my definitions of other concepts in this study, like ‘genre’ or ‘narrative’ (cf. Sect. 3.1).


3 Suggestions for a Peripeteia in Drama and Narrative Theory

worthy of dramatisation. The narrative matters populating a story world reveal even more: They tell recipients (both historical and contemporary ones) about the predominant materialities of narrative in past times, the practices usually related to it, or its main social and cultural functions. Looking at the emplotment of narrative in plays and their potential functions diachronically, scholars are able to investigate alterations and universals in the generic compound ‘narrative’ in literary, drama, and cultural history. From this, they can draw conclusions about narrative’s evolving material shapes, its changing predominant uses, and the transformations in how it was perceived and evaluated (as presented and thematised in plays from different periods). While the presence of a story-level in drama and the existence of narrative matters on this level will be hardly a matter of dispute among narratologists, drama theorists, and theatre scholars, the narrativity brought about by dramatic discourse, as well as the communicative situation of dramatic narration, are issues hotly discussed. In fact, they are among “the most debated questions surrounding the discussion of a narratological approach [. . .] to drama” (Martens and Elshout 2014, 81; emphasis mine; cf. also Alber and Fludernik 2014 [2011]). And they still remain to be answered, for discourse both sensu récit (cf. [a] in what follows) and sensu ‘narration’ (cf. [b]–[d] below):23 (a) how exactly does drama ‘tell’ or ‘construct’ its story? (b) Is there a framing entity like a narrator or focaliser (as it is assumed for the stories of any narrative fiction) that engenders dramatic stories? (c) If there is a ‘mediating’ entity (sensu Prince 2003 [1987], 58), what shape does it take in drama? And (d) what, accordingly, would a communication model of dramatic narration have to look like? Regarding (a): To pose the question of how drama ‘tells’ or ‘mediates’ its story is to ask how the play is constructed, what is selected for presentation, and how the selected individual constituents are arranged. This is the question Patrick Colm Hogan asks in his research on the meeting points of drama and narrative in Hamlet (Hogan 2014; cf. also Hogan 2006). Peter Hühn and Roy Sommer also arguably focus on this question when they deal with the ways in which drama’s story world, “though typically devoid of any overt presenting agency, is mediated e.g. through selection, segmentation and arrangement” (2013 [2012]). Ansgar Nünning and Roy Sommer tackle this problem, too, when they conceptualise the difference between mimetic and diegetic storytelling, i.e., the mechanisms of ‘foregrounding’ either a telling frame or a frame of action (cf.,

23 Discourse is understood here in the Genettean sense, as happening on two distinct levels (cf., e.g., 1988 [1983], 13–14).

3.3 Story and Discourse in Drama and a Communication Model of Drama


e.g., 2008). With this, their study serves as valuable basis of this study, which conceptualises ‘drama’ and ‘narrative’ as cognitive macro-schema. Mimetic narrativity, the “imitate[ion of] speech and action” (337), triggers the aesthetic “illusion of action” (339) and, therefore, can be regarded as a mode of representation that is conventionally linked to the mental macro-schema of drama (is likely to actualise it in a recipient’s mind). Diegetic narrativity, as the “recount[ing of] actions and events” (337), is, in contrast, “foregrounds the act of narration rather than the narrated storyworld” (339); it is therefore likely to trigger the application of the cognitive micro-frame of ‘narrative’ within ‘drama.’24 Concerning the nexus of drama and narrative in general, however, to pose the question of how drama ‘tells’ its story is to engender even further questions. Namely, which semantic dimensions of narrative and its semantic fields (or parts of it) are integrated into a particular play (paradigmatic axis), and how are they framed, shaped, or syntactically arranged within a play (syntagmatic axis)? It is to enquire into how narrative and dramatic issues can and do meet within plays; it is to examine way(s) of “selection [i.e., on a paradigmatic axis], organisation, and construal [both on a syntagmatic axis]” (Hogan 2014, 50). This shall be exemplified with the following list: Narrative topics, modes, and/or features (in any of the actual and possible meanings indicated above; cf. Sect. 3.2, Fig. 11), once selected, can, on a syntagmatic level, – be combined with, – be contained by, – be contrasted to, – be emplotted by, – be foregrounded by, – be framed by, – be highlighted in, – be linked to, – be unveiled by, – compete with, 24 However pathbreaking Nünning and Sommer’s approach (2008, 2011), it raises questions which this study cannot answer. Categorising, for instance, “choric speeches” and “messenger reports” as “narrative elements” (2008, 340), do they equal ‘diegetic’ with ‘verbal transmission’ and ‘acts of speaking’? If so, do they actually unhinge diégesis from narrativity? After all, choric speeches and messenger’s reports do not necessarily have to be of a narrative quality; they often serve as commentary or description. And what about the fact that drama is dominated by dialogue? That is, by “diegesis dia mimeseos, narrative ‘by means of mimesis,’ i.e. direct speech [. . .] in the voices of individual characters” (Halliwell 2013 [2012])? Is diégesis as “diegesis dia mimeseos” (Halliwell 2013 [2012]) and as ‘act of speaking’ not always part of mimetic storytelling, too?


3 Suggestions for a Peripeteia in Drama and Narrative Theory

– complement, – parallel, – ... drama-specific modes and/or features (in any of the actual and possible meanings indicated above; cf. Sect. 3.2, Fig. 12, and Ch. 4–8) within plays. The selected narrative modes can be highlighted by qualitative and quantitative strategies as well as through additional markers, that is, highlighting strategies which make potential triggers of narrativity salient. Narrative issues in a narrower sense can be thematised or used in the story level (quality); narrative modes can be accumulated (quantity); they can be used either on a play’s story level or on a play’s discourse levels (quantity and salience), or on both. Narrativisations of a play’s discourse level in particular make a dramatic work ‘appear’ more narrative (cf., e.g., Sect. 2.3). Here, even structural and formal approximations of forms and structures of originally narrative genres are possible in dramatic storytelling. This happens in Pericles, for instance, where the structure of medieval story collections is transferred to drama (cf. Sect. 4.3). In addition, dramatic modes can be discursively reduced. This is the case, for instance, in Richard Cumberland’s The West Indian (cf. Sect. 6.1), where dramatic modes, such as dialogue and action, are significantly reduced in favour of narrative modes, e.g., elongated individual acts of diegesis and embedded stories. Apart from this, transgeneric modes can be applied to a play; drama, in this case, does not adopt anything from other genres. And yet, drama and narrative can ‘meet’ in those instances, too. They do so, as it were, on ‘neutral’ grounds. This is the case in plays which were developed alongside the ‘new’ genre of the novel; ‘editorial fictions’ are used in both genres and were arguably developed independently from, but alongside each other. This perhaps also holds true for commentary, akin to what has been later termed ‘authorial voice’ and what has been so far – if not wrongly, at least reductively – solely attributed to narrative fiction (cf., e.g., Aphra Behn’s The Rover; Sect. 5.2). An analysis of any of these alter-generic and transgeneric strategies that may pervade the structural level of a play, i.e., its dramatic narration, not only offers insight into the general construction of a play, but also helps also to more clearly ascertain the quality and distinct shape of narrative and dramatic intersections within plays. To conceptualise drama’s discourse, i.e., dramatic narration, is, however to discuss not only matters of récit, but also matters of ‘narration’ (in a narrow sense: cf. [b]–[d]), as will be done in the following. Regarding (b): Categorical rejections of framing entities in drama, such as Keir Elam’s dictum “[d]rama is without narratorial mediation” (Elam 1980, 119)

3.3 Story and Discourse in Drama and a Communication Model of Drama


or Irina Rajewsky’s final negative verdict on her colleagues’ practices of assuming mediating frames within dramatic communication (cf. 2007, esp. 64)25 are nowadays rather uncommon. On the basis of my research in the history of drama (cf. Part II) and the convincing arguments of earlier research, I prefer to hold with the majority of narratologists investigating the nexus of drama and narrative. They have not only found it vital to discuss the existence of narrative framing devices in dramatic stories similar to those assumed for narratives in the narrower sense, like novels or short stories; they have also constructed diverse theories, conceptualising narration and/or focalisation as just as indispensable to dramatic stories as to those traditionally regarded as ‘narrative proper.’ Manfred Jahn (2001) and Brian Richardson (e.g., 1988), for instance, agree that the assumption of a ‘narrative voice,’ an ‘authorial voice,’ or ‘point of view’ is central to drama, too, and illustrate this with brief analyses of plays. Ansgar Nünning and Roy Sommer (2011), as well as Ansgar Nünning and Sibylle Baumbach (2011), zoom in on dramatic discourse and particularly conceptualise those forms of dramatic narration in which narrative is foregrounded and/or in which instances are anthropomorphised, appearing as generative narrators or character-narrators. Eike Muny (2008, esp. 87–150) introduces ‘point of view,’ ‘focalisation,’ and ‘focus’ into drama analysis, proving that not only plays which foreground narration in a narrower sense are worthy of narratological analysis, but also those which feature narrative matters in subtler ways. Patrick Colm Hogan’s research (2014) also attests to this; with his analysis of Hamlet, he demonstrates that processes of selection and construction can be fruitfully framed as ways of (narrative) emplotment of dramatic story worlds. Recently, the scope of examination has even been productively expanded towards narrative framings of performances (e.g., Martens and Elshout 2014; Alber 2017). The path-breaking theoretical work of these scholars helps to answer the question if there is a framing entity like a narrator or focaliser that engenders dramatic stories. A framing entity that ‘emplots,’ ‘mediates,’ or ‘engenders’ stories can be assumed for drama, too – and this fruitfully and gainfully. What remains to be discussed, then, is the question of how this framing entity can be best conceptualised. Regarding (c): The above examples reveal that, while there is largely a consensus on the potential advantage of assuming a ‘mediating’ entity for drama, 25 “Das bei Pfister in Bezug aus das Drama noch in Klammern ausgewiesene, in neueren Beiträgen dann [. . .] systematisch im dramatischen Kommunikationsmodell verankerte ‘vermittelnde Kommunikationssystem’ ist dem dramatischen Kommunikationsmodus [. . .] nicht angemessen.” (Rajewsky 2007, 64)


3 Suggestions for a Peripeteia in Drama and Narrative Theory

there is less agreement on what shape it takes. After all, the aforementioned scholars examine either different kinds of narrative26 and different forms of narrative framings of dramatic story worlds; and they do this on different ontological levels in plays.27 While I do not attempt to provide a definitive solution on how to conceptualise this ‘mediating instance’ either, I do seek to synthesise the path-breaking work done so far (keeping Elam’s and Rajewsky’s reservations in mind) and to further build on it. I would like to start by thinking the concept of ‘narrator’ afresh, and especially this concept’s relation to that of ‘story world.’ As far as the role of the narrator as the source of story worlds is concerned, research has often attributed the latter to the existence of the former. That is, the diegetic level has often been tied to an extradiegetic level of narration or a more or less overt narrator, who mediates the diegetic level (cf., e.g., A. Nünning 1989; Pfister 1993 [1991], 3). Lately, however, this narrator has become a problem; not only for Rajewsky and Elam, who refuse to link this concept to drama on the basis of its current, dominant conceptualisation, but also for proliferating transmedial and transgeneric approaches.28 Emily Anderson even goes so far as to suggest that we should “revisit our definition of ‘narrator’ and perhaps of ‘narration’ itself” (E. R. Anderson 2010, 81). With Uri Margolin’s definition of ‘narrator,’ both the concept’s traditional challenges and some possible solutions for our transgeneric age become clear. Margolin (2014 [2012]) frames the narrator as follows: In the literal sense, the term “narrator” designates the inner-textual (textually encoded) highest-level speech position from which the current narrative discourse as a whole originates and from which references to the entities, actions and events that this discourse is about are being made. Through a dual process of metonymic transfer and anthropomorphization, the term narrator is then employed to designate a presumed textually projected occupant of this position, the hypothesized producer of the current discourse, the individual

26 Kristina Jensen (2007) considers dramatic narrativisations sensu episations, while Sommer (2008, esp. 121) is interested, for instance, in narrative sensu “diegetic elements”. 27 Ansgar Nünning and Roy Sommer (2011) examine both concrete narrators on diegetic levels (story level) and more abstract mechanisms of foregrounding narrative frames in drama (récit), but unfortunately hardly problematise this difference. 28 As indicated before (cf. Sect. 2.2), the connection between story world and narrator in a narrow sense (e.g., a narrator as a story-‘teller’), once regarded as an axiomatic given, has been challenged. It has been acknowledged that a work of art can feature narration in a broader sense without presenting a narrator (cf., e.g., Bordwell 2014 [1985]; Wolf 2017). Incidentally, the abolition of the concept of ‘narrator’ has even been discussed in literary studies for narratives in the traditional sense (e.g., Patron 2010).

3.3 Story and Discourse in Drama and a Communication Model of Drama


agent who serves as the answer to Genette’s question qui parle? The narrator, which is a strictly textual category, should be clearly distinguished from the author[,] [. . .] who is of course an actual person.

Margolin’s definition has at least three implications: In conceptualisations of narrative framing instances of drama, firstly, one should move away from essentialist questions and answers like Keir Elam’s. Instead of asking if there is a mediating instance in plays, one should ask, how can it be constructed as a narratological tool or category for the analysis of plays? In other words, how can the “inner-textual (textually encoded) highest-level speech position [in plays] from which the current narrative discourse as a whole originates and from which references to the entities, actions and events that this discourse is about are being made” be conceived of in drama in general and be described in the analysis of particular plays? Secondly, instead of solely conceiving of the narrator as an anthropomorphised telling figure or an ‘agent’ with subjectivity and agency, one should also bear in mind that it is, in fact, an abstraction, a concept, a “strictly textual category”. Accordingly, a narrator as an anthropomorphised figure (e.g., as a character in a play or narrative) is just a possibility, not a necessity. Thirdly, one should refrain from regarding any overt or personal narrator as the default case in emplotting stories; rather, one should frame them as narrating instances constructed by authors and scholarly reception that help explain and describe principles of selection, organisation, and emplotment. That is, narrating instances should be framed as categories of organisation that transgenerically fulfil textual functions in textual production and that serve as analytical devices in reception. Regarding (d): Conceptualised in this way, both narrative instance and the extradiegetic level on which this entity is “presumed” or “projected” can be considered as a textual presence and function of perspectivisation that can be assumed for any play. A narrative framing device is a conglomerate of selection, organisation, and emplotment principles that shape and determine a story world (and here, any of its three dimensions, i.e., its [1] spatial, [2] temporal, and [3] logical, mental, and formal dimension). Defined like this, the presence of a teller figure or an narrating character is no longer necessary for analysing the narrative situation and perspectivisation of any play; and framed like this, the narrative instance becomes a category for drama analysis independent from the existence of narrators as overt anthropomorphised tellers, and independent from potential highlightings or foregroundings of the narrative cognitive schema. On the basis of these observations, and in line with an earlier co-authored article (A. Nünning and Schwanecke 2015), I am compelled to ask which instances constitute dramatic narration? To answer this question, I would like to turn to the communication model of narrative texts, which has lately been adapted


3 Suggestions for a Peripeteia in Drama and Narrative Theory

for transmedial (Laass 2008, 44) and transgeneric (A. Nünning and Schwanecke 2015) purposes. In contrast to the conceptualisation of dramatic communication by drama theorist Manfred Pfister, these transmedial and transgeneric reframings of the model of narrative communication, which serve as the basis for the model proposed here (cf. Fig. 13), assume four intra-textual levels of dramatic narration29 (cf. A. Nünning and Schwanecke 2015; the blue levels). These are the level of the story world (DNL 1) and two extra-diegetic levels (DNL 2 and 3). On all of these three levels of a play, triggers may (but need not be) exist which foreground the mental schema of ‘narrative’ (in any of the above-delineated meanings, cf. Sect. 3.2, Fig. 11). On a play-external and still text-internal level (DNL 4), para-textual information (prefaces, addresses to readers, epigraphs) may thematise or discuss generic matters or the inferences between drama and narrative in particular. They potentially provide the backdrop against which the play is read or otherwise received. In actual staging situations, this level might pertain to the existence of playbills, reviews, and the like which also possibly thematise the present nexus and guide the reception of the audiences (or parts of it). On DNL 1, stories (within the story) or narrative characters can be embedded to potentially highlight narrativity. This is the level considered most prominently by Barbara Hardy (1997), who zooms in on intra-diegetic embodied narrators and storytellers in Shakespeare’s oeuvre. It is also extensively examined by Irene de Jong (1991), who explores the forms and functions of messenger speech in Greek drama. On DNL 2, the level of explicit narrative communication (a level which is, in analogy to film, not constitutive of drama, but could be present),30 a vocally and bodily present teller of stories can be positioned. This is the level that Brian Richardson likely has in mind when he conceptualises a ‘generative narrator’ (1988), who seems to engender or bring about the story world. This is the level, too, that Manfred Pfister has in mind, when he talks about “‘epic’ structures” (Pfister 1993 [1991], 69–84) in drama, which, according to him, however, are nothing but “a deviation from the normal model of dramatic presentation” (Pfister 1993

29 These dramatic narration levels are henceforward abbreviated with the acronym ‘DNL.’ 30 Agreeing on this point with Eva Laass (2008), I have to contradict both Manfred Pfister (cf. 1993 [1991], 4), who states that this level, i.e., ‘a mediating communication system’, as a default option, does not appear in drama (with the exception of epic theatre), and Irina Rajewsky (2007, esp. 64), who, too, doubts the sense of such a level.

3.3 Story and Discourse in Drama and a Communication Model of Drama


[1991], 4).31 And this is the level Ansgar Nünning and Sybille Baumbach (2011), as well as Ansgar Nünning and Roy Sommer (e.g., 2011), conceptualise when they consider anthropomorphised extra-diegetic narrative instances which also occur intra-diegetically on DNL 1 (like Salieri in Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus, 1997) or extradiegetic narrators who are restricted to DNL 2 (like Gower in William Shakespeare and George Wilkins’ Pericles, cf. Sect. 4.3). On DNL 2, choruses, prologues, and/or epilogues may also be situated and presented diegetically. This level, however, may be also assumed for plays in which there is no embodied storyteller or speaker present. There may be, instead, a ‘disembodied voice’ in a play script; there may be banners like the ones in some of Brecht’s epic plays, or a voice from off-stage, both of which function as framing commentaries and are analogues to a narrating voice-over in a film or a narrator in a narrative text who is also not anthropomorphised (cf., e.g., the heterodiegetic narrative instances in George Eliot’s Middlemarch, 2003 [1874], or Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles, 2008 [1891]), who remains without a body, is not a character, but has a distinct voice, framing the story and commenting on it). Depending on which form of narrative instance is presented in a play (embodied or disembodied, anthropomorphised or not), narrativity is more or less foregrounded, and dramatic storytelling becomes either diegetic storytelling or remains rather mimetic (sensu A. Nünning and Sommer 2008, 2011; Sommer 2008). On DNL 3, a second extra-diegetic level of dramatic narration, a play’s implicitly generated perspectivisation can be situated. On this level, focalisation (bound to characters) or anonymous perspectivisation strategies (disembodied and impersonal functions of a play’s discourse that provide a point of view from which both a possible framing entity on DNL 2 and the story on DNL 1 is presented) can be localised. These strategies can be described, with Manfred Jahn (Jahn 2005), as “the selection and restriction of narrative information relative to somebody’s perception, knowledge, and point of view”. From what has been conceptualised as DNL 3, authorial selecting and arranging processes can be steered as well as potential foregroundings of narrative and/or diegetic modes and features on DNL 1.32 The perspectivisations brought about by structural

31 As can be seen below (cf. Part II), epic structures are so ubiquitous in drama history and there are so many kinds of different narrative strategies beyond those of epic theatre (even non-diegetic and non-epic ones) that I tend to disagree with Pfister (1993 [1991]) on this point. Narrative (and not just epic) modes are not a deviation from the norm. They play a substantial part in drama history and, thus, are undeniably part of the dramatic norm. 32 Cf. a similar conceptualisation by Volker Ferenz (2008, 12), who differentiates between a voice-over narrator (a ‘telling I’) and a focaliser selecting, subjectifying, and presenting visual pictures (an ‘experiencing I’) with regard to Mary Harron’s movie American Psycho.


DNL 5 (extratextual level of dramatic production and reception)

3 Suggestions for a Peripeteia in Drama and Narrative Theory

DNL 4 (intratextual para-texts, p ara-texts, separate separ a ate ffrom fr om the play-text p lay-text levels, DNLs 3–1)

DNL 3 (extra-diegetic (extr t a-diegetic level II; level of implicit imp m licit pperspectivisation) erspectivisation)

DNL 2 (extr (extrat adiegetic level I; level of verb verbal r al pperspectivisation erspectivisation and/or and/ d or narration) nar a ration)

DNL 1 (intradiegetic level; story world)

Fig. 13: Model of communication in dramatic narration (adapted from the model of “Intratextual Communication in Drama/Onstage Communication in Theatre”, A. Nünning and Schwanecke 2015, 198).

mechanisms on DNL 3 may be assessed along a scale of subjectivity (in internal focalisation, external perspectivisation, or variable and multiple focalisation)33 and objectivity (‘zero focalisation,’ analogous to omniscience). The selective and restricted presentation of remembered passages in Amadeus in which Salieri is a character, too, (on DNL 1) could be interpreted, for example, as instances of dramatic focalisation; and the female perspectives foregrounded in Aphra Behn’s The Rover (cf. Sect. 5.2) can be ascribed to impersonal and implicit perspectivisation processes on DNL 3, too.34 This is the level that Jahn (2001) and B. Richardson (1988) have in mind when deliberating concepts like ‘point of view’ and ‘voice.’35

33 For more on the kinds of focalisation and perspectivisation, which in my opinion can be transgenerically applied and which will be shown in Part II, see, e.g., Manfred Jahn (2005) or Burkhard Niederhoff (2013a [2011], 2013b [2011]). 34 Traditionally, ‘focalisation’ and ‘perspectivisation’ in supposedly ‘non-narrative’ genres like drama were considered unconceivable – even though depictions of ‘isolated consciousness’ have been traditional in theatre. This device existed even before famous novelists such as Virginia Woolf and James Joyce started to foreground consciousness in their narratives (cf. B. Richardson 1988, 205). 35 Manfred Pfister ([1991] 1993) does not regard ‘perspectivisation’ as a level of communication because he links ‘communication’, by way of a process of anthropomorphisation of analytical categories, to an (anthropomorphised) sender, on the one hand, and an (anthropomorphised) receiver, on the other. However, I hold it with Uri Margolin ([2012] 2014), who urges one to acknowledge that, when one speaks of senders and receivers or narrators and narrates, “one deals

3.3 Story and Discourse in Drama and a Communication Model of Drama


Dramatic narration is, however, not just restricted to the actual text of the play, whether staged or read. Any play may be framed by para-textual features, for which I account with what I conceptualise as DNL 4. With the emergence of the novel and editor fictions in the eighteenth century, the practice of framing a dramatic text with extensive forewords and afterwords developed (cf., e.g., Sect. 5.2). This para-textual framing practice was not just restricted to the eighteenth century, however; it was repeatedly played with in British drama history, for instance, in George Bernard Shaw’s dramatic oeuvre (cf., e.g, Sect. 7.1). Dramatic and narrative issues were also thematised and discussed on this level. They often provided a frame for the production and reception of the plays and anticipated the realisation of narrative triggers. This intra-textual level is set apart from the play text it surrounds (the colour choice of yellow in Fig. 13 distinguishes DNL 4 visually from the blue of DNLs 1–3). On all of the four intra-textual layers of dramatic communication I have distinguished, dramatic and narrative intersections – in whatever shape and degree of salience – can occur. They are present in the form of textual (explicit and implicit) triggers. Whereas on DNLs 1–4, generic conventions are materially realised and present, on the text-external level of dramatic production and reception, DNL 5, the triggers may be processed and mental schemata of narrative and/or drama may be actualised in both playwrights’ and recipients’ minds. To summarise the hypotheses put forth in this section: (A) Narrative matters matter in drama; they do not have to, but often do shape a play decisively (on all the levels mentioned under [B]). (B) ‘Dramatic narration’ encompasses both paradigmatic decisions on the level of story and syntagmatic choices on the level of discourse. Therefore, the story/discourse distinction is relevant for and applicable to drama in all cases of ‘dramatic storytelling.’ (B1) A play’s story can be defined, with cognitive narratology, as a cognitive construct featuring three dimensions (a spatial, a temporal, and a logical, mental, and formal dimension). If narrative matters are highlighted by qualitative, quantitative, and any other foregrounding strategies on any of

[. . .] with linguistic and discursive functions or roles only”. “[A]ny attempt to anthropomorphise them, to identify and characterize any specific human- or human-like individuals who occupy the respective positions” is misleading. Perspective, point of view, and voice, are purely textual entities like narrators. Like narrators, they fulfill a discursive function, serve to communicate specific contents in certain ways, and do this on a level of communication distinct from others. Like the other levels, which have already been framed as levels of (dramatic) communication, perspectivisation, too, distinctly governs dramatic storytelling. Therefore, just like the other levels, DNL 3 can and should be framed as level of (dramatic) communication.


3 Suggestions for a Peripeteia in Drama and Narrative Theory

these levels, narrative cognitive frames are likely to compete with or dominate conventional dramatic reception. (B2) The discourse level of a play can be defined, following Genette, as encompassing both récit and ‘narration.’ The former concerns general modes of emplotment (selection, perspective, order). Here, dramatic modes and narrative ones can and do meet within plays. Concerning the latter, ‘narration,’ and on the basis of a reconceptualization of ‘narrator’ as an abstract framing device (a non-human, disembodied construct), a communication model for dramatic narration comprising five levels has been assumed. On all of these levels, dramatic and narrative modes do not have to, but can meet. When they do and depending on how they do, the quality of dramatic storytelling is to be described as either diegetic or mimetic. (C) A narratological analysis of drama makes sense on the basis of these assumptions – no matter if and to what degree narrative matters are foregrounded in plays, i.e., whether the plays feature heightened degrees of narrativity on the levels mentioned under (B) or not. (D) If drama and narrative modes do meet on any of the levels listed under (B), they can occur in any of the historically and culturally variable meanings suggested in Section 3.2 – and possibly even further meanings. An awareness of possible semantic dimensions of the historically and culturally variable cognitive concepts of ‘narrative’ and ‘drama,’ as well as semantically related concepts on the part of the literary historian analysing them in a given play, is therefore mandatory. The above hypotheses have been established by way of a conceptualisation of plays that display heightened degrees of narrativity; nevertheless, they can and hopefully will be also applied by narratological studies beyond the intersection of drama and narrative. They may prove vital when topics like unreliability, meta-reference, semantisations of time and space, intermediality, digitalisation, experientiality, seriality, affective or cognitive structures, or even references to other genres beyond narrative (e.g., lyrical or documentary) are no longer exclusively investigated with regard to narrative fiction in the traditional sense, but also with regard to plays (cf., e.g., Sect. 9.3). For the analyses in Part II, however, plays have been selected that do feature heightened degrees of narra-tivity on any of the above-constructed levels and combinations thereof. Finally, we must conceptualise (cf. Sect. 3.4) what narrative forms (subject matters, features, and modes) in plays tell us with respect to the time and culture in which they were dramatised.

3.4 The Cultural Dynamics and Power of Dramatic Storytelling


3.4 The Cultural Dynamics and the Performative Power of Dramatic Storytelling: A Culturally Sensitive Approach to Narrative in Drama [I]t is high time that narratologists made more sustained efforts to contextualize the texts that they subject to such close scrutiny, and to historicize their critical practice [. . .]. (A. Nünning 2009b, 65)

The problems of contextualism, as well as its potential productivity, have been discussed above (cf. Sect. 2.1). Against the backdrop of these expository and general assumptions, the present section provides more detailed thoughts on the cultural dynamics and performative power of dramatic storytelling, especially one that highlights narrative matters. It partakes in the endeavour to advertise a “new formalist method” (Levine 2015), in which classical and postclassical approaches to narrative productively intersect (cf., e.g., Levine 2015; A. Nünning and Sommer 2004b; Heinen and Sommer 2009a; Alber and Fludernik 2010; and Sommer 2012a, 2013a), and whose promotion is based on the insight that literary scholars for too long “have neglected to analyze the major work that forms do in our world” (Levine 2015, 9). As the introductory quote indicates, the present study is aware of the necessity of combining corpus-based with cultural approaches to literary studies in general and drama studies in particular. After all, “analyses of the semantization of narrative forms can shed light on the unspoken assumptions, attitudes, and ideologies, as well as on the values and norms prevalent in any given text [be it a play or other], genre and period.” (A. Nünning 2009b, 64) This section aims to tackle the following two major problems: firstly, how can one theoretically conceptualise the complex interrelations of narrative forms in drama and their potential cultural value and possible effects, i.e., their ‘cultural dynamics’? And, secondly, what kinds of cultural work do narrative forms in drama potentially do, i.e., what is their possible ‘performative power’ and, with it, their world-formative or world-making potential? Even though detailed answers to these questions are only possible on the basis of the narratological analyses of individual plays carried out in Part II of this study, general hypotheses can already be proposed at this stage. My culturally sensitive approach to narrative in drama is mainly based on premises put forth by Caroline Levine. Drawing analogies between social forms (in and outside literature) and literary form (cf. Levine 2015, 1–3), she makes a case for expanding [. . .] usual definition[s] of form in literary studies to include patterns of sociopolitical experience like those of Lowood School [Levine refers to nineteenth-century disciplinary techniques as represented in Jane Eyre]. Broadening our


3 Suggestions for a Peripeteia in Drama and Narrative Theory

definition of form to include social arrangements has [. . .] immediate methodological consequences. The traditionally troubling gap between the form of the literary text and its content and context dissolves. Formalist analysis turns out to be as valuable to understanding sociopolitical institutions as it is to reading literature. (Levine 2015, 2)

Taking Levine’s hypotheses as points of departure, narrative forms in dramatic genres are conceptualised as shaped by and, in turn, shaping the culture in which they were produced and received. Forms of narrative in drama seem to be caught up in a dynamic process of constant exchange with socio-political formations in a certain culture and period of time. These forms, secondly, seem to be doubly performative. As constituents of particular plays, they have been exploited for a genre that is traditionally tied to material embodiment in public and private stagings (theatrical performance). In this, they become performative in another sense: they are part of cultural and theatrical acts which are both self-referential and worldmaking – both on DNL 1–4 and on DNL 5 (cf. Sect. 3.3, Fig. 13).36 Any form, on these premises, “exercises a kind of political power” (Levine 2015, 4) and “do[es] political work in particular historical contexts” (Levine 2015, 5); and narrative form in drama doubly so. Presented for and visible to audiences in the cultural, public institution of the theatre, performances of narrative or narrative acts within drama have broad political impact: they “shape what is possible to think, say, and do in a given context” (Levine 2015, 5.) not only by telling, i.e., an act potentially perceived as once or twice removed, but also by showing through embodiment and action, i.e., acts potentially perceived as immediate. Based on the analyses and the theoretical framework put forth in Sect. 3. 1–3.3, this study asks what happens to narrative forms (i.e., topics, modes, and features) when they are selected, organised, and displayed in drama, where they gain special performative thrust. Narrative forms have long been understood as ideological in themselves. They have been conceptualised as “socially constructed cognitive forces” (A. Nünning 2009b, 64) and been considered in their dynamic exchange with culture (cf., e.g., Basseler et al. 2013a; A. Nünning and Schwanecke 2013). It has been generally acknowledged that “crucial aspects of social meaning are produced through narration [be it factual as, e.g., in historiography, or fictional as, e.g., in dramatic histories; cf., e.g., Sect. 4.1]” (Koschorke 2007, 209).37 The cultural dynamics of dramatic form have been

36 For more information on the potential meanings of ‘performativity,’ see, e.g., Matthew Bell (2008, 421) or, even more detailed, Erika Fischer-Lichte (2005c, esp. 234, 2013 [2012]). 37 Interestingly and crucially, “scholars of literature study the poetic invention of artificial worlds that are freed of and set apart from the harsh reality to which everyday life is subject. On closer examination, however, the two spheres are not so clearly set apart as it would seem, for social realities unfold in the context of possibilities too” (Koschorke 2007, 208).

3.4 The Cultural Dynamics and Power of Dramatic Storytelling


considered as well. The articles in Matthias Bauer and Angelika Zirker’s Drama and Cultural Change (cf. M. Bauer and Zirker 2009a) show in which respects “drama indicates, considers, enhances or slows down cultural change in complex ways” (M. Bauer and Zirker 2009b, 1). Further research has even indicated to what extent drama can make visible latent moods and prefigure, if not trigger, cultural and political change (cf. Schwanecke 2016). If, with Caroline Levine (Levine 2015, 8), one assumes that “when forms meet, their collision produces unexpected consequences”, one has to enquire into the particular dynamic interrelations of the intersections of drama and narrative, on the one hand, and the culture in which they have emerged, on the other. One has to ask where the particular, unusual, and potentially unexpected performative power of these ‘colliding forms’ lies – both synchronically and diachronically. The changes of narrative form, dramatic form, and the developments at their intersection need not be analysed in isolation; as Gerd Bayer argues, there is also [the] need to acknowledge the cultural background from which generic change draws its inspiration. [. . .] [A]n awareness [. . .] of habits of reading, of censorship and rules about publication, of religious attitudes to art, and of critical debates about literary form certainly sheds additional light on the process of genre formation. When Stephen Greenblatt notes that ‘the study of genre is an exploration of the poetics of culture’,38 he addresses a crucial aspect. Thus emanating in a sense from themselves, cultural products [individual plays and the genre of drama they form in sum] are both the result and creator of their environment. (Bayer 2016, 32)

This is why, after determining a form of drama-narrative intersection in plays with the tools provided in sections 3.1 to 3.3, one has to ask, firstly, which potentialities lie latent in the narrative forms playwrights have chosen to expand dramatic forms. In Levine’s terms, which ‘allowances’ do narrative forms offer that help skirt the ‘constraints’ of dramatic form? Secondly, one has to examine what cultural work these forms potentially do (cf. Sect. 3.4), both synchronically and diachronically (cf. esp. 9.2). Before exploring these questions in Part II), I will put forth some hypotheses on the general possibilities latent in dramatic emplotments of narrative. These concern (A) the genre system and (B) the cultural context. Regarding (A): The thematisation and formal adoption of narrative and transgeneric structures within drama in particular and the genre system in general may serve: (A1) inter-textual reference; i.e., as quasi-hypertextual link that triggers the knowledge of the play-external story alluded to; (A2) aesthetic and

38 Cf. Stephen Greenblatt (1982, 6).


3 Suggestions for a Peripeteia in Drama and Narrative Theory

formal experiment in genre; (A3) the further development of drama; (A4) or the broadening of dramatic modes of expression. It may (A5) function as an homage to the tradition of storytelling; (A6) means of dramatic self-reflectivity, and (A7) dramatic renewal. It may provide a way to deal with the reality of politics’ meddling in artistic production (e.g., closing of theatres, censorship, etc.), (A8) provide a means to cope with a changing genre system, or (A9) to trigger changes within this very system. Regarding (B): The dramatisation of, e.g., conflicting or competing narratives (sensu stories), the narrativisation of plays, as well as their performance, may serve, within culture, for (B1) entertainment, (B2) moral edification and education (prodesse et delectare), (B3) popularising certain socio-political opinions, (B4) manipulation and propaganda; they may be (B5) exploited as mouthpieces for socio-political criticism, (B6) used as forms of enacted and embodied (explicit or implicit) opposition to hegemonic ideologies, (B7) used to form, introduce, and/or advertise new social values and codes of behaviour; (B8) they may constitute and generate cultures (cf. also A. Nünning 2013b); (B9) they may help to partake in the making of the ‘official’ history of a nation and the creation of national identity, and/or (B10) to criticise and/or undermine hegemonic historiography and national identity; (B11) they may help to stabilise socio-political affairs and hierarchies, or (B12) destabilise them, especially in times of socio-political upheaval (e.g., the Interregnum). Narrative forms in plays may serve as (B13) “thought experiments” (cf. Levine 2015), which create utopias (both sensu good and beautiful places) not only theoretically, but also actually. Performed, they become almost tangible and perceived as potentially ‘realisable’; they, thus, (B14) potentially invite the partaking in or instigation of reform and/or revolution. In all of these cases, narrative forms in plays are used as “way[s] of dealing with real [and imagined] problems – and they perform this function not despite but because of the fact that they assert the freedom to suspend the reality principle with its central true/false distinction.” (Koschorke 2007, 210) The aesthetic and cultural possibilities in and repercussions of narrative topics, modes, and features that are selected for dramatic representation, will, in the following sections, be synchronically determined and contextualised for each play (after an analysis and text-internal interpretation of their narrative forms). In the concluding chapter (cf. Ch. 9), possible over-arching and diachronic developments and macro-forms and -functions of plays that highlight narrativity will be delineated.

Part II: The History of Narrative and Narration in British Drama – The Cultural Dynamics and Performative Power of Dramatic Storytelling

4 Stories in Conflict and Competition: Alternative Histories, Complementary Tales, and Lies in Early Modern Drama Rivalling versions of the truth and the question of who determines how history is to be written are not features of our day and age alone. Even if, in the second decade of the twenty-first century, it seems to have become socially acceptable to present “alternative facts” (Abramson, January 24, 2017) in political discourse instead of verifiable facts, and in which “post-truth politics” abound in Europe and the USA,1 competing versions of the truth are by no means a recent phenomenon. Andrew Hadfield and Perez Zagorin have, respectively, examined the early modern period as an “age of dissimulation” (Zagorin 1990), a “culture of lying” (Hadfield 2013), and an “age of lying” (Hadfield 2016). Even though what is perceived as true versus false, as well as the ethical and moral evaluation of truthtelling and lying, shift with time and culture, the early modern concern with truths and falsehood, as well as with everything that lies in between,2 is not dissimilar to today’s preoccupation with these topics in Europe and the USA. English playwrights have explored conflicting and competing stories ever since the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries; not only as a means of dramatic resourcefulness and tension, but also as an investigation into the uses and practices of political and cultural storytelling of their times. Making use of conflicting narratives on their plays’ story level and employing them to structurally mould their dramatic narration, these writers depict their age as one characterised by mendacity and duplicity, as an age that is – politically as well as in private spheres – enmeshed in a confusing web of conflicting truths and lies. Hence, early modern playwrights challenge hegemonic versions of history and subtly revise it. They question as well as undermine the institutions that are in power to, for self-fashioning purposes, tell their story and, in a similar vein, write national history. They not only face up to those in power, however; they also force the common people, i.e., their audiences, to look at themselves in the mirror. They expose and counsel a society that apparently tends to favour black-and-white ideologies and morals instead of acknowledging and coping

1 The jury of Oxford Dictionaries was even compelled to make “post-truth” the ‘international word of the year 2016’ (Flood, November 15, 2016). 2 Cf. Ingo Berensmeyer and Andrew Hadfield’s brilliant examination of ‘mendacity,’ equivocation, and verbal ambiguity in early modern culture and philosophical and religious discourse (2015). https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110724110-004


4 Stories in Conflict and Competition

with the complex politics, practices, and uses of political, social, and cultural realities of its time. That matters pertaining to narrative and its semantic dimensions become most interesting where different stories compete in terms of their truth-value and the (potential and actual) socio-cultural impact they have has become a truth generally acknowledged.3 In this chapter, I examine popular plays which exploit the tensions of competing stories as part of their plots and which, by way of their récit or emplotment, implicitly and explicitly reflect the mechanisms and effects of conflicting narratives in history and literature. I ask how dramatists employ dramatic storytelling in their respective narrative set-ups (presenting stories in conflict and reflecting upon it) and to what ends. To cover a broad spectrum of the semantic dimensions of narrative used on the story and discourse levels of early modern drama, I examine plays that relate either to history and its story qualities or to traditional narrative works and genres. William Shakespeare’s popular history King Henry IV, Part One and Part Two (Section 4.1), is used as an example of playwriting that explores the nexus between plays and public history. John Webster’s The White Devil (Section 4.2) serves as an instance of the dramatic refurbishment of private history and biographical facts, while William Shakespeare and George Wilkins‘ Pericles (Section 4.3) is drawn upon to analyse how, in playwriting, different traditional narrative genres are inter-textually referenced and dramatically employed and developed.

4.1 Emplotting Competing Narratives in Dramatic Narration: The Dramatic Retelling of English National History in William Shakespeare’s Meta-Histories of King Henry IV, Part One and Part Two Literary historians have arguably already produced more than enough readings of Shakespeare. Nevertheless, one must allow for yet another consideration of his plays within the present context. A book on dramatic narration would be grossly negligent not to consider the bard’s histories in general and his Henry IV plays in particular. After all, the historiographic narrative of England’s variable fortunes is, in Shakespeare’s histories, dramatically processed, or, in other words, dramatically ‘retold’ – and this in a highly artful and entertaining fashion.

3 According to Fritz Breithaupt, storytelling begins in precisely those situations that provide room for interpretation and, thus, allow for more than one version of the facts: “Eben hier [. . .] beginnt Narration: dort, wo es mehr als eine Version eines Sachverhalts gibt” (2011, 12).

4.1 Emplotting Competing Narratives in Dramatic Narration


Henry IV, Part One (1596–1597) and Part Two (1598), lend themselves particularly well to examination in the present context because narrative features exceptionally prominently in both of these plays. Looking at the plays’ discourse levels understood as récit (cf. Sect. 3.3), one realises that historiography (as factual storytelling) and counter-versions of the ‘official grand narrative’ are topics selected, organised, and emplotted to shape and determine the duology’s story world and serve as foundation for dramatising the narrative of English monarchy. The effects of factual and fictional narratives are discussed in explicit, manifold ways; and power imbalances between different storytelling institutions are thematised. Consequently, I consider the Henry IV duology not just as histories, but also as metahistories and dramatic meta-stories. Concerning the plays’ discourse levels, I ask how Shakespeare dramatically retells English history, which strategies he employs, and to which ends. Investigating the plays’ plots, I also pose the question of how narrativity and historiography are thematised and dramatised. With his tetralogies, of which the Henry IV plays are part, Shakespeare clads the material of historiography, such as archival records, chronicles, annals, and other historical sources, in the cloth of fiction: he transforms it into drama. This chapter thus enquires into the relations between drama and narrative, especially its emanations as historiography and fiction. By way of example, I zoom in on the Henry IV to show how, on a general, contextual level, as well as on the plays’ discourse and story levels, English history is dramatically revised.

The Henry IV Duology in Its Narrative Contexts Henry IV, Part One and Part Two, which thematise both the political unrest that follows from Henry IV’s usurpation of Richard II’s throne and the maturation of his son, Prince Hal, to a worthy successor, lend themselves particularly well to analyses within the present context. They are, after all, interested in tracing the “bypaths and indirect, crook’d ways” (IV.iii.313) by which not only kings, but also history and stories are made. After having sketched the manifold possible semantic dimensions of ‘narrative’ earlier (cf. Sect. 3.2), I will have to reduce the term’s semantic polysemy here. In other words: Investigating the paradigmatic relationship between narration and drama in Shakespeare’s histories in general and Henry IV in particular, I must lay out which meanings of narrative the ‘Bard of Avon’ exploits in his duology exactly. While the relationship between drama and narrative has been often discussed and, maybe even much more often, challenged, few would doubt that historiography and history can be framed as narrative (Louch 1969; A. Nünning


4 Stories in Conflict and Competition

1995, 2008; White 2008).4 This is why Shakespeare’s histories, even if they are a special kind of history (i.e., clad in dramatic form and fictionalised), are, to start with, narrative on a very general, contextual level. The bard’s chronicle plays exhibit strong ties to (factual) narratives of the aforementioned kind, as the following three examples show. Firstly, they draw on historiographic sources. According to David Kastan, the main inter-texts of Shakespeare’s Henry IV duology, for instance, are, apart from the anonymous Elizabethan play The Famous Victories of Henry V (1598), the historiographies of Raphael Holinshed, i.e., his Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland ([1577] 1976), and Samuel Daniel’s Civil Wars (1595; cf. Kastan 2014a, 340). Secondly, the chronicle plays fictionalise British national history. Thus, the (hi)story of the English crown, as recounted in these historiographic sources, and the plot of the “rise and fall of the House of Lancaster” (Dunton-Downer and Riding 2014 [2004], 51), which must have been present and “topical” in national memory (Dunton-Downer and Riding 2014 [2004], 50), were taken by the ‘Bard of Avon’ to serve as the basis of his chronicle plays. Thus, Shakespeare’s plays can be regarded as dramatisations of a historiographic ‘sequence of events,’ which is, after all, a minimal definition of story.5 In addition to the relation to narratives of a factual quality, Shakespeare, thirdly, clads the chronological events, which span from the reign of King John (1199–1216) to that of Henry VIII (1509–1547),6 in a specific dramatic form. This dramatic form has been even labelled homonymically: since the First

4 Despite my emphasis of the similarities between historiography, ‘factual narrative,’ and fictional narrative, the criticism that is interested in differentiating those notions shall not go unmentioned: see, e.g., Cohn (2000 [1999]). 5 Cf. E. M. Forster (1993 [1927]), who defines ‘story,’ as opposed to ‘plot,’ as chronological sequence of events. 6 Even if Shakespeare did not write his chronicle plays in the order in which the actual historical events occurred, his first editors, with their arrangement of the plays in the First Folio, laid out a narrative sequence of events that was latent in corpus of the bard’s histories. It parallels the course of actual history (cf. also Laqué 2011, 64). King John (c. 1595–1596) can be seen as a prologue to Shakespeare’s two tetralogies, one of which (the so-called ‘Lancaster tetralogy’ or ‘second tetralogy’) comprises Richard II (c. 1595), Henry IV, Part One (c. 1596–1597), Henry IV, Part Two (c. 1598), and Henry V (c. 1598–99), and one of which (the so-called ‘York tetralogy’ or ‘first tetralogy’) covers the Henry VI trilogy (c. 1589–1591) and Richard III (c. 1592–1593). Henry VIII (c. 1612–1613), as the last history play, is arranged in the fashion of an epilogue to the tetralogies. At this point, it has to be stated that the canon of Shakespeare’s histories was complemented rather recently. In the late 1990s, with the addition of Edward III, a play likely to have been co-authored by the bard, was admitted into it (cf. Dunton-Downer and Riding 2014 [2004], 49, 97). Penned between 1590 and 1594, it would have to be placed between King John and Richard II, as a second epilogue to the Lancaster tetralogy, to mirror the linearity of historical events.

4.1 Emplotting Competing Narratives in Dramatic Narration


Folio edition, it has been called ‘history.’ While the contents of the history plays are, at a first glance, “not difficult to distinguish from other kinds of Shakespearean plays,” due to the fact that “[e]ach play is set principally in England and addresses the political challenges confronted by a specific English king, whose name figures as the play’s title” (Dunton-Downer and Riding 2014 [2004], 49), there are etymological and semantic overlaps between ‘history’ and ‘story.’ On the one hand, these overlaps complicate the generic definition; on the other, they establish yet another, third fundamental link to narrative. Besides the etymological link between ‘history’ and ‘story,’ there also appears to be a semantic one. According to David Scott Kastan (2016, 8), history and story seem to have been, in Renaissance times, synonymous: “The title-page of the manifestly unhistorical Taming of the Shrew in 1594 refers to that play as A Pleasant Conceited History [. . .]. Even The Merchant of Venice was first published as The Most Excellent History. ‘History’, in these cases, seems to mean no more than ‘story’.” Apart from Shakespeare’s loose handling of generic attributions in his naming of the plays, there is yet another, semantic tie between the concepts of story and history: namely, in everyday language. Renaissance dictionaries translate the Latin historia not as ‘history’ but ‘story.’ One can conclude, then, that the bard was not just interested in his source stories’ rootedness in actual history; he was equally interested in their narrative quality.7 Looking at historiographic texts, he was presumably keen to extract captivating stories that lend themselves well to dramatisation.

Henry IV, Part One, and Its Text-Internal Narrativity If one accepts the contextually founded, general relatedness of Shakespeare’s histories to these three kinds of story, one is able to turn to particular histories and enquire into the specific ways the bard turns his factual, public-source narratives into fictional, dramatic ones. One can furthermore continue to ask for which purposes these factual stories are converted into drama and with which dramainternal and/or cultural effects. To do this, I will examine, by way of example, the Henry IV duology. On the plays’ discourse levels (sensu récit), the intersection between storytelling, historiography, fiction, and drama is fashioned in a way which potentially triggers (meta-)reflection on those very topics. The dramatic works are, 7 Kastan’s conclusion that “[t]here is no compelling evidence that [. . .] [Shakespeare] thought of his history plays as generically distinct from the other plays whose source material was historical, like Macbeth or Coriolanus” (2014b, 9) and mine are not mutually exclusive. They are but two sides of the same coin.


4 Stories in Conflict and Competition

firstly, part and expression of what has been called the “Elizabethan preoccupation with history” (D. Cohen 2002, 294). Secondly, they show that, in contrast to some critical notions, Shakespeare was not only interested in gripping stories, but also in the fundamental mechanisms of history (as res gestae and historiae rerum gestarum), the conflicted nature of its stories, and the institutions of history-making. It is certainly true that Shakespeare was “less interested in historical accuracy than in compelling drama” (Dunton-Downer and Riding 2014 [2004], 49; cf. also Kastan 2014b, 12–14); but that does not contradict my point. Part of his ‘compelling drama’ is, as I aim to show for Henry IV, his probing of ‘historical accuracy’ and competing (hi)stories. Fascinated by the general nature of history and diegetic storytelling, his duology dismantles the hidden mechanisms by which history sometimes happens to be shaped, questions the authorities that have the power of making history, and displays the fissures, discrepancies, and inaccuracies that historiography is (in contradistinction to what positivist approaches would make believe) actually marked by. While the Henry IV plays partake in the formation of a general narrative of England’s past and combine this with a coming-of-age plot, the maturation process of the prodigal Prince Hal, who will, in Part Two, have turned into the worthy King Henry V (V.ii.43–61), they are also plays of ideas. Both are studies in the nature of history and storytelling: Part One focuses on the competition between fact and contra-fact, or lie, in world-making processes, whereas Part Two enquires into the general nature of history and contemplates the influence of rumour on historical outcomes. With Henry IV, Part One, Shakespeare both probes the nature of royalty and challenges the contemporary institutions which have the power to construct public and national history. In terms of récit, he, firstly, enriches his historical narrative by emplotting it in or surrounding it with additional stories, presenting his audience with a conglomerate of multiple stories. Secondly, he dramatises stories whose contents are in conflict and competition. To illustrate the first point, let us look at the way in which he combines the grand narrative of English history, monarchy, and civil war with personal histories. In contrast to chronicle plays like Richard III, in which, besides the narrative of England’s history, the fate and fortunes of members of the royal family prevail, in Henry IV, Part One, Shakespeare does not only complement his historical narrative with the personal matters of the crowned heads. This is to say, there is not only the dramatisation of the political consequences with which Henry IV, the usurper of Richard II’s crown, is faced. There is also the maturation plot of Prince Hal, as well as the generational conflict between the prince and his father. And all of this is topped by the addition of the famous character Sir John Falstaff and the comic plot

4.1 Emplotting Competing Narratives in Dramatic Narration


around him. In her article “Is All Well? Shakespeare’s Play with Narratives” (2006), Kate McLuskie emphasises the importance of ‘back-stories’ and smaller, narrative insets of suggested, but not fully developed narratives in the bard’s dramatic oeuvre. Even if she is primarily talking about diegetic narratives (i.e., stories told), her argument can be expanded to mimetic narratives and dramatic plots in Henry IV, Part One, which accompany the main plot and influence its interpretation. The plot surrounding Falstaff, one of audiences’ favourite characters,8 demonstrates particularly well the effects that McLuskie describes: it “deflect[s] attention away from the forward movement of the main action to other possibilities” (2006, 93) and gives further “meaning and significance to the onstage actions” (McLuskie 2006, 78). Drawing one’s attention to the six comic scenes, plus the three more historically-founded scenes in which the portly knight stars, in Part One, Shakespeare does something highly unusual – and not only compared to historiographies that present the grand historical narratives of monarchs and nations, but also to his own other histories (as dramatic sub-genre). He, firstly, includes a plot about someone related to commoners and introduces the perspectives of pickpockets (e.g., II.ii),9 drunkards, debtors, and tavern people (e.g., III.iii). Even if he shows these people’s activities predominantly in a comedic light, he dignifies their concerns, secondly, by including royal characters in their scenes (above all, Prince Hal) and by interweaving their stories tightly with more regal ones, especially that of Prince Hal’s maturation. The latter intends his conversion to be all the more spectacular against the backdrop of his previous “foul” and “ugly” (I.ii.192) acquaintance with the characters of the commoners’ plot (I.ii.185–207). From this, we may conclude that Shakespeare’s decision to enrich his grand, national, historical narrative with commoners’ perspectives and to dignify them by tightly connecting them to royal characters and their plots (both factual and fictional) makes the Falstaff plot of Henry IV, Part One, more than a mere “under-plot” (Dover Wilson 1979 [1943], 12; cf. also Bowers 1970, 53) to the serious, historical action. The stories of commoners become equivalent to the stories of kings;10 in this revisionist and anti8 Falstaff’s popularity is not always rooted in people’s love for the character, but also in their criticism of him (cf., e.g., Bloom 1999 [1998], 271–272). 9 Within this section, all not otherwise marked act, scene, and line numbers in brackets refer to Shakespeare (2014 [1596–1597]). 10 This has been pointed out before. Cf., e.g., Tobias Döring (2009a), who speaks of two equivalent worlds mirroring each other: “Die beiden Teile des Historiendramas King Henry IV [. . .] leben von der komplexen Gegenüberstellung zweier Welten, die sich wechselseitig spiegeln: Die ernste Welt des Königshofs [. . .] findet eine komödiantische Entsprechung in der volkstümlichen Tavernenwelt.” In addition to the qualitative reasons listed above to substantiate the claim of the equality between the comic and historical plots, there is also a quantitative argument. “[A]


4 Stories in Conflict and Competition

authoritative spirit, Shakespeare insinuates that commoners – and even rascals, such as Falstaff’s entourage – must be attributed their part in grand national narratives, from which they had been, in histories like Holinshed’s or Daniel’s, excluded. What is more, Shakespeare compares to and even equals royalty with rascals. While Falstaff is, quite openly, a dissembler and liar, when he claims to have been outnumbered in a fight (II.iv.155–156) or to have killed Hotspur (V.iv.123–128), Prince Hal is, against the backdrop of the Falstaff plot, presented as deceiver, too, even if in much more cunning and concealed ways. While it is obvious to his fellow characters that Falstaff plays dirty (I.ii.173–180), Harry’s dishonest exploitation of people like Falstaff, who carry the audience’s sympathy and are likely to have been socially closer to the majority of Renaissance audiences than royalty, for political reasons (I.ii.185–207)11 becomes only clear to the audience (as part of the external communication system, on DNL 5). Within the story world (on DNL 1) and in the internal communication system, the fact that Harry intends to betray Falstaff remains just a latent12 hint (II.iv.468). Royal dishonesty is consequently presented as all the worse: Due to the incongruence between external and internal communication system, history and the institutions it is supposed to promote, such as the English court, are framed as less “heroic” and trustworthy than conventional Renaissance histories would have the monarch’s people believe. With his Falstaff plot, Shakespeare not only undermines the authority of monarchs, who sanctify the master narratives which they themselves require to gain legitimisation, unify their country, and avoid political opposition; he also questions historiography. In contrast to his historiographic sources, Shakespeare presents history not as a “seamlessly woven master narrative” (D. Cohen 2002, 294); he redirects, once again in McLuskie’s terms, his audience’s attention “away from the forward movement of the main action” (2006, 93), i.e., the course of English history. In a meta-historical and perhaps even revisionist spirit,13 he has his recipients consider the general nature of history, which, in

line count [. . .] reveals that over a third of the play’s [Henry IV, Part One] lines appear in the six comic scenes, and Falstaff’s interactions in the others bring the total of ‘comic’ lines closer to one half of the play.” (Kastan 2014b, 14). 11 Especially revealing are the following lines spoken by Hal: “My reformation, glittering o’er my fault, | Shall show more goodly and attract more eyes | Than that which has no foil to set it off.” (I.ii.203–205). 12 ‘Latently,’ because Hal’s statement that he will banish Falstaff is uttered in a play within the play, i.e., a fictional scene. That Hal will realise in reality (in Henry IV, Part Two) what he promises in fiction is not clear at this point – neither to the characters nor to the audience. 13 In this, Shakespeare can be regarded proto-postmodern, as D. Cohen (2002, 294) argues. The playwright must have been aware of the simplifications and “inherent contradictions that more formalist and monologist historians have always been at pains to subdue to their single

4.1 Emplotting Competing Narratives in Dramatic Narration


the dramatic narrative of Henry IV, Part One, is presented not as a linear narrative, solely shaped by royal characters, but as a complex entity characterised and fashioned by people of different types and classes. Furthermore, history is not portrayed as a unified, flawless master narrative, but as a multitude of different, even dissonant perspectives and voices. It entails not only the great actions of kings and queens but also, in six of nineteen scenes, the dealings of simple people, such as thieves and tavern owners. With this, the bard not only gives a voice to those normally marginalised or unrepresented in hegemonic Renaissance historiography, but arguably also questions (dominant and contemporary practices of) historiography and dares the English court – and those affiliated with it, who are sanctioned to write its history – with its near-exclusive power to interpret, construct, and authorise self-serving as well as self-promoting kinds of history. Shakespeare’s implicit examination of the authorities that to write and tell their exclusive history cannot just be found on a structural level, i.e., the play’s récit. It is also present on Part One’s story level, especially in Act II, scene iv, in which a dialogue between Prince Hal and a sheriff, who is looking for Falstaff because of his involvement in a robbery, is – literally – telling (insofar as it shows the true nature of the crown prince and his trustworthiness). Hal covers for the stout knight, telling the sheriff an untruth about his whereabouts (II.iv. 499–500). This untruth, or lie, of the princely authority is not questioned by the sheriff, who readily agrees to leave. What follows is even more revealing: a dialogue which recalls a scene in an earlier play, The Taming of the Shrew (Shakespeare 2010 [1590–1592]), in which it is negotiated who is in charge of interpreting reality and determining what is true, and what not. Whereas the man dominates over his wife in The Taming of the Shrew, when Petruccio simply decides that the sun is not the sun but the moon (Shakespeare 2010 [1590–1592], IV.v.278–280), the royal authority dominates over the common officer in Henry IV, Part One, when Hal decides that, at 2 a.m., it is not the time to bid someone “[g]ood night”, as the officer does, but “good morrow” (IV.ii.510–512). With both of these brief dialogues, Shakespeare implicitly asks what happens if stories of different content and truthvalue compete and, at the same time, impressively shows that the ‘true’ power of interpretation and making (hi)story lies not with simple, honest people, but with those in power, whether they are wrong, like Petruccio, or in the habit of bending

political visions.” (D. Cohen 2002, 295) Shakespeare also seems be proto-postmodern in his undermining of hegemonic master narratives, which have not only been considered “seamless” and “heroic,” but also “male” (cf. D. Cohen 2002, 294). Meghan C. Andrews (2015) explores, in a thought-provoking manner, possible gender inversions and ‘princely allusions’ to Elizabeth I in Shakespeare’s Henriad.


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truths, like the crown prince. These small subplots of social injustice seem to make both the play’s story as well as its historical source narrative especially relatable for the general Renaissance audience, who would have been affected by such hidden power mechanisms. In his dramatic version of English history, Shakespeare sides with these simple people: He implicitly criticises the prevailing power imbalances in the project of nation-building by means of a historiography that habitually sidelines a certain kind of people. Besides Shakespeare’s implicit critique of historiography and of the contemporary institutions which have a monopoly on constructing national history, the bard asks how historical ‘truths’ come to be established. In doing so, he also interrogates the nature of royalty and examines the factors that ‘make’ a king a king or a queen a queen. Whereas he does the former by enriching factual narratives with additional, fictional stories and by intertwining them in the manner described above, he touches upon the latter issues by dramatising conflicting and competing stories, as will be demonstrated in the following. With his dramatic structure of Henry IV, the bard traces the crooked ways in which historical, hegemonic truths are established and, instead of mythologising royalty, he dissects it.14 In Part One, the repeated appearance of different versions of one and the same circumstance (similar to multiperspectivity in novels) is likely to catch the recipient’s eye. Shakespeare uses drama to explore, in a meta-narrative manner, the mechanisms of conflicting stories: by way of his play’s récit, he exploits inconsistencies between mimetic and diegetic narratives as well as, in theatrical mise en abyme, incongruences between different mimetic narratives of various ontological statuses. Inconsistencies between mimetic and

14 Before showing, with Henry IV, Part One, that Eustace Tillyard’s well-known and harmonising construct of the ‘Tudor Myth’ (Tillyard 1991 [1944]) as well as Shakespeare’s alleged contributions to it have been rightly challenged (Laqué 2011, 64–65) since the 1970s, one has to concede at this point that the Elizabethans’ concentration on their history, which also becomes manifest in their writing and receiving of chronicle plays, was likely to have catered to their needs of “preserving peace[,] political stability[ . . ., ] and national self-definition” (D. Cohen 2002, 294; cf. also Rackin 1993 [1990], 4–8). Furthermore, one has to admit that, in this sense, history plays like Henry IV probably did make a political statement in Elizabeth I’s interest. And true, Shakespeare was making an ideologically charged decision with his history cycle when he chose to depict Henry VII, grandfather to Elizabeth I, as providential ruler and as ‘the’ sovereign to bring unity to England by joining the houses of York and Lancaster and ending the Wars of the Roses (cf. Dunton-Downer and Riding 2014 [2004], 51). Yet, at the same time, because of his thematisation and dramatisation of different and competing versions of ‘truth,’ in Henry IV, Part One, Shakespeare cannot be found guilty of writing a simple, positivist piece of Tudor propaganda of the ‘Tudor Myth’ kind. At worst, one can argue that he sometimes seems politically ambivalent (cf., e.g., Hogan 2006).

4.1 Emplotting Competing Narratives in Dramatic Narration


diegetic narratives become especially evident in the first part of Henry IV, Part One. In Act II, scene ii, the audience witnesses how Falstaff and his fellow thieves are, after one of their robberies, robbed themselves (by Prince Hal and Poins, one of his and Falstaff’s mischievous friends, both of whom are in disguise). Challenged by the two, Falstaff and his fellow thieves easily give up their booty (it takes only a few words to convince them to run away: “PRINCE Your money! | POINS Villains!” II.ii.99–100). In scene II.iv, these mimetically narrated events are, by Falstaff and his fellows, diegetically related to Hal – with more than minor changes. Falstaff and his fellows were allegedly robbed by “[a] hundred” (II.iv.155), “a dozen” (II.iv.159), or “fifty” (II.iv.180); and they did not surrender easily, but fought “two hours” and only escaped “by miracle” (II.iv. 159–160). Falstaff obviously lies, writhes, and contradicts himself under Prince Hal’s relentless questioning – much to the enjoyment of the audience, who witnesses conflicting stories on two different levels. There is the discrepancy between the mimetic and diegetic narrative within the inner communication system; and there is the discrepancy between the inner and outer communication system: Falstaff is unaware that Hal and Poins are playing a trick upon him, but the audience is aware, due to another, proleptically arranged diegetic narrative (I.ii.152–183). This double ‘dramatic irony’ evokes comedy, as it is supposed to – which the audience knows, too. In a meta-dramatic remark, Poins explains the mechanisms of dramatic irony: “The virtue of this jest will be the incomprehensible lies that this same fat rogue will tell us when we meet at supper: how thirty at least he fought with [. . .]; and in the reproof of this lives the jest.” (I.ii.176–180). Shakespeare operates, at this point, with conflicting stories of different kinds in a virtuoso manner to evoke amusement and comedy. At the same time, and in an implicitly metadramatic remark, through Poins’ words he reveals to his audience exactly what he is doing and partially instructs them on how to react. There is, however, more than comedy to this. Within the context of the chronicle play and of repeated character reflexions on the nature of ‘lies’ and ‘truths,’15 the presentation of these conflicting stories can be regarded as yet another, meta-historical variation. The audience becomes aware that past events, if gone unwitnessed, are only retraceable through stories that ‘will be told’ (cf. I.ii.177). These diegetic stories of the past, or histories,

15 See, e.g., the argument between Hal and Falstaff that ends in the tautological and, thus, empty phrase “[i]s not the truth the truth?” (II.Iv.222–223), or the fight between Glendower and Hotspur, in which the latter repeatedly asks the former to “[t]ell truth and shame the devil.” (III.i.57, 60).


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are not always straightforwardly constructed. They are, among other factors,16 dependent on the people who have an interest in (the construction of) them. The recipients must hope that the storytellers are reliable and not distorting history to present themselves in a better light.17 And they must be aware that there might be hidden powers and invisible manipulations at work, like Hal and Poins’, which are able to influence the construction of history and, even more problematic, change the course of history. In his staging of conflicting stories, the bard does not stop with evoking comedy and tracing the crooked ways in which historical ‘truths’ are ‘made.’ He continues to address the questions of what, or, who is royal, viz. what characterises a (good) sovereign – both in general and, specifically, in historical truth-making processes. He does this by exploiting the nexus between drama (as staged drama) and narrative in the following – mimetically narrative – way. Shakespeare prepares and anticipates the central scene of Part One by having it preceded and mirrored by two theatrical mise en abymes, plays within the play. On the eve of the alliance’s attack against the king, King Henry IV and his renegade crown prince address their conflicts (III.ii.4–161); at the scene’s end, the so far atwain find themselves together at last: Hal apologises for his loose behaviour (III.ii.130–131) and swears allegiance to his father (III.ii.132–159), who pardons him and puts his trust into him again (III.ii.161). That this dialogue is not only a crucial talk between a father and prodigal son, but also between two political dignitaries is made clear by the two mise en abymes, in which Henry IV’s anticipated accusations and Hal’s possible responses are rehearsed. In one of these, Falstaff acts as King Henry IV, and Hal as himself (II.iv.366–425); in the other, Hal plays King Henry IV and Falstaff the crown prince (II.iv.426–468). This – in its quick succession somewhat overwhelming – usurpation of other identities is not only an amusing example of meta-theatre, as it is in other plays in which the swapping of roles is used for comic purposes (e.g., Twelfth Night Shakespeare 2008 [1601–1602]), but also an attempt at defining the roles of kings within history. The bard seems to pose the question of what, in history, makes a king a ‘king’? Is it props as signs of royalty, as Falstaff thinks, slipping in the role of Henry IV: “This chair will be my state, this dagger my sceptre and this cushion my crown” (II.iv.368–369)? Is it a mode of speech and habitus, as both Falstaff

16 For the role of ‘memory’ and ‘forgetfulness’ in the establishment of historical truths in Shakespeare’s oeuvre, see the stimulating articles by Barbara Hardy (1989) and Jonni Dunn (2016), respectively. 17 Besides Falstaff, the megalomaniac Glendower is also guilty of this crime: he attempts to mythologise himself by claiming, for instance, that “the earth did shake when [he] [. . .] was born” (III.i.20).

4.1 Emplotting Competing Narratives in Dramatic Narration


and Hal seem to suggest (II.iv.376–377, 421)? Is it the playing of a role, as not only the meta-theatrical plays within the play suggest, but also King Henry IV’s assertion, in the analogous ‘real’ scene, that to become he king “dressed [. . .] [himself] in such humility | That [. . .] [he] did pluck allegiance from men’s hearts” (III.ii.51–52). Is it the mere usurpation of a role, as suggested not only by Hal’s quick “deposition” of Falstaff (II.iv.421–423), when he is unhappy with the way Falstaff fulfils his task as king, but also by the actual way in which Henry IV once gained the crown when he deposed of Richard II? Is it theft, as the parallelisation between Falstaff and Henry IV suggests, when Falstaff, the thief, acts as the king who stole another king’s throne?18 Or does a king become king due to a certain kind of behaviour? And if this is the case, what behaviour is royal? Is it a certain morally flawless conduct, the avoidance of “vulgar company” (III.ii.41), “humility” (III.ii.51), or bravery and success in war (cf. Henry Percy’s merits, III. ii.113–8; but also Hal’s final accomplishments on the battlefield of Shrewsbury, V.iv.38–42, 58–85)? Is it in loyalty to long-standing companions, as Falstaff both advocates as King Henry IV – “there is virtue in that Falstaff. Him keep with” (II. iv.417–418) – and asks for as Hal – “banish not him [Falstaff] thy Harry’s company” (II.iv.465–466)? Or is it the exact opposite, using people to gain power, to become regarded as ‘royal,’ and then discarding them as Harry sets out to do, playing king – “I do [banish Falstaff]; I will” (II.iv.468) – as well as being king in Part Two, and as Henry IV has obviously already done. After all, a war is looming because those who helped Henry IV to power now feel neglected by him, as Henry Percy, also known as Hotspur, makes clear: “[Y]ou are fooled, discarded and shook off | By him for whom these shames you underwent [putting down Richard II to help Henry IV to power]” (I.iii.177–178). With mimetic storytelling in general and the three theatrical stagings of one and the same episode in particular, different versions of a single story compete. The variations in content and in the ‘casting,’ as well as the tensions which arise therefrom, relate the questions of who is a monarch, how she/he has to be, how she/he shapes her/his own fate, as well as national history to (meta-)theatre. Even if there are no definite answers given to these questions, the variations of the self-same scene with their different ontological statuses (twice it is fictional, once factual within the story world), as well as the assumption of the king’s identity by diverse people, certainly complicate the Elizabethan beliefs that “English rulers were vice-regents of God [. . .] [and] that history itself unfolded according to divine design” (Dunton-Downer and Riding 2014 [2004], 51). History seems

18 This is a reading that James Bulman (2009, 162) proposes when he argues that “Falstaff is [. . .] akin to Henry in fashioning himself a position of power based on theft.”


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also to evolve through the planned, rehearsed, and staged19 power politics of monarchs and their heirs (there is no place for permanent alliances and fidelity, as both Falstaff and the Percys experience, except for the mutual loyalty between father and son, i.e., king and his heir). Besides this, history appears to be shaped by monarchs through the playing and usurping of (royal) roles (Prince Hal promises to become a worthy successor, to change the way he plays his role by being ‘more himself,’ cf. III.ii.93). And, finally, history is even moulded by means of royal deception (not only Falstaff and Hal act as king; their roleplaying anticipates the deflection tactics applied in war by the king himself, who arguably survives battle not only because his son saves him, but also because of ‘counterfeits,’ decoys dressed as the king; cf. V.iv.24–37). With this, the play’s overall concern, namely, the mechanisms of competing fact and contra-fact, or lie, in world-making processes, is illuminated in yet another respect.

Henry IV, Part Two, and Its Text-Internal Narrativity With Henry IV, Part Two (1598),20 Shakespeare not only continues the personal stories of Henry IV, Prince Hal, Falstaff, and England’s national history, he also revives his study of the nature of history and storytelling. While Part One focuses on the competition between fact and lie, Part Two examines the general nature of history and explores its relations to rumour. Through his structural choices and continuing thematisation of history on the story level, Shakespeare gives the intersection between drama and narrative yet again other forms: As a meta-history, the chronicle play of Henry IV, Part Two, firstly, includes implicit and explicit reflections on accounts of past events (and of the future) on the story level. Secondly, on a structural level, the role of rumour in world-making and (hi)story-making processes is considered. To illustrate the implicit and explicit reflections on the past and on past narratives, I propose a close reading of a central dialogue between the sleepless, battered King Henry IV and the Earl of Warwick, one of the king’s supporters against the oppositional allies around the Earl of Northumberland. The

19 Planned through Hal’s intent conversion, rehearsed through Hal’s meta-theatrical roleplaying, and staged in the plays within the play and their different endings, as well as in the actual chronicle plays of both Henry IV, Part One and Part Two. Cf. also the ‘reign-asperformance’ metaphor in Henry IV, Part Two, in which the monarch frames his own kingship as an ‘act’ (IV.iii.326–327). 20 Within this section, all not otherwise marked act, scene, and line numbers in brackets refer to Shakespeare (2016 [1598]).

4.1 Emplotting Competing Narratives in Dramatic Narration


scene takes place at night in one of the sovereign’s unwelcome vigils. Henry IV, facing the continuance of the rebellion that has not been effectively ended with the victory of his army and Hal’s killing of Hotspur, Northumberland’s son, at the end of Part One, muses on the general course of history, past events, prophesies of the future, and changing fortunes. In a short diegetic synopsis of prior occurrences, which is not unlike a prequel to TV series’ episodes à la ‘previously in the Lancaster tetralogy,’ a brief summary of the dramatic plot of Richard II is given in a monologue by Henry IV himself, in which he functions as a diegetic storyteller. He muses: ‘Tis not ten years gone, Since Richard and Northumberland, great friends, Did feast together and, in two years after, Were they at wars. It is but eight years since, This Percy was the man nearest my soul; Who like a brother toil’d in my affairs, And let his love and life under foot; Yea, for my sake even to the eyes of Richard Gave him defiance. (III.i.57–65)

This brief summary of Richard II not only establishes some narrative coherence between the different parts of the ‘Lancaster tetralogy,’ but also retells an incident that determines Henry IV’s present role: He came to be Richard’s successor thanks to Northumberland’s changing allegiances. This memory, which is recounted in a diegetic past narrative, serves, however, not merely to recapitulate past events; in a situation which parallels the one referred to, Henry IV’s mind envisages – for the audience to see – the fact that Northumberland’s shifting loyalties are not only a matter of the past. Northumberland’s ‘defiance,’ i.e., his bold resistance to authority, is also an actual danger to the reflective sovereign. Thus, the past diegetic narrative mirrors Henry IV’s situation in the present mimetic narrative and implies a conceivable future: his loss of the throne. The so far implicitly voiced possible future is also made explicit when the ‘plain’ past narrative turns into a past narrative that, additionally, entails a future narrative in the form of a ‘prophesy.’ Remembering the cautioning words of his predecessor, the king continues: But which of you was by [. . .] When Richard, with his eye brimful of tears, Then check’d and rated by Northumberland, Did speak these words, now prov’d a prophesy? ‘Northumberland, thou ladder by which My cousin Bolingbroke ascends my throne’ [. . .] ‘The time will come, that foul sin, gathering head,


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Shall break into corruption’ – so went on, Foretelling this same time’s condition, And the division of our amity. (III.i.65–79)

As this implicitly meta-historical structure suggests, history is repeating itself in the present dramatic narrative: and this not only metaphorically (a broken friendship again threatens the throne) but also – for a study which is interested in the intersection between narrative and drama even more interesting – literally. The past is diegetically repeated within a mimetic narrative of the past. This structural mixture implicitly invites reflections on the nature of history, which are complemented by explicit ones. The mirror maze-like ‘infinity effect’ which arises out of the intricate structure of intertwined past and future narratives within present diegetic and mimetic narratives is further complicated by the abstract frame given to the king’s speech. The actual narrative of England and Henry IV’s history is preceded and followed by explicit reflections on history, which make Shakespeare’s chronicle play more than that, namely, a meta-history. Calling to God, Henry wonders about historical processes, which are, in his opinion, predominantly characterised by changing times and circumstances: O God, that one might read the book of fate, And see the revolution of the times Make mountains level, and the continent, Weary of solid firmness, melt itself Into the sea [. . .]; how chance’s mocks And changes fill the cup of alteration With divers liquors! O, if this were seen, The happiest youth, viewing his progress through, What perils past, what crosses to ensue, Would shut the book and sit him down and die. (III.i.45–56)

Comparing his own changing fortunes to some of the grandest geological transformations of the earth, Henry IV raises his own fate to a higher plane, monumentalising it. How far-reaching the caesuras can be that are part of both nature’s history and history’s nature, is not only made clear with the oxymora of ‘level mountains’ and ‘melted firmness,’ which point to the annihilation of the geological textures’ existence as such, but also by a thought experiment. The sovereign imagines a happy youth who reads in a book of fate that is similar to the future narratives in his monologue referencing the past about his future ‘perils’ and ‘crosses.’ He expects this youth, when confronted with his history before it actually happened, to die. History, for the monarch, is a complex structure. The past always contains

4.1 Emplotting Competing Narratives in Dramatic Narration


(the seeds of) the future. The latter is as unchangeable as stories written down in a “book” (III.i.45, 56). Yet history is not only preordained; it is also full of massive and severe changes and hazards – in his opinion, exactly like those which he is currently facing: a civil unrest that threatens his throne, and a sickly constitution. Henry IV’s notion of history helps him to disclaim any responsibility for the present, unstable political situation, clear his conscience of his past deeds, and justify his position as king. The menaces of the civil smouldering are decidedly not consequences of Richard II’s murder; they are not the result of him having come to power by “bypaths and indirect, crook’d ways” (IV.iii.313). Quite the contrary: According to Henry IV’s reasoning, he is king because history unfolds itself according to God’s inevitable design. This calculation is not devalued by the fact that Henry links historical processes to a Roman goddess rather than to the Elizabethan, i.e., Christian god. On the contrary, with his connecting history to divine power and preordination – precisely, the power of Fortuna, whose wheel of fortune runs in a predetermined circle that causes “alteration[s]” (III. i.52) in the form of highs and lows –, he is able to argue in favour of himself to legitimate and protect his reign. The usurpation of Richard II’s throne was, despite the ensuing diplomatic hardships for Henry IV, not a violation of divine right, but an unalterable consequence of divine will (cf. also III.i.72–74). When Shakespeare has the Earl of Warwick reply to Henry’s speech, the dramatist’s explicit meta-historical reflections on the nature of history, i.e., “the times deceased” (III.ii.81) and their outcome is complicated with meditations on those who, like Richard then and Henry IV now, try to assess the course of time: There is a history in all men’s lives Figuring the nature of the times deceas’d; The which observ’d, a man may prophesy, With a near aim, of the main chance of things As yet not come to life, who in their seeds And weak beginnings lie intreasured. Such things become the hatch and brood of time; And by the necessary form of this King Richard might create a perfect guess That great Northumberland, then false to him, Would of that seed grow to a greater falseness, Which should not find a ground to root upon Unless on you. (III.i.80–92)

While Henry IV is convinced of history’s predetermination, Warwick holds a more moderate opinion: People mindful of the past and attentive to the ‘history’


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of certain individuals’ lives, may foresee the ways in which these lives will further unfold, since there are certain rules, ‘necessities,’ which, after a certain time, are likely to result in a particular outcome. This outcome can be established on the basis of the knowledge of the individual’s past and history’s general workings. In other words, there are basic, constant, ‘necessary’ recurrences in history, which prompt the belief and fear that, if a person has a history of deception and falseness, he or she will be false again. Vigilant observers of history and people, such as Richard II, will know these rules and be able to make educated guesses as to their consequences. The Earl of Warwick is thus not taking an oppositional stance to Henry’s legitimation of power, even if his conception of history appears more honest than Henry’s. The earl is merely acknowledging the function of vigilant observers of events and the role of chance in the outcome of historical events. Since he is, at the same time, introducing the notion of ‘necessity’ in history’s basic mechanisms and building a bridge to the king’s idea of ‘preordination,’ he modifies Henry IV’s hardline idea of history but a little. With the dialogue between the king and Warwick, two different, but related, concepts of history are introduced and compared. While the sovereign is convinced of history’s unrelenting predetermination (and teleological vanity), the earl holds a more moderate view. And while Henry IV conceives of history as ‘fortune’ (cf. III.i.45) and thus bases it on a divine power, for Warwick, history has more to do with chance (cf. III.i.83). According to him, history has its elementary and necessary mechanisms. Since, however, the true outcome of a certain predisposition depends on contingencies of the future (as the botanic allegory illustrates, it needs a “ground to root upon”, III.i.91), one cannot not safely predict history’s actual outcome. One can only guess at it, even if the guess, in hindsight, will turn out to have been “perfect” (III.i.88). To the sovereign’s picture of history as fortuna (a past that entails determined futures and that relentlessly repeats itself) and Warwick’s moderate concept of history as mixture of necessary rules and chance (the rules allow select, latent possibilities to be actualised only if they “find a ground to root upon”, III.i.91), Shakespeare adds yet a third image. As extension of Warwick’s notion, this third view of history has nothing to do with fate, but much with contingency; at the same time, it is based neither on necessity nor rule but, similarly to the topic of conflicting stories in Henry IV, Part One, on the competition between fact and contra-fact. This third concept roots historical processes in ‘rumour.’ In contrast to the other two concepts, which are advanced by implicit allusions to the nature of history in the mirror maze-like structure of past and future narratives in Henry IV’s memory and the explicit reflections on history

4.1 Emplotting Competing Narratives in Dramatic Narration


and historical processes by Warwick and Henry IV, the third concept is introduced allegorically and structurally on DNL 2. According to this third notion of history, worlds, mind-sets, and histories are shaped by speculation, false stories, and lies. In short, they are moulded by ‘rumour.’ As Meredith Evans (2009, 2) aptly puts it, in this chronicle play, “events as both perceived and actually unfolding owe much to her [rumour’s] influence”. This is maybe where the bard’s piece becomes least Tudor propaganda and most Tudor opposition.21 It is not godly design that makes politics and history, but rumour; and this concerns not just Henry IV, but, unsettlingly, any monarch, including the present one on DNL 5, Elizabeth I. I will illustrate this thesis by focusing, once again, on the intersection between drama, theatre, and storytelling. The topic of ‘misleading stories’ is introduced in Henry IV, Part Two by a paradigmatic theatrical character, an allegory, and further developed by structural means: it is highlighted in different scenes of the dramatic narrative, almost as a leitmotif. To what extent worlds are shaped by rumour is already made clear in Henry IV, Part Two’s “Induction”. Here, narrative and theatricality meet to create Rumour, an allegorical figure. As a speaker with theatrical function on DNL 2, he reflects and visualises rumour’s nature and impact; as a speaker with narrative function, i.e., as generative narrator (cf. Sect. 3.3), the allegorical figure familiarises the audience with the play’s beginning – the plot on the intradiegetic level – as well as its guiding theme. At Henry IV, Part Two’s beginning, a figure enters, which must, for audiences, hit a strikingly theatrical note – in two senses. Entering the stage clad in a costume which is “painted full of tongues” (Ind.0 SD), Rumour must, even before opening his mouth, make immediately clear that the audiences are faced not with a ‘naturalistic’ character, but an ‘abstract’ principle known from another theatre tradition: medieval morality plays. The grandness of the figurative appearance demonstrates that Rumour is a performer in a theatre. At the same time, the visually vivid and striking manner of his entrance evokes the play’s topic: a multitude of different tongues and their stories. Rumour, in this form, is also theatrical because he is, secondly, likely to create an exaggerated and unnatural effect; according James Bulman, he must have appeared like a “vast, fearful monster” (Bulman 2016, 101). With theatrical means, therefore, the impression of a foreboding ill is

21 This view is shared by Michael Hattaway (2009, 15), who, in his insightful work on Shakespearean history plays, concludes: “Shakespeare may have provoked, rather than pleased those who would control the political culture of England.”


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given. Unreliable and false stories will have an uncanny impact within the ensuing story, but also in shaping extra-textual ‘realities.’22 Rumour’s superiority (and monstrosity) in world-making processes is not only visualised by the grand theatrical appearance of the allegorical figure, but also by his speech. In the speech’s first part (Ind.1–22), Rumour is a theatrical speaker who reflects on the nature of rumour; in its second part (Ind.22–40), Rumour is a generative narrator, forestalling his central role on the story level of Henry IV, Part Two and, simultaneously, leading over to it. Rumour is characterised in unflattering terms, but nevertheless depicted as extremely effective: Rumour characterises his speech as “false” (Ind.8) and thus unreliable; as “loud” (Ind. 2) and therefore influential and not to be ignored. Rumour as a force in the world is both powerful and monstrously dangerous (Ind.18) in so far that it is far-reaching (Ind.3), fast (Ind.4), quickly multiplying, and infectious to masses of people (Ind.17–20). It is sometimes motivated by ignoble causes such as jealousy (Ind.16), perpetuated by ignorance, even stupidity (Ind.18), prone to slanderous (Ind.6) and wounding (Ind.10) behaviour, fearinducing (Ind.12), and destructive. With his statement “I speak of peace while covert enmity, | Under the smile of safety, wounds the world” (Ind.9–10), the figure ‘Rumour’ shows he acts covertly and deceptively. His news, his stories cannot be trusted; they are lies. This implicit warning of the general nature of rumour is exemplified in the second part of the induction. Here the allegory diegetically summarises what will follow in the next act: the dramatisation of rumour’s mechanisms. Hotspur’s father will receive intelligence of his son’s victory at Shrewsbury, when, in fact, the exact opposite is true: Henry Percy was defeated by Prince Hal. After learning of this misreport and realising that his son is dead, Northumberland will all the more devastated because, as Rumour closes, “smooth comforts false [. . .] [are, in its effects,] worse than true wrongs.” (Ind.39–40) In a nutshell: Linking theatricality and narration, the allegory in the “Induction” fulfils at least four functions. Firstly, he visualises its fear-inducing, mighty power; secondly, he describes and evaluates rumour’s general nature; thirdly, by way of Northumberland’s case, he narratively exemplifies rumour’s general character. As generative narrator, Rumour, fourthly, introduces not only the history’s guiding theme, but also the play itself: he brings the play to life and the performance into being from Act I onwards.

22 After all, when Rumour speaks, he assumes he must not explain himself as he is only too well known by the audiences present in his theatre (“But what need I thus | My well-known body to anatomize | Among my household”, Ind.20–22).

4.1 Emplotting Competing Narratives in Dramatic Narration


Rumour, with its influential as well as destructive ways, is not only visualised, described, evaluated, and diegetically exemplified; it is also used in the mimetic narrative as a structuring principle. Four times at crucial points in the history, misreports and lies determine the action and outcome of events: Act I, scene i, is a dramatisation of Northumberland facing contradictory reports on his son’s success or failure and struggle to accept the latter. At the end of these struggles, nothing remains for the grieving father but the call for “revenge” (I.i.213) and the revival of the rebellion against Henry IV, which henceforward gains new “speed” (I.i.214) but will, in the end, fail. False expectation again works against the rebels’ cause: Even though they are aware that, in the face of war, “Conjecture, expectation and surmise | Of aids incertain should not be admitted” (I.iii.23–24), they still “hope” (I.iii.35) that Northumberland, who previously failed to help his son in battle, is likely to aid the rebel army now. This hope is shattered when Northumberland, encouraged by his wife and Lady Percy, decides to flee to Scotland instead of bringing reinforcements to the king’s opposition (II.iii). Erroneous beliefs do the rebels further harm when Hastings miscalculates both the rebels’ strength without Northumberland and the number of Henry IV’s forces, assuming, “I think we are a body strong enough, | Even as we are, to equal with the King.” (I.iii.66–67) Being caught in a dense web of hearsay, miscalculation, and false facts, the rebels are so weakened that they cannot but accept Prince John’s peace offer in Act IV – which turns out to be yet another lie, a trap, which causes the rebellion’s final defeat. At Gaultree Forest, the rebels discharge their armies not to be forgiven, as promised by Prince John, but to be arrested for capital treason. John’s “word of peace” IV.i.315 is more like cunning rumour than truth. The leitmotif of rumour as it is structurally realised in Henry IV, Part Two thus casts doubt on the reliability of promises, news, and words; and it adds to the course of events ever unexpected turns. History, in this regard, turns out to be shaped neither by fate nor by chance, but by competing and conflicting stories, by reports and counter-reports, calculations and miscalculations, as well as promises given and broken. Royalty seems to make unscrupulous use of false expectations and rumour, just as John does to stay in power, even if it is ignobly done.23 These cold power politics mirror the calculating practices of Prince Hal, who uses and discharges people at his leisure.

23 This characterisation of royalty parallels James Bulman’s concept of history as it is sketched by the Gaultree episode, which, to him, “offers a view of history as radically contingent and amoral” (2016, 102).


4 Stories in Conflict and Competition

In Henry IV, Part Two, Shakespeare is obviously concerned with, as Michael Hattaway contends (2009, 14; emphasis in original), “historical process[es], ways in which change comes about.” The fact that ‘wounding’ rumour, ‘slanderous’ rumour, ‘monstrous’ rumour (cf. Ind.) shapes historical processes and the outcomes of power struggles,24 is likely to make audiences doubt the nobility and fairness of royal power and political endeavours. This doubt may not just concern the medieval past in which the play is set; it may have well expanded on DNL 5, i.e., into the audience’s own time, the Elizabethan era. Against this backdrop, the following polemical question must be admitted: “Who said [Shakespeare] was reflecting the past? He was interfering with the present.” (Gregori Kostintsev; quoted in Hattaway 2009, 16) Asking whether royalty derived from birth or behaviour, addressing the difficulty of both to rule and to oppose rulers in a society in which rumour abounded, dramatising the clashes between moral and political necessities, and thematising the fissures of what otherwise was supposed to be one, unified nation, the bard may well have also addressed concerns of present urgency.25 He challenges the project of writing a concise English history and the myth of different tribes becoming one English nation. The fact that his critical, almost oppositional stance went uncensored is perhaps due to the fact that the disrupters of peace and nation are defeated, as well as to the conciliatory tone at the end of the play. After all, in the “Epilogue”, which complements the “Induction”, one prays for the present ruler, Elizabeth I (cf. Ep.17).26 Besides the criticising the unheroic role rumour plays in the (hi)stories of those who are supposed to be the most heroic shapers of history, namely, monarchs, Shakespeare reflects on the nature of history and historiography in general. With meta-historical questions in mind, he combines features of narrative, theatricality, and drama to introduce and contrast three concepts of history. Text-internally, two of the concepts (Henry IV and Warwick’s), on the one hand, legitimise Henry IV’s claim to the throne and explain his current misery (albeit in different ways); on the other hand, they serve to portray a king in 24 The prominence Shakespeare gives rumour in this chronicle play makes Loren Blinde’s remark that “Rumor is Shakespeare’s favorite historian” (2008, 34) more than just an amusing and bold thesis. 25 Cf. also Michael Hattaway (2009, 15), who attests “a widespread habit of scrutinizing the past for analogues of the present to the Elizabethans, and Dominique Goy-Blanquet (2009, 61), who holds the opinion that “the past could be used as a mirror to project critical reflections on present realities, ‘and tax the vices of those that are yet living, in their persons that are long since dead’, Raleigh explained”. 26 On epilogues and prayers after plays, especially 2 Henry IV, fruitful studies have already been carried out. For more on the topic see, for instance, Tiffany Stern (2010).

4.2 The Dramatic Exploitation of Biography and Processing of Jacobean Culture


distress. With his third concept, Shakespeare highlights the “indirect and crook’d ways” (IV.iii.313) in which worlds are made, i.e., the truths established and mind-sets created by those in power, which go unacknowledged by ‘official’ historiography. Text-externally, on the level of the play’s production and reception (DNL 5), Shakespeare’s chronicle thus calls attention to both the flaws of kings and queens (who more often act human than divine), allows audiences to critically reflect on an English history intent on legitimising authority and establishing a unity between English, Irish, Scots, and Welsh. Finally, in presenting notions of history which are different and even discordant, Shakespeare also becomes meta-historiographic, casting doubt on the general endeavour of chroniclewriting (and maybe even writing chronicle plays, such as his Henry IV duology) and points to its subjectivity and selectivity.27 In doing so, he questions, for his audiences to see, both history’s and historiography’s general trustworthiness. He is, in consequence, not just dramatically retelling medieval history. He is writing an ‘alternative’ one. In comparison to those official histories published by the court’s chroniclers and historians, and in contrast to positivist approaches, Shakespeare is, indeed, “interfering with the present” (Gregori Kostintsev; quoted in Hattaway 2009, 16), partaking in the forging an early modern awareness of the fickleness and unreliability of history, nation-building, and the institutional telling of history.

4.2 The Dramatic Exploitation of Biography and Processing of Jacobean Culture: Tales of Duplicity, Janus-Faced Worlds, and Violence in John Webster’s Revenge Tragedy The White Devil While William Shakespeare’s Henry IV duology revisits, challenges, and refashions national history, John Webster’s The White Devil (1612), “generally regarded as [one of] the paramount seventeenth-century English tragedies apart from those of Shakespeare” (The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica 2013 [1998]), serves as an instance of the dramatic refurbishment of private history and biographical facts. In a pars pro toto manner, it is also a dramatic processing of everyday life during the reign of James I. As Katherine Carey (2007, 75) maintains, “The White Devil mirrors

27 And rightly so: As Dominique Goy-Blanquet (2009, 61) remarks, “[u]sing history to serve more rewarding masters was an old practice. The medieval annalists employed in noble houses tended to privilege the events most flattering to their patrons, or even alter facts to support partisan views.”


4 Stories in Conflict and Competition

Jacobean fear and corruption on multiple levels – marriage, religion, family relations, and absolute power.” I will expand her thesis by arguing that, by means of Webster’s play, Jacobean culture is not merely ‘mirrored’; instead, it provides the potential for contemporary audiences to cope with their times’ Janus-facedness concerning the (patriarchal) misuse of power and violence. This capacity of the revenge tragedy is established by a skilful exploitation of dramatic means at the intersection between narrative and theatrical performance. Before elaborating on this, I will briefly delineate the play’s ties to conventional markers of narrativity in both European culture and literary history.

The White Devil in Its Narrative Contexts Like Shakespeare’s chronicle play, Webster’s revenge tragedy is tied to narrative also with regard to the cultural context in which it was written. It is loosely based on biography, and with this, on a (literary) genre at the intersection of fact, fiction, documentary, and narrative (as the title of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s biography, Dichtung und Wahrheit, [1811–1833] 2007, so aptly illustrates) that is concerned with accounts of people’s lives. “From a multiplicity of sources about the life and death of Vittoria Accoramboni of Gubbio (1557–1585) and her turbulent marriage (or repeated marriages) to the Duke of Bracciano, Webster fashioned a tragedy of sexual intrigue and murder.” (Weis 2009, xv; cf. also Shellist 2005, 557) It is, thus, besides its generic attribution to the ‘revenge tragedy,’ a play which must have borne salient traits of biographical narrative – at least to Renaissance audiences, which were likely to be familiar with the life story of Vittoria, since it is held to have “aroused a great deal of contemporary interest” at the time (Encyclopædia Britannica 2012). The White Devil is additionally tied to narrative in that it was printed as early as 1612 and made accessible to a reading audience – and this even though the primary channel of distribution for plays in the Jacobean area was still the theatre. Having been not all too successful on the stage, Webster had his “dramatic poem” (To the reader.13)28 published in the medium in which literary narratives have traditionally appeared. Evidently injured in his pride, he maintains in an address to the reader that he, with his book, hopes to reach an audience that is intellectually more advanced than “the people that come to [. . .] [playhouses and] resemble those ignorant asses (who visiting stationers’ shops, their

28 Within this section, all not otherwise marked act, scene, and line numbers in brackets refer to Webster (2009 [1612]).

4.2 The Dramatic Exploitation of Biography and Processing of Jacobean Culture


use is not to inquire for good books, but new books)” (To the reader.6–9). With printing The White Devil, which had taken him, as he admits, a long time to write, he furthermore enables an adequate reception, one that outlasts the momentary nature of a theatre performance. Besides its links to contextual narrativity in having been printed as a book, having the potential to ‘be read,’ and being rooted in a ‘biographical, factual narrative,’ both the topic of ‘revenge’ and the private history of Vittoria Accoramboni can be considered substantial parts of a wider corpus of narrative literature. As Tanya Pollard states, in the Renaissance, “revenge [generally] came to play a role in many literary forms” (Pollard 2012, 58); and Vittoria’s story, in particular, was not just exploited by a dramatist. As European literary history shows, it later lent itself to repeated narrativisations, e.g., in the form of novellas (e.g., Stendhal’s Vittoria Accoramboni, 1837–1839) and novels (e.g., Ludwig Tieck’s Vittoria Accorombona, 1912 [1840]).

The White Devil’s Text-Internal Narrativity Having sketched The White Devil’s main extra-textual links to narrative, I will continue to explore the intra-textual entanglement of dramatic, theatrical, and narrative modes within Webster’s dramatic story, an entanglement that both displays and allows Jacobean audiences to process their reality of doublestandard, duplicity, and violence. While the view of John Webster as misogynist playwright (cf., e.g., Shellist 2005, 553) cannot be repudiated entirely,29 one has to acknowledge that he is at the same time critically depicting Jacobean power imbalances between the sexes. He is certainly also reflecting on the incalculably violent rule of Jacobean institutions. [T]he ruling elite believed that a measure of insecurity and fear was a necessary, healthy element in the shaping of proper loyalties, and Elizabethan and Jacobean institutions deliberately evoked this insecurity. Hence, the church’s constant insistence upon the fear

29 Even though the majority of the misogynistic remarks, as will be shown below, are uttered by characters who are negatively depicted and whose utterances are, therefore, depicted as unreliable or wrong, there are instances in Webster’s characterisation of women that can be still regarded as sexist. Mothers, like Cornelia, are accused of bringing evil to the world in their capacity of giving birth to murderers and adulterers. And Vittoria’s moral character is never disambiguated. She may not be guilty of the murders of her husband and her lover’s wife, but she lies to her brother and treads on him when she believes him to be dead.


4 Stories in Conflict and Competition

and trembling, the sickness unto death that every Christian should experience; hence too the public and increasingly spectacular character of the punishments inflicted by the state. (Greenblatt 1988, 135–136)

Like the church, the king had a threateningly ambiguous understanding of justice. Seeking to be regarded as neither weak nor despotic, he developed the habit of torturing people and then, unexpectedly, granting pardons. These two facts, the private and public place of women, as well as the precarious Jacobean feelings of anxiety based on both the church and James I’s unpredictable rule are problematised within the play. On the story level, lying characters abound who deceitfully play with different possible story outcomes and versions of the truth. Structurally, narratives of a decidedly dramatic tradition (two theatrical narratives and dumb shows) and narratives of an oral storytelling tradition (different kinds of tales) are embedded within the dramatic narrative. They resound with each other and with parts of the otherwise mimetic narrative. Both the tragedy’s story and its structure serve the creation of a corrupt, threatening world, which is, at the same time, condemned. Dealing with The White Devil’s story level, one has to start by admitting the play’s resistance to plain interpretation. This resistance has often been attributed to the tragedy’s “moral ambiguity” and its manifold “paradoxes” (Frazer and Hansen 2016a, 2). It is, however, surely equally due to its abundance of doublecrossing characters. While the main character, Vittoria, the eponymous ‘white devil’ who betrays her husband Camillo with another man, the Duke of Bracciano (who, in turn, cheats on his wife, Isabella), is often blamed for her alleged deceitfulness by other characters in a misogynistic manner, Webster makes clear that those who blame her are the ones to be regarded as actually fraudulent. Flamineo, Vittoria’s brother and secretary to Bracciano, questions the authenticity of his sister’s behaviour towards her lover, asking “Her coyness? That’s but the superficies of lust most women have.” (I.ii.18–19) After having caught her daughter in the act of wooing Bracciano, Cornelia compares Vittoria to Judas, who, too, “betray[ed] in kissing” (I.ii.290) and, afterwards, curses her (I.ii.291–292). Monticelso, a cardinal related to Vittoria’s husband Camillo, who will, later in the play, become Pope Paul IV, associates her with the – allegedly equally “debauched” (III.ii.28) – mother of all women, Eve: “Were there a second paradise to lose | This devil would betray it.” (III.ii.68–69) And in the play’s famous trial scene, Francisco, brother to Isabella, asks the court to convict Vittoria, in his eyes a “strumpet” (II.i.389) for “incontinence” (III.ii.190), i.e., her lack of chastity, even though there is “no sound proof” (III.ii.182). These accusations do not just reveal

4.2 The Dramatic Exploitation of Biography and Processing of Jacobean Culture


Renaissance double standards when it comes to extramarital relations;30 they backfire on the blamers themselves. Webster undermines the reliability of both the accusers and their charges by this dramatic strategy: Those who say Vittoria is deceitful are shown to be deceitful.31 Characters like Flamineo or Francisco strategically play with different versions of the truth: Verbally, the double-crossing characters opt for one course of action (thus promoting one possible way the plot could continue) only to, in secret, proceed otherwise later on: In doing so, they continue the play’s story differently from how they promised to act earlier. Francisco, on learning that his sister Isabella was poisoned, swears “Far be it from my thoughts | To seek revenge” (IV.i.3–4). He will not even yield to the wish of Monticelso (IV.i.22–32), who cunningly tries to convince him to avenge his sister’s death when he says, “We see that undermining more prevails | Then doth the cannon. Bear your wrongs concealed | [. . .] till the time be ripe | For the bloody audit, and the fatal gripe.” (IV. i.13–19) This scene, at the end of which Francisco already starts to conceive of a plot (in exactly the concealed, devious fashion that Monticelso suggested) to disunite Vittoria and Bracciano by causing the latter to doubt his lady’s faithfulness (IV.i.117–127). This scene entails, accordingly, criticism of those who uphold high moral standards in public (e.g., in court during the trial against Vittoria) only to undercut them in private for their own purposes and out of mere self-interest. These are, first, men and, second, some of the highest, most influential secular and ecclesiastic dignitaries. Clergymen like Montiscelso are depicted as scheming knaves, who will, despite their double standards and deceitfulness, still be able to gain the highest position in the Catholic church (after all, Montiscelso becomes pope). And the reliability of leading representatives of aristocracy, like Francisco, Great Duke of Florence, is heavily undercut. Webster exposes him straightaway (within the self-same scene) as a liar who is not even honest with his peers. Far from being as ‘innocent’ (IV.i.22) as he proclaims, he is not only depicted as a double-crossing schemer, but also as someone who strikes back with an unrelenting, brutal vengeance, ending his plot with these words: “Bracciano, [. . .] | Like the wild Irish I’ll ne’er think thee dead, | Till I can play football with thy

30 Only Vittoria, a woman, and not Bracciano, a man, is accused of adultery, a ‘crime’ of which Bracciano is equally guilty. And while the Duke commissioned and witnessed the elimination of the spouses, Vittoria, who cannot be directly linked to the killings, is nevertheless accused of them (cf. III.ii.108–109). 31 The exception is Vittoria’s mother, Cornelia. Her argument against Vittoria, however, is annulled by the – misogynist – insinuation that it was she who brought vice to the world by giving birth to three blasphemous (cf. V.ii.11–13), fratricidal children (cf. V.ii.13–24; V.vi.119–120, 175).


4 Stories in Conflict and Competition

head. | Flectere si nequeo superos, Acheronta movebo”32 (IV.i.133–136). Francisco, having emphasised his alleged peaceableness and forgiveness, would not even shrink back from decapitating his enemies, disgracing their corpses (or body parts like heads), and unleashing hell. Despite all traditional arguments to the contrary, there is criticism in Webster’s play of those who discriminate against women. As Christina Luckyj contends, “[i]n The White Devil, [. . .] misogyny is shown to be a frequent form of masculine displacement – [. . .] the play often presents woman as construction of man, ‘through whose desire in estimation of conceit we [women] are made ill’.” (Luckyj 2016, 158) This criticism of misogyny is indirectly voiced – by the exploitation of narrative means for dramatic ends. Male members of society in general and those in power in church and aristocracy in particular are exposed to be misogynist, double-playing, and plotting knaves, who – to receive or safeguard their privileges – tell one story in public only to enact another one in secret. King of all cunning in The White Devil, however, is Flamineo. Vittoria’s brother is certainly also a candidate for the play’s eponymous character (and maybe even more than Vittoria herself). A white devil par excellence, he is a vice figure as alluringly intelligent, winningly charismatic, and brilliantly devious as Shakespeare’s Iago. A true genius in double-crossing, he is able to devise plots not only by saying one thing and then, afterwards, doing the exact opposite (and this, additionally, only in private and concealed chambers like Francisco),33 but also by enacting two possible stories at the same time (one false, one actual) in broad daylight and in front of everybody’s eyes. Acting as a devil in disguise, a ‘white devil’ like Iago, he does not cross or alienate those he deceives, but actually makes himself likeable and indispensable to them. Flamineo’s double-dealing and pursuing of two concomitant stories is realised through Webster’s virtuoso exploitation of dramatic means. In a dialogue between Flamineo, Camillo, and Vittoria and with the help of the parallelisation of direct addresses and ‘asides’ as well as modulations in volume, ‘whispers’ and utterances made ‘aloud’ (I.ii.45–190), Flamineo implicitly characterises Camillo as rather daft and an easy target for schemes, while presenting himself as an intelligent plotter par excellence.

32 This quote from Virgil’s Aeneid (VII.312) can be roughly translated as: “If I cannot move the Gods in heaven, I will move the powers of hell.” 33 He tries, for instance, his sister’s loyalty by asking her to commit to a double suicide (not revealing to her that there are no bullets in his pistols; cf. V.vi.16–152).

4.2 The Dramatic Exploitation of Biography and Processing of Jacobean Culture


FLAMINEO [whispers to Vittoria] You need not have carved him in faith, they say he is a capon already. I must now seemingly fall out with you. [Aloud] Shall a gentleman so well descended as Camillo – [aside] a lousy slave [. . .] [,] one that hath a head filled with calf’s brains [. . .], [aloud] come crouching in the hems to you for a night’s lodging? [. . .] CAMILLO [aside] He will make her know what is in me. [. . .] VITTORIA [aside to Flamineo] How shall’s rid him hence? FLAMINEO [aside to Vittoria] I will put breeze in’s tail, set him gadding presently. [To Camillo] I have almost wrought her to it, I find her coming; but, might I advise you now, for this night I would not lie with her: I would cross her humour to make her more humble. [. . .] (I.ii.120–162) CAMILLO A philosophical reason.

Easily tricking his brother-in-law into believing he is able to heighten his wife’s attraction to him, Flamineo is actually lowering her regard for him. In addition, the plotter is getting Camillo out of the way in a – for audiences – breathtaking and highly entertaining manner, making the cuckolded husband erroneously believe he will have the pleasure of sleeping with Vittoria again, while skilfully enabling an amorous tête-à-tête between Vittoria and the Duke of Bracciano. Flamineo thus determines the course of action on the story level by a skilful dissemination of truths, half-truths, and lies.34 The parallelisation of rivalling stories – the anticipated, promised course of action and the parallel actual happenings – serve as implicit characterisations. While Vittoria’s character remains ambiguous, the male figures who surround her are clearly marked as plotters and deceivers. In effect, a world of threatening unreliability is established in which nobody can trust anybody. Corruption and dissemblance pervade the public sphere (with double-crossing agents of the highest clerical and secular ranks) as well as private ones: Even the smallest social unit, the family, is threatened and dissolved by (mimetically enacted) stories of duplicity and, as will be seen in the following, (diegetically mediated) stories of murder. The dissolution of trust, honesty, and truth informs The White Devil’s story level as much as its structure, as Webster embeds diegetic and theatrical stories in his tragedy’s intradiegetic level, which semantically either enrich or complicate the mimetically narrated action.

34 In this regard, too, Flamineo is similar to Shakespeare’s Iago. The White Devil, in consequence, tallies with Othello, a play which, as Ansgar Nünning and Roy Sommer contend in their seminal article on narration in drama, “shows that narrations which do not correspond to the actual textual storyworld, i.e. the fictional ‘reality’, still have the capacity to change the actual dramatic storyworld” (2011, 201).


4 Stories in Conflict and Competition

As much as he works with inter-textual references to classical literature, e.g., Martial (To the Reader.13), Virgil (II.i.262), or Homer (II.i.110), the Jacobean playwright makes use of narrative genres derived from oral tradition. ‘Tales’ in the form of recounted dreams, biblical or mythological parables (e.g., II.i. 329–50), and fables abound in The White Devil: “Lo, you, sister. | Stay my lord, I’ll tell you a tale” (IV.ii.217–218). Thus does Flamineo, as diegetic storyteller, start to tell a fable of a crocodile who is cured by a bird that eats the worm that causes the crocodile’s toothache. The ungrateful crocodile tries to swallow the bird; but nature, “loathing such ingratitude,” (IV.ii.226) enables the bird – not squeamish itself, stinging the crocodile – to flee. The fable, clearly marked as diegetic narrative by Flamineo’s introductory sentences and two interpretations that follow, stands out from the otherwise mimetic narrative and, in this, gains its importance. Bracciano comprehends it as request to gratefully reward his secretary for his services; Flamineo wants it to be understood as a warning to his sister, whom he compares to the crocodile. Her tarnished reputation is mended by Bracciano because he still marries her; and he, consequently, deserves her gratitude. Informed by Flamineo of some not clearly defined duplicitousness in his speech in an ‘aside’ (IV.ii.336–340), the audience becomes aware that neither interpretation may exactly hit the mark. There must be, at least, a third interpretative option: An analogy is implicitly established between the traits of beasts and the nature of humans and their relations within the tragedy. The latter are equated to predators in their interdependence, as well as their violent nature, which yearns for mutual annihilation. Furthermore, the predator-prey relationship is blurred. With this, the fable heightens the sense of an omnipresent danger that underlies both the mimetic narrative and the relationships presented in it. The audience is enabled to understand that they are experiencing a type of threat that is beastly, potentially lethal, and comprehensive: It makes victims into perpetrators and vice versa. This possibly applies to all relationships (not only those between Bracchiano and Flamineo or Bracciano and Vittoria, which are mentioned in the interpretations, but also that between Vittoria and Flamineo). The fable proves foreboding when a mimetic counterpart narrative, which parallels the content of the diegetic narrative, is realised later on: After the death of Bracciano, Flamineo asks his sister to show him some gratitude by rewarding him for having enabled her marriage to the Duke (V.vi.). The latter refuses, overlooking the connectedness of their fates: Bracciano allegedly wanted them both to follow him to death (V.vi.33–38), and Flamineo is aware of their precarious position at court after Bracciano’s murder: “If he could not be safe in his own court | Being a great Duke, what hope then for us? [. . .] | Fool thou art to think that politicians | Do use to kill the effects of injuries | And let the

4.2 The Dramatic Exploitation of Biography and Processing of Jacobean Culture


cause live” (V.vi.40–45). All of this recalls the mutual dependency of the crocodile and the bird: Flamineo and Vittoria have exploited each other and, as they do not manage to kill each other, they will either live or die together. A lethal spiral of mutual accusations35 and brutal, bodily violence,36 in which it becomes unclear who is predator and who prey, leads, in the end, to the realisation of Flamineo’s prophesy: Sister and brother, who prefer to argue and try to kill each other instead of making peace and fleeing, die together at the hands of assassins. Taken together, the prefiguring narrative, its interpretative semantic ambiguity, and its mimetic recounting depict a predatory, dangerous world and an atmosphere of insecurity, latent threat, as well as its realisation in bloody, sensationalist murder. They thus create a reality which must also have been prevalent outside the theatre (Greenblatt 1988, 136–137), a reality which was characterised by the actions of a king who ruled ad libitum and made brutally use of his privileges and power. This reality is, as the following paragraphs will show, not only depicted for entertainment purposes; it is also a means for processing, i.e., allowing contemporary audiences to come to terms with it. The oppressive fact of all main characters’ ends is also foreshadowed by the parallelisation of another diegetic story to a theatrical counterpart. A dream narrative is recounted by Vittoria, and it is literally ‘telling’ of the characters’ permanent closeness to their graves and the main character’s moral ambiguity. Addressing Bracciano, the protagonist narrates: I’ll tell your grace | I dream I had last night. [. . .] | Methought I walked about the mid of night | Into a churchyard, where a goodly yew-tree | Spread her large root into that ground; under that yew, | As I sat sadly leaning on a grave, | [. . .] there came stealing in | Your duchess and my husband; one of them | A pickaxe bore, th’other a rusty spade, | And in rough terms they gan to challenge me | About this yew. [. . .] [T]hey vowed | to bury me alive; [. . .] I trembled, and yet for all this terror, | I could not pray. [. . .] When to my rescue there arose methought | A whirlwind, which let fall a massy arm | From that strong plant, | And both were struck dead by that sacred yew | In that base shallow grave that was their dew.” (I.ii.218–244)

Again, the act of storytelling is highlighted by an introductory phrase, which signals the narrative’s importance. Like a host of other diegetic narratives within the play, it prefigures a theatrical narrative to follow. Here (I.ii), the murders of Isabella and Camillo are merely dreamt of; there (II.ii), they are commissioned and witnessed by Bracciano. Here, the story is set in a cemetery; there, people are brought to their graves.

35 Because he has slain their brother Marcello, Vittoria calls Flamineo “a villain” (V.vi.16), while he maintains, “[t]hou hast the devil in thee” (V.vi.18). 36 Vittoria and her maid “[s]hoot [Flamineo] [. . .] and tread upon him” (V.vi.119–120).


4 Stories in Conflict and Competition

Aware of the homonyms “yew” and “you”, Flamineo understands Vittoria’s dream narrative as hidden instruction to Bracciano: “Excellent devil. | She has taught him in a dream | To make away his duchess and her husband.” (I.ii. 245–247) Yet, Flamineo and Bracciano’s interpretation of Vittoria’s story might tell the audiences more about the interpreters’ character than Vittoria herself (i.e., the narrating character). Nowhere in the play can the killings be clearly linked to Vittoria, but all the more clearly to Bracciano, who instigates them, and Flamineo, who is the executer of one of them. With her tale, the main character might, therefore, neither intentionally nor subconsciously suggest murder. She might simply express an awareness that her love affair is under threat or indicate her anxiety, the ‘terror’ arising out of this awareness. The multiplicity of possible interpretations of the diegetic narrative and the impossibility of gauging the intention of the narrator add to Vittoria’s ambiguity as a character, while the narrative itself enhances the revenge tragedy’s coherence, creating a dismal graveyard atmosphere that fits the murderous events to follow, and prefiguring the actual (mimetic) narrative of the two killings. The two assassinations diegetically prefigured by Vittoria’s dream narrative are, later in The White Devil, presented by means of two dumb shows, theatrical conventions which differ from plays within the play due to their “absence of dialogue” (Mehl 1965, viii). Having often been described as a device “for covering events that could not adequately represented on stage” (Homan 1968–1969, 213) and that is “merely emblematic” (Carey 2007, 73), the dumb show is so much more in The White Devil. Webster mixes ‘naturalistic’ and ‘stylised’ theatrical elements, such as the dumb show, in such a way that they, in Dieter Mehl’s words, “illuminate” each other “and the result is not just a piling on of stage effects, but a convincing unity” (Mehl 1965, 138). Besides these aesthetic effects, however, Webster’s dumb shows are dramatic units that combine narrative and theatrical modes to visualise and judge themes such as betrayal, voyeurism, and spectacle, and, in so doing, help to process frightening Jacobean realities of hidden power abuse and brutal executions in an atmospheric and affecting manner. Dumb shows, which echo Vittoria’s diegetic narrative (her dream), interrupt the flow of the mimetic narrative on the diegetic level. A conjurer functions as a generative narrator who, introducing a theatrical narrative (DNL 1b) within the frame of the mimetic narrative (DNL 1a), enables Bracciano to witness how the two assassinations he commissioned are prepared, carried through, covered up, and discovered. In other words, the narratives (as successions of events) of his wife kissing his portrait and being poisoned, and of Flamineo breaking the neck of Vittoria’s husband and letting it appear to have been a sports accident, are performed not in the default manner of dramatic narrativity, namely as

4.2 The Dramatic Exploitation of Biography and Processing of Jacobean Culture


mimetic narrative, but in a highly theatrical manner (i.e., in a particularly dramatic way of storytelling, almost a play within a play). I describe this manner as ‘theatrical’ because the murder narratives are, firstly, presented in a commonly known and popular Renaissance stage practice, the dumb show,37 which, secondly, exploits different theatrical semiotic systems – music and heightened, artificial gesture – to create the literally stifling mood that fits the scenes within the scene and the entire play. “Soft[. . .]” (II.ii.23.2) and “tragic” (II.ii.37.2) music accompanies the pantomimes and create not just an atmospheric spectacle; the musical dissonance (brought about by “jarring notes,” II.ii.37.2.) also parallels the inharmonious narratives of the plotters and, thus, the thematic duplicity of the entire play. The mimed action, thirdly, likely to be performed in a ‘theatrical,’ sensu exaggerated and stylised, manner (Carey 2007, 76) offers not just “the power of gesture over dialogue” (Carey 2007, 73), but the power of vision over speech.38 The victims Isabella and Camillo are robbed of their voices. They are presented in a frame with a fourth wall as subjects without the ability to speak, to defend themselves, and to act themselves. In consequence, they are presented as mere puppets in a prescribed plot, at the mercy of agents beyond that fourth wall, of manipulators, called by Sidney Homan (1968–1969, 219) “masters of a mechanistic world where the only distinction among men appears to be that between the controlled and the controllers.” And, indeed, Webster’s dumb shows, in their theatricality, spectacularly visualise who is able to pull the strings and has the ultimate control of others, even determining their grim fate. Presenting a frame within a frame, the dumb show is thus, fourthly, theatrical in that it offers an intra-textual spectacle and is witnessed as spectacle – both on the story level and extra-textually.39 The magical spectacle allows recipient responses – dependent on the manner in which the dumb shows are staged – that range from detachment to attachment.40 The text-external audience witnesses,

37 Mimed in silence, dumb shows were ubiquitous in Renaissance drama. In his pathbreaking and still unrivalled study of 1965, Dieter Mehl gives a list of Renaissance plays entailing one or more dumb shows (1965, 173–187). The most well-known of these, within the genre of ‘revenge tragedy,’ are arguably Thomas Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy (2010 [1587]), entailing two dumb shows, and William Shakespeare’s Hamlet (1600–1601), which contains a dumb show before the play within the play. 38 This is one of the many instances in early modern drama in which the theatre or concepts of theatricality are used as a prop. Presenting theatre on stage (as a prop) is also ubiquitous in Shakespeare’s oeuvre (cf., e.g., Stern 2013). 39 Especially Christopher Balme (2010 [2008], 89) frames theatricality as “mode of perception”. 40 Katherine M. Carey compares three contemporary productions of The White Devil and its dumb shows, which oscillated between affecting immediacy and detaching hypermediation (cf. 2007, 78–79). I myself witnessed another, fourth production directed by Maria Aberg and


4 Stories in Conflict and Competition

together with the conjurer and Bracciano, who are situated on the intradiegetic level, this very spectacle. In consequence, the theatregoers are enabled observe both the murders and the witnessing commissioner of the killings at the same time, and are invited to compare their response to the murders to that of the Duke. While the theatrical renderings of the assassinations least in theory allow the possibility of empathic affect, Bracciano’s cold, detached “[e]xcellent, then she’s dead” (II.ii.24) is certain. The Duke’s unfeeling reaction is either unmarked in case of a congruence between the inner and outer communication systems (sensu Pfister 1993 [1991]) or shocking in case of a discrepancy. If the former, the dumb shows’ staging merely encapsulates and theatrically illustrates Jacobean realities of voyeurism, power exploitation, and brutal, self-administered ‘justice,’ all of which must have been familiar from the theatrical experience of the common, reallife public executions; if the latter, the production helps the audience to critically witness and affectively as well as cognitively process these self-same Jacobean realities. Affectively, because everyday social practices (here, executions and their theatrical staging) as well as the resulting anxieties are appropriated and handled in the safe havens of ‘theatre’ and ‘fiction’;41 cognitively, because the mechanisms of power and the institutionalised, but largely invisible dissemination of fear42 is visualised and can thus be potentially grasped and – at least in people’s minds – controlled. Whereas, in Henry IV, the topic of ‘alternative realities’ and ‘facts’ is staged by dichotomic narratives in conflict, in The White Devil ‘alternative,’ doubledealing realities are established by the parallelisation of different narratives: On the story level, the revenge tragedy depicts characters who disseminate one story (or version of a possible future reality), only to actually realise another. The former, thereby, serves as a blueprint against which the story’s ultimate, often even more violent resolution appears all the crueller. On a structural level, different diegetic narratives of an oral tradition (parables, fables, dream recapitulations) and theatrical narratives (i.e., the dumb shows) punctuate the

staged by the Royal Shakespeare Company in 2014, whose aesthetically beautiful, visually and aurally atmospheric renderings of the dumb shows were entirely affect-arousing (cf. The Royal Shakespeare Company 2014). 41 Within a general evaluation of effects of ‘revenge’ in revenge tragedies, Tanya Pollard distinguishes two additional effects, one related to politics and one to affect, which is in Pollard’s opinion even more important: “The dramatisation of revenge [. . .] has political implications, but its appeal to audiences lay especially in the emotional satisfaction it could provide” (2012, 61). Eugene D. Hill adds yet another effect to the canon. He stresses the intellectual pleasure revenge tragedies may provide: “Such doubleness – old story, present-day application – affords revenge tragedy some of its keenest pleasures.” (2005, 327). 42 Stephen Greenblatt speaks of “managed insecurity” (1988, 137).

4.2 The Dramatic Exploitation of Biography and Processing of Jacobean Culture


diegetic level, splitting it into a mimetic frame narrative (DNL 1a) and embedded stories (DNL 1b), which are either mimetically or diegetically rendered. Most of these embedded stories find, at the same time, a complementary narrative, a counterpart in either mimetic or theatrical narratives to follow (Flamineo’s fable of predator and prey is paralleled by his and his sister’s dying scene, while Vittoria’s dream narrative is refigured by the dumb shows of her husband’s and her rival’s murders). All narrative strategies, be they mimetic, diegetic, or a combination of both, also serve, at the same time, as implicit characterisations, revealing some character’s unreliability (Flamineo, Fransisco), double standards (Monticelso), and hidden, but ruthless will to power exploitation (Bracciano), or else establish a character’s moral ambiguity (Vittoria). While the above-mentioned effects are largely text-internal, Webster’s strategies at the nexus of narrative, drama, and theatre also generate cultural and political thrust. In exploiting the private history, i.e., biography of a lady, the play exposes the power imbalances between men and women of a certain rank, processing prejudices against allegedly ‘promiscuous’ women in the Renaissance and critically visualising the power positions of men in the highest ecclesiastic and secular ranks. While the story is set in Italy, parallels to Jacobean England impose themselves on possible interpretations.43 Parallelised tales which are less congruent than discordant present a threateningly Janus-faced world, one which is (subconsciously) known from contemporary reality beyond the theatre walls but which, presented in theatre and fiction, helps audiences to recognise and process Jacobean power politics which aim at unsettling and frightening a people already battered by religious conflicts, famines, and lethal epidemics. In addition, mechanisms of ecclesiastic and secular institutions – depicted as corrupt, excessive, and perfidious – are laid bare: They self-servingly and brutally exploit the law. The White Devil does not, however, just put politics up to debate. Webster’s complementary tales of duplicity expand, beyond that, even to the smallest unit of social cohabitation: Living in a predatory world, nobody can feel or be safe; even families are presented as untrustworthy at best and double-dealing at worst. This is where Webster’s revenge tragedy is most likely to fulfil a cathartic function for the audience. Witnessing the emergence and execution of duplicity and its revenge, the play helps contemporary audiences to outsource phóbos and, consequently, process the ubiquitous emotions of fear and terror that are likely to have determined their everyday lives. 43 As Christina Luckyj (2016, 155) with reference to John Russell Brown contends, the “Italian setting functions as ‘a pretense that allowed Webster to evade the strict censorship that had landed Ben Jonson and other dramatists in prison for showing too clearly their criticism of King James I’.”


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4.3 The Bending and Expanding of Dramatic Conventions as Problematisations of Simplistic Worldviews and Morals: William Shakespeare and George Wilkin’s Romance Pericles Exploiting the Generative Narrator and the Genre of the Medieval Short Story Cycle The playwrights and co-authors William Shakespeare and George Wilkins created a play that proves especially fruitful for a study concerned with the entanglements of narrative and drama: Pericles (1607–08). The play was highly popular with Jacobean and Caroline audiences, even if contemporary, and even some current, criticism has unfortunately been slow to warm to it. Ben Jonson, perhaps envying its success, called it “some mouldy tale” (Jonson 1629; quoted in Gossett 2004, 3); and one of the major players in present-day criticism, Harold Bloom, unfavourably calls the play “uneven”, “mutilated”, and “very peculiar in genre” (1999 [1998], 603). The play’s generic ambiguity, its oscillation between narrative and drama, poses not only a challenge to criticism, but also to performance. As Leslie Dunton-Downer and Alan Riding remark, “[t]he play proved an immense hit with Jacobean audiences, but it never recovered its popularity after London’s theatres were closed [. . .] [in] 1642” (2014 [2004], 403). With just fourteen productions since 1900, even the Royal Shakespeare Company has displayed less interest in staging Pericles than any other of Shakespeare’s romances. This is an immense pity, which directors and critics tolerant of the play’s hybridity or even interested in it are increasingly realising.44 Similar to the histories and revenge tragedy analysed earlier, Pericles, too, thematises and dramatises stories in conflict and competition. Yet, in contrast to the former, stories in Pericles are neither dichotomised nor parallelised; rather, they are conglomerated and compiled – and this in an immensely fascinating and entertaining manner. The romance, which traces the travels and trials of Pericles as ruler and family man over a considerable time-span (approximately two decades elapse from the first scene to the last), can be regarded as highly ‘narrative’ in various other respects as well. Displaying decidedly salient features of narrativity, among them even a ‘narrator’ figure (or, a ‘generative narrator’), the romance selfconsciously plays with genre conventions, bending and expanding them to participate in its cultural context: It explores the ontological dichotomy of good and evil,

44 Cf. Suzanne Gossett’s article on recent productions (2006) and, e.g., Ansgar Nünning and Roy Sommer’s path-breaking endeavours to conceptualise the intersection between narrative and drama. To this end, they draw primarily on Pericles (cf. A. Nünning and Sommer 2011).

4.3 The Bending and Expanding of Dramatic Conventions


especially regarding family and state; it exemplifies the identity-formative power of narration; and it not only entertains, but also teaches its audiences. Before analysing the play’s narrativity on the levels of story and discourse and portraying narrativity’s intra-textual and extra-textual effects, I will sketch how Shakespeare and Wilkins’ adventures of Pericles, Prince of Tyre, are contextually linked to matters of narrativity and narration.

Pericles in Its Narrative Contexts Shakespeare and Wilkins’ collaboration is, in addition to its text-internal relation to narrative, contextually linked to it through both its story material and its authorship. In contrast to the plays analysed before, which draw on sources of a factually narrative kind, Pericles is derived from a variety of traditional, fictional narratives. As Suzanne Gossett observes, plays such as this are created by more than its authors. Its sources may be specific and identifiable, but more often [. . .], they are multiple, mixing legend and invention with written accounts. [. . .] And in the small, self-conscious, interactive theatre milieu of the Jacobean period, the success of the competition often meant imitation, of characters, styles, genres and dramatic elements. (Gossett 2004, 70)

Shakespeare and Wilkins thus arguably imitate – and maybe even more than imitate, namely adapt – characters, motifs, and styles derived from well-known narrative genres: Latin myth, diachronic, popular folklore, and medieval verse narrative. The story of Pericles is rooted in the folktale of “Appolonius of Tyre”, an oral narrative likely of Latin origin and, being very popular, survived without much alteration from the fifth to the seventeenth century (cf. Gossett 2004, 70). While Shakespeare and Wilkins, along with their contemporary audience, must have been familiar with the oral Appolonios tradition (as their play’s structure suggests, which will be shown below), among the play’s traceable sources are also two written romances. Parts of Pericles are based on the eighth book of John Gower’s verse narrative Confessio Amantis (1483) and Laurence Twine’s prose romance The Pattern of Painful Adventures (c. 1594). With this, the two playwrights place their drama in the tradition of familiar non-dramatic, i.e., epic literature, and they relate themselves, as authors, to medieval poets who are well-known for their narrative oeuvre. The latter is especially relevant for Pericles’ creators, who stand for a transgeneric literary production. Like Shakespeare, who moves easily between drama, verse epic, and poetry, allowing his works to inform one another, Wilkins too works in different genres. This is particularly remarkable with regard to Pericles: At roughly the same time that


4 Stories in Conflict and Competition

his collaborated drama Pericles was being composed, Wilkins published a verse version of the story: the romance of The Painful Adventures of Pericles Prince of Tyre (1608; cf. Döring 2009b). The near simultaneous appearance of two versions of the same story by the same author allows one to frame obvious generic inferences between narrative and drama within the play not only as subconscious accidents, but as a deliberate decision of the collaborating playwrights to narrativise their drama and to explore and expand dramatic genre boundaries. How this is done, as well as to what dramatic and cultural ends, will be perused in the following.

Pericles’ Text-Internal Narrativity In Pericles, Shakespeare and Wilkins adapt a host of narrative conventions in order to exploit them for dramatic and contextual purposes: First and foremost, they accumulate many episodic stories within one frame story. Secondly, they employ a highly present narrator figure, a generative narrator on DNL 2, and place storytellers on the diegetic level, DNL 1. Thirdly, by way of their récit which is informed by various salient narrative modes, they engender a hybrid kind of drama. An experiment in form, the play’s discursive structure can be said to metamorphose into one that has to be regarded more as traditionally narrative than conventionally dramatic. To illustrate Shakespeare and Wilkins’ accommodation of multiple stories in Pericles, I will first offer a comparison. Despite the coordination of royal and commoner’s plots and the stagings of conflicting ‘histories’ in Henry IV, Part One and Part Two, and despite The White Devil’s parallelisation of different complex, even heterogeneous, stories, all three plays still create an organic, coherent storyline. Pericles, however, though it, too, features a multitude of different stories and at times thematises conflict or ‘alternative facts,’ cannot be said to create a thematic unity at all. Its story includes topics as diverse as “incest, attempted murder and rape, shipwreck, burial at sea, revival from death, and the music of the spheres” (Gossett 2006, 183). Accordingly, the co-authors present their audiences with a multitude of sometimes only loosely connected stories, which are episodic in character. As Harold Bloom summarises, “[Pericles] has only a sporadic continuity: we are given episodes from the lives of Pericles, his wife Thaisa, and their daughter Marina. The episodes do not necessarily generate one another” (1999 [1998], 603–604). In Antioch, Pericles solves a

4.3 The Bending and Expanding of Dramatic Conventions


riddle to acquire a wife (I.i);45 uncovering a dark secret, he runs for his life (I. ii–iv); at Tarsus, he ends a famine (I.iv); in Pentapolis, he prepares for a tournament, combats for a wife, and wins fair princess Thaisa (II.i–iii, v). At the same time in Tyre, the loyal courtier Helicanus sticks up for the absent King Pericles, preventing a revolution (II.iv). Pericles travels to Tyre with his pregnant wife Thaisa, who apparently dies giving birth to a daughter, Marina, during a tempest at sea; Thaisa is buried at sea (III.i). In Ephesus, Thaisa’s coffin is washed ashore; she lives and becomes a priestess to Diana (III.ii, iv). Pericles gives Marina, the baby, to foster parents at Tarsus (III.iii). Marina, a young woman, is nearly killed by her foster parents and, then, robbed by pirates (IV.i). Pericles is told that Marina is dead (IV.iv). Marina, sold to a brothel in Mytilene, defends her virginity and demonstrates her virtue (IV.ii, v). Pericles and his lost daughter are reunited in Mytilene (V.i); Pericles and his wife, who believed each other dead, meet again in Ephesus (V.iii). Although Shakespeare and Wilkins conglomerate, even compile many diverse tales under one header, the maze of the stories within this play is, as far as interpretation is concerned, not as confusing as that of The White Devil. All of the romance’s episodes make clear-cut statements on royal leadership and rulers, even if the individual episodes are otherwise related only through the reappearance of certain characters (usually Pericles and his family). It is always ‘chance’ that brings Pericles, Marina, or Thaisa to certain shores (and adventures), and not cause and effect that give coherence to a story and generally drive the ‘plot.’46 Elisions in time (years pass between III.iii and IV.i; Marina has grown up) and changes in place amplify the episodic character of the play’s narrative so that, if one looks at them in their entirety, the episodes present the audience with a Renaissance odyssey, a sequence of contests and trials. These contests and trials always end with simple solutions; in other words, every episode about a representative of kingship is a self-sufficient story with a clear black-or-white outcome: poetic justice is always maintained. Riddling, killing rulers (such as Antiochus, who collects the heads of his daughter’s suitors who were not able to solve his riddle) meets his well-deserved end (II.iv. 1–12). Lying rulers who commission murders (like Cleon and Dionyza, who tell Pericles his daughter is dead), face civil rebellion and are burnt by their people (Epilogue.11–16). Even passive, absent rulers are reprimanded: As he wanders

45 Within this section, all not otherwise marked act, scene, and line numbers in brackets refer to Shakespeare and Wilkins (2004 [1607–1608]). 46 What Felix C. H. Sprang asserts concerning The Two Noble Kinsmen also holds true for Pericles: Neither audiences nor protagonists are given “any clues about possible causes for the events that unfold” (2011, 121).


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around the Aegean world, tossed by tempests and fate, Pericles is neglecting Tyre, and consequently nearly faces deposition (II.iv). Virtuous and loyal courtiers are advanced, like Helicanus, who is allowed to stand in for Pericles; and worthy princesses, like Marina, are recompensed for the trials they endured (she will be married to Lysimachus, V.ii.9–11). As these synopses show, the single episodes of Pericles are mini-narratives with straightforward ends: Virtue is rewarded, while injustice and misrule are punished. This simple equation, in line with poetic justice, is further strengthened through analogies between kingship and kinship, as well as through the ways in which the characters are designed. The mini-narratives are not only stories of rulers and their attendants, but also tales of fathers, wives, and daughters. With this relational doubling – the king (and queen)’s relationship to his (their) people is mirrored in the father (or mother)’s relationship to his (her) family –, vice, in particular, is multiplied. Bad rulers are shown to be bad fathers: Antioch engages in an incestuous relationship with his daughter; deciding to have their ward killed, Cleon and Dionyza prefer one child over the other in their care; and Pericles leaves his wife and daughter for dead – both literally and metaphorically. With this doubling, an analogy with which early modern audiences were likely to be familiar is applied. As Lucy Munro remarks, “[i]t was a political commonplace in the early modern period to represent the state as an image of family, and this analogy is frequently exploited in plays and, in particular, tragicomedies.” (Munro 2010, 31)47 In line with Munro’s contention, Shakespeare and Wilkins’ use of this analogy potentially functions as an easily comprehensible – albeit simplistic – political statement. Corrupt parents will make corrupt kings or queens; those who lie as parents or muddle truths by relating them in riddles will be equally dubious as rulers. The state of family relations thus stands as a blatant metaphor for the condition of the state. With Stuart Kurland, who compares Pericles’ absences from Tyre to James I’s avoidance of London (Kurland 2014, 209), one can accordingly conclude that Pericles “stage[s] the problematics of personal rule, depicting kings and princes who, not unlike James, find it difficult – or impossible – to balance public responsibilities with personal imperatives” (Kurland 2014, 210).48

47 This view is also held by Jeanie Grant Moore, who emphasises that, in Pericles, “family relationships are inherently political” and that the play’s “exploration of family directly parallels an examination of rulership” (2003, 36). 48 Convinced of Lucy Munro’s and Stuart Kurland’s arguments, according to which Pericles thematises political ideas, I must disagree with one of Felix C. H. Sprang’s main theses in an otherwise highly stimulating article. He assumes that Shakespeare’s late plays are less concerned with ideas and themes than with an exploration of narrative and genre (2011, 115–116). In my opinion, Pericles equally stages both political themes and literary experiment.

4.3 The Bending and Expanding of Dramatic Conventions


Like the early modern plays examined earlier (cf. Sections 4.1 and 4.2), Pericles is concerned with rule and misrule and, more often than not, with a deceitful ruling class who meddle with history by bending and obscuring truths (Antiochus) or interfering with biographies to their advantage (Cleon and Dionyza). However, unlike the previous plays, Pericles criticises wayward governance in a seemingly much less differentiated manner. Just as the storylines and outcomes of the romance’s episodes are simple, so too are its characters plain: they lack the psychological depth of Prince Hal, Falstaff, Vittoria, or Flamineo. In Pericles, there are no investigations into the human psyche. The romance’s characters are archetypes of rulers, deceivers, parents,49 and only as such do they matter. In exploiting family life and governance in binary terms and classifying the world into good and evil, Shakespeare and Wilkins present their play in easily digestible narrative chunks. This can be either understood as their attempt to teach their audience a clear-cut lesson in ethics along the lines of medieval moralities, or as an effort to fulfil the audience’s possible desire for a break from reality. At least in the theatre, with Pericles, they would have been able to experience a world of reduced complexity, an experience refused to them in real life, which, at the beginning of the seventeenth century – not least due to famines, repeated outbreaks of the plague, religious conflicts, and new, unpredictable rulers – was proving increasingly disorienting, unsettling, and threatening. What Harold Bloom frames as a criticism from a contemporary viewpoint, when he unfavourably remarks, “[nobody can] now read Pericles without the awareness that the creator of Hamlet, Falstaff, and Cleopatra is giving us a protagonist who is a mere cipher, a name upon the page” (1999 [1998], 606), thus may have been, in fact, a treat to early modern audiences: a break from reality and the provision of an easily comprehensible lesson in morals. Turning from the play’s themes and episodes to the play’s structure, one witnesses a complication of the outwardly clear-cut binaries between good and bad governance or virtue and vice which the mini-stories convey. Looking at the play’s extradiegetic acts of diegetic storytelling (on DNL 2), one realises that the allegations voiced by the criticism of the second half of the twentieth

49 Interestingly, with this, storytelling in its capacity to create identities and personality is implicitly thematised. The play’s characters more often than not fail to tell their life stories (Pericles does not reveal his identity to Thaisa at first; and Marina refuses to tell Lysimachus her background story). But if they do recount their history, as Marina does at Pericles’ urging (V.i.125), they establish their identity and become recognisable – text-internally, as daughters and, text-externally, to the play’s recipients, as characters. The play’s archetypes become suddenly animated (the ‘recognition scene’ between father and daughter has not been identified as the play’s most important, most affective scene for nothing; cf., e.g., Marrapodi 2011, 197–198; Dunton-Downer and Riding 2014 [2004], 408).


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century, namely, that “[n]othing mars the simple antinomies of the play, where all is black and white” (Bullough 1966, 372), do not hold true, after all. Presenting a generative narrator, the play distances itself from the clear-cut polarisation of good and evil that it introduces thematically. The character of John Gower, who “resembles a third-person narrator and exists outside (or above) the storyworld that the narration creates” (B. Richardson 2007, 152),50 is a highly present, decidedly salient generative narrator. In contrast to Rumour in Henry IV, Part Two, Time in The Winter’s Tale (2010 [1611]), or Tragedy, Comedy, and History in the anonymous A Warning for Fair Women (2012 [1599]), who only appear at the plays’ beginnings to introduce the mimetic narrative, Gower repeatedly comes on stage to frame the dramatic narrative in various ways. He diegetically engenders the story of Pericles, set on the play’s intradiegetic level, by introducing mimetically narrated events to follow his speech (cf., e.g., I.0.40–42) or announcing events to be theatrically narrated in the form of dumb shows (cf., e.g., IV.iv.21–23). He furthermore summarises what is not presented on stage (cf. V.0.1–11, Epilogue), moralises, and comments on what has been theatrically or mimetically related (cf., e.g., II.0.7–8, IV.iv.44–45). Repeatedly and in various ways punctuating what is mimetically and theatrically presented, Pericles’ generative narrator makes himself highly visible. His conspicuousness is further enhanced by the fact that he is not any storyteller, chorus, or an abstract allegory, but ‘Gower,’ a medieval author who actually existed and who penned the source on which the play is based. Gower not only points out his name (I.0.2, II.0.40), but also constantly spices up his narrative with meta-narrative remarks, such as “what need speak I?” (II.0.16; emphasis mine), “What shall be next, | Pardon old Gower: this ‘longs the text” (II.0.39–40; emphasis mine), or “The unborn event | I do commend to your content, | Only I carry winged time | Post on the lame feet of my rhyme” (IV.0.45–48; emphasis mine). With this, he continually reminds the audience of the fact that he is not a Greek chorus, an abstract entity or plurality that comments on and evaluates the action, but that he is telling a story. In doing so, he is generating it. He also emphasises that his authored tale is partly rendered as ‘text,’ i.e., in verbal form, and that he is a rhyming poet, who can tell his story as he wishes, e.g., summarising and jumping back and forth in time. Gower repeatedly highlights that his ‘song’ is composed and ‘sung’ by him and that it is, as such, of a ‘fictional’ nature. With Gower, the act of storytelling is performed and, as a result, it becomes highly salient. In addition, Pericles’ generative narrator repeatedly emphasises that

50 For more information on forms and functions of ‘generative narrators,’ see also Jahn (2001, 670–671), B. Richardson (2001, 685–686), or A. Nünning and Sommer (2002, 112).

4.3 The Bending and Expanding of Dramatic Conventions


the story he is conjuring up for the audience is just that: a story. And, finally, this story is even characterised as an “old” (I.0.1) and an “ancient” (I.0.2) one. As Jeanie Grant Moore (2003, 34) emphasises, “Gower’s is an older voice, speaking from a distant age; the absolutes of his medieval narrative are complicated by a new reenactment on the early modern stage.” Gower’s tale is, however, not only complicated by its Renaissance re-enactment, but by the implementation of a medieval narrator figure within an otherwise dramatic form; the generative narrator even twice removes Pericles’ reality from Shakespeare and Wilkins’ contemporary audiences’ reality. This allows the conclusion that, with the playwrights’ employment of a generative narrator, the ways in which he is staged (he is omnipresent and makes many meta-narrative remarks), and the ways in which he is characterised (as actual, but medieval author), the binaries of the intradiegetic level are problematised. What is presented by way of the mimetic narrative belongs to worlds which are – at least, as conceptualised by Shakespeare and Wilkins – less complex than early modern realities. Easy solutions and worldviews may be longed for by the popular play’s fortune-battered, anxious audiences; yet, the opposition of good and evil, Pericles’ virtuous and vicious rulers or family members, and the play’s clear-cut morals are, as the generative narrator Gower subtly shows, matters of allegedly simpler worlds: fiction and bygone, medieval pasts. In addition to Shakespeare and Wilkins’ conglomeration and compilation of stories in Pericles and their employment of an idiosyncratic generative narrator, the two playwrights narrativise their drama in yet another remarkable respect. They do not only draw on narrative sources, but also converge with traditional narrative genres. In other words, they endow Pericles with an unusual amount of narrative markers, thus subverting its theatricality and status as a drama. The result is not that the play seems to display “very little [. . .] [that] can be judged dramatic” (Bloom 1999 [1998], 604), to be an “anomaly in the Shakespeare canon” (Gossett 2004, 1), or to feature a generic indefiniteness which resists conventional classification (Dunton-Downer and Riding 2014 [2004], 397). The effect is, rather, that Shakespeare and Wilkins transform their drama into a quasi-narrative: The playwrights present their audiences with a type of drama that appears to be a narrative of the traditional kind. Three strategies in particular enable the work’s metamorphosis from straightforward drama to quasi-narrative. The authors apply features of verse and prose romances (a strategy already commonly acknowledged); they adapt motifs known from famous narrative inter-texts and imitate markers of oral narratives, i.e., folklore and fairy tales; and, finally, they appropriate a structure that adheres to the form of well-known medieval verse and prose story collections. Since the eighteenth century, when the generic term ‘romance’ was devised to define those plays of Shakespeare that did not quite fit the First Folio’s


4 Stories in Conflict and Competition

categories of ‘tragedy,’ ‘comedy,’ and ‘history’ (among them not only Pericles, but also The Winter’s Tale and Cymbeline), the relationship between these plays and the medieval French romanz of the twelfth century51 has been acknowledged. That Pericles, like these longer narrative prose and verse fictions, is episodic and “processional” in character (Gossett 2004, 108), exploits the plot patterns of ‘quest’ and ‘trial,’ and uses the stock figures of the “wandering hero” (Grant Moore 2003, 34) and the ‘virtuous heroine’ has even become a commonplace.52 For this reason, the features of Pericles that bend the play generically towards those narrative fictions will not be analysed in detail here again. It shall suffice to note that these features exist and that they have a substantial share in transforming the drama into a literary work of art that is not only heavily reminiscent of prose and verse narratives, but actually like them. Among the markers that further facilitate the play’s metamorphosis into narrative fiction, or provoke its reception as such, are the accumulation of motifs from famous verse epics in combination with the imitation of traditional oral narrative markers. The scenes in which Pericles tries to win a wife through solving a riddle (I.i) or in tournament (II.ii), and the episodes of Pericles’ sea voyage in which he is at mercy of Neptune, are arguably reissues of famous inter-texts. Who would, in reading or watching Pericles, not think of the myth of Oedipus, who, having solved the riddle of the Sphinx, gains the hand of Thebes’ widowed empress, Iocasta (who happens to be his mother)? Who would fail to recognise the motif of the ‘competing suitors’ as realised in earlier narratives, such as Homer’s The Odyssey, in which Odysseus’ wife, Penelope, keeps her suitors at bay with an archery contest? Who would not recall the motif of the ‘sea voyage’ as premediated in Odysseus’ wanderings and his dependency upon Poseidon? In addition to their accumulation of motifs of well-known classical intertexts, Shakespeare and Wilkins frame their play as narrative by applying markers of oral narrativity, especially those of folk narratives, defined as “stories which have survived for significant periods of time in popular tradition by being passed on, from storyteller to storyteller, both spatially across cultures and communities, and temporally from generation to generation.” (Teverson 2013, 12) These folk narratives feature miracles and, as the term ‘folk-lore’ etymologically indicates, lessons – as does Pericles. Not only is Pericles’ lost suit of armour miraculously restored to him and his wife astonishingly resurrected, but each episode, like

51 They themselves draw on Hellenistic verse epics (Fuchs 2004, 12–36), like Homer’s The Odyssey. 52 For in-depth criticism on Pericles as ‘romance,’ see, e.g., Grant Moore (2003), Fuller (2004), (Gossett 2004, esp. 106–116), Mulready (2013), or Hiscock (2014, esp. 17–19).

4.3 The Bending and Expanding of Dramatic Conventions


folktales, also entails implicit or explicit teachings. Simonides, Thaisa’s father, for instance, remarks in Act II, scene ii, in which the discrepancy between Pericles’ poor outer looks and his virtuous, worthy demeanour has just been mimetically presented, “Opinion’s but a fool, that makes us scan | The outward habit for the inward man” (II.ii.54–55). And Gower comments upon Cleon and Dionyza’s feigned mourning for Marina, “No visor does become black villainy | So well as soft and tender flattery.” (IV.iv.44–45) Sententiae like these, which – in snappy diegetic summaries of the mimetic action – teach the audience a moral, tell them what they should conclude from what they have just witnessed, abound in Pericles. As pertinent markers known from oral folk narratives, they, combined with the multitude of motifs known from paradigmatic classical narrative inter-texts, make the reception of Shakespeare and Wilkins’ play as narrative not just possible, but even likely. The present play displays such a high degree of qualitative and quantitative narrativity that it is transformed into a quasi-narrative. This is, besides its adoption of characteristics of the medieval French romanz and its accumulation and combination of motifs and structural devices of both epic and mythological inter-texts as well as oral folk narrative, also due to its peculiar structure. Pericles is fashioned exactly like popular medieval short story collections (rather than like other contemporary plays). Shakespeare and Wilkins set all of the short episodes of Pericles and his family’s adventures into a surrounding narrative. Gower, on an extradiegetic level (DNL 2), appears between all episodes, usually before each new Act, to frame the episodes and establish their narrative coherence. The collaborators’ strategy to connect each intradiegetic episode by way of an extradiegetic, overt narrator who introduces each episode appears frequently in collections of verse and prose narratives from pre-Christian times. These have become popular through Middle Eastern folktale cycles like One Thousand and One Nights and, in Europe, in the fourteenth century through Boccacio’s Decamerone and, around at the beginning of the fifteenth century, through Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales. Against this backdrop, it is not astonishing that John Gower’s Confessio Amantis should display the same structure: On an extradiegetic level, a male or female storyteller – in their function very similar to Gower in Pericles – engenders the episodes (parables, anecdotes, fables, fairy tales and the like) which are set on an intradiegetic level (and set within the extradiegetic frame). Although the frame narratives of the medieval tale collections just mentioned can be regarded as stories with plots in their own right,53 the realisation of the collection’s structure in a drama alone helps the authors not only to allude to traditional, well-known

53 This can hardly be said for Pericles’ frame, in which there is no independent plot.


4 Stories in Conflict and Competition

printed verse and prose narratives, but also actualises the play as a quasinarrative – both in production and reception. To conclude, by presenting a host of diverse stories within one play, implementing a very highly salient narrator figure on an extradiegetic level, and appropriating motifs and structures of a variety of traditional, well-known epics, i.e., verbal narratives (ancient myth, classic tales, and folklore), Shakespeare and Wilkins cross the boundaries of conventional dramatic literature. They narrativise Pericles quantitatively and qualitatively in various and outstanding ways; and, in doing so, the duo of playwrights can be even said to transform a genre: what would normally have been considered plainly a play is converted into quasi-narrative literature, similar to (oral) myth, folklore, and medieval tale collections. While, on the story level and regarding the life of the eponymous hero, clear-cut morals and a straightforward worldview prevails, Pericles’ structural traits undermine the simple political and moral antinomies of the play. Acknowledging and analysing the narrative strategies Shakespeare and Wilkins devise, one has to concede that, as Jeanie Grant Moore wrote, “[Pericles is] a play that uses generic conventions [or, rather, their transgression] to challenge [. . .] generic, political, and social assumptions” (Grant Moore 2003, 33). Living in a highly complex time, after Elizabeth I’s death and with a foreign regent on the English throne, during famines, repeated outbreaks of the ‘black death,’ and political, jurisdictional, and religious instability, Pericles’ audiences may have relished in the ‘black and white’ morals the play’s episodes offered. At the same time, Pericles problematises the simplistic truths of ‘bad kings, like Antiochus, are evil through-and-through and will be punished’ and ‘virtuous people, like Marina, are preternaturally good and this will be rewarded.’ With its narrativisation and bending of genre boundaries, the romance defies prevalent “moralistic reading[s]” (Sprang 2011, 118). In contrast to Marina’s true personal story the morals of the episodes are, through the authors’ generic transgressions, presented not as veritable historical facts, but as one-dimensional narratives. They are judged as “lies | disdained in the reporting” (V.i.109–110). Miracles, simplistic worldviews, clear dichotomies of good and evil, one-dimensional regents and family members are, through the ways in which they are reported (drama is narrativised and fashioned as a part of another, well-known body of narrative medieval works), judged as ‘medieval’ and ‘fictional,’ as figures from ostensibly naïve fairy tale plots and distant, allegedly simpler pasts. With this, Shakespeare and Wilkins’ acknowledge their contemporaries’ potential desire for escapism and, in part, fulfil it. Simultaneously, they criticise this longing and show that it should be indulged only within the confines of the theatre walls. Indulging in these black-and-white worldviews in real life may be popular, or even populist; in consequence, they are to be seen not just as problematic, but even as dangerous.

4.4 Dominant Forms and Potential Functions of Narrative in Early Modern Drama


4.4 Dominant Forms and Potential Functions of Narrative in an ‘Age of Lying and Dissimulation’: The Exploitation of Conflicting Stories to Cultural Ends in Early Modern Dramatic Narration All early modern plays discussed in this section thematise and dramatise stories in conflict and competition – be it Elizabethan histories like Shakespeare’s Henry IV duology (cf. 4.1), Jacobean tragedies like Webster’s The White Devil (cf. 4.2), or plays that defy conventional generic attributions like Shakespeare and Wilkins’ Pericles (cf. 4.3). All of them are part of a large body of plays54 that are text-externally linked to narrative in manifold ways and that text-internally exploit diverse, fascinating, and often experimental ways of storytelling to stage and discuss alternative histories, complementary tales, and lies in early modern times. While I have explored a selection of plays from the Elizabethan and Jacobean period, plays like these can also be found in the Caroline era.55 What is of primary concern in our own day and age was just as topical in early modern times. Playwrights, in the ‘age of lying’ or ‘dissimulation’ (cf. Ch. 4), explore the competition between truth and lies and examine the grey area in between in public and private spheres. They do so by exploiting the text-external and text-internal forms and functions of narrative and narrativity for drama; and this in manifold creative and highly entertaining ways. Shakespeare, with his Henry IV duology, enriches his dramatic narrative of national history with additional stories and alternative histories, dramatises stories whose contents are in conflict and competition, presents and reflects tales of past events (and of the future) and, by meta-narrative, meta-theatrical, and metahistoriographic means, probes the role of rumour in world- and (hi)storymaking processes. He thereby not only dramatically retells English national history; he partakes in forging new, early modern truths. Webster, in his revenge tragedy The White Devil, makes use of the fissures and discrepancy of complementary tales told in different modes (diegetic, dramatic, or theatrical). He presents his audiences with a plenitude of lying characters who deceitfully play with different possible story outcomes and versions of the truth, and embeds theatrical narratives, dumb shows, and different narratives of an oral tradition, i.e., ‘tales,’ within the dramatic narrative to complement the otherwise mimetic narrative. In doing this,

54 References to further plays can be found in Sections 4.1 to 4.3. 55 Cf., for instance, Richard Brome’s The Queen and the Concubine (2010 [1653]), in which a lying monarch tries to get rid of his wife and in which, against this foil, questions of governance are discussed, or A Jovial Crew (2014 [1652]), in which various kinds of narrative are used for dramatic purposes, as I have shown elsewhere (Schwanecke 2016).


4 Stories in Conflict and Competition

he processes unsettling facts of Jacobean culture and problematises both the private and public place of women, as well as the precarious Jacobean feelings of anxiety, rooted in the church and state’s unpredictable interpretations of social codes. In Pericles, Shakespeare and Wilkins accumulate many stories within one (episodic) story, highlight their narrator figure, and create a hybrid form of drama that conceptually transforms into a literary work. It is a play that must be received more as traditional narrative than conventional drama. The two playwrights both present and undermine simplistic worldviews, and both acknowledge their contemporaries’ potential desire for escapism and criticise this desire as populist and potentially dangerous. Although it is notoriously difficult to delineate the complex interrelations between drama and theatre and the culture in which it emerges, both of the following facts are generally acknowledged. Firstly, Renaissance drama is due to contemporary stage practices only fully understood when considered in its theatrical realisation and with regard to the medium of theatre (cf. Simonis 1996, esp. 25). Secondly, the power of accordingly staged plays does not stay within the confines of theatre walls – it reaches beyond: [T]heatrical values do not exist in a realm of privileged literariness, of textual or even institutional self-referentiality. Shakespeare’s [and other early modern playwrights’] theatre was not isolated by its wooden walls, nor did it merely reflect social and ideological forces that lay entirely outside it: rather the Elizabethan and Jacobean theater was itself a social event in reciprocal contact with other social events. (Greenblatt 1988, 45–46)

The plays examined above vividly engage with the cultures they have emerged from and try to process and mould them by creatively intertwining drama and narrative (see Fig. 14). They challenge the elites who hold power over official storytelling; they question and undermine hegemonic interpretations and interpreters of history (be they dignitaries of church or court; cf. Sections 4.1 and 4.2). They add marginalised points of view to hegemonic versions of history, e.g., those of commoners (Section 4.1) and women (Section 4.2), and sketch an image of their times characterised by complexity, mendacity, insecurity, and threat. They offer their audiences the possibility of escapism by transferring the horror of real life to the stage, which, there, can be witnessed and processed from a safe distance (Section 4.2), and by presenting simplistic worldviews and clear-cut morals, allowing audiences a break from a reality that has become increasingly complex and threatening (cf. Section 4.3). At the same time, they unmask populist, under-complex ways of representing and interpreting the world as matters of fiction and bygone pasts (cf. Section 4.3). All of the dramatic narrations examined in this chapter arguably play a substantial part in the general projects of nation-building and historywriting in early modern times. By engaging in these projects with a separate, artistic agenda and ideology, they become powerful cultural forces in their own right.

4.4 Dominant Forms and Potential Functions of Narrative in Early Modern Drama


Central contextual intersections of drama and narrative (i.e., the ‘narrative contexts’ of plays) –

Authors working transgenerically (e.g., Wilkins’ simultaneous production of the ‘Pericles story’ as verse narrative and play) and/or playwrights implicitly relating themselves to medieval poets who are well-known for their narrative oeuvre Strong ties between ‘history’ as dramatic sub-genre (fictional) and ‘historiography’ as a narrative genre (with claim to fact): historiographic sources of chronicle plays; chronicle plays as dramatisation of series of events (minimal definition of ‘story’); history as dramatic sub-genre and res gestae ; etymological and semantic overlaps between ‘history’ and ‘story’ in early modern times Dramatisation of real-life biographies: narrative genre dramatised; genre of dramatic poem (published, like narrative poem and epic), transgeneric topic of ‘revenge,’ particular biography of Vittoria Accoramboni transgenerically realised Drama derived from narrative source texts: narrative genres in general (Latin myth, diachronic, popular folklore, and medieval verse narrative); concrete stories in particular (orally conveyed folktale, “Appolonius of Tyre”) and specific Romances

Prevailing kinds of intra-textual intersections of drama and narrative Dominant semantic dimensions of narrative

Dominant forms of narrative on story level

Narrative sensu historiography (as ‘factual’ genre), fiction, history (as ‘historia[e] rerum gestarum ,’ and as the sub-genre of drama), storytelling characters, diegetic acts of recounting the past and imagining future events, conflicting stories (mimetically and diegetically presented), oral narrative genres (rumour, folklore), generative narrators, medieval and classical literary genres and conventions – – – – –

Dominant intersections of dramatic and narrative modes on discourse level (récit)

– –

– –

thematisation of stories of the past and the future presentation of conflicting stories within the story world storytelling characters, lying characters inclusion of diegetic acts of recounting the past and imagining future events interpretations of diegetic acts and tales; interpretative ambiguity as metaphors of deceitful people and a predatory society intertwinement of storytelling, historiography, fiction, and drama (as triggers of meta-/ reflection) emplotment of historical narrative in additional (partly revisionist) stories (i.e., addition of commoners’ perspectives to grand national narrative and dignifying them) dramatisation of conflicting and competing stories of different truth value same event presented in mimetic (theatrical mise en abyme) and diegetic ways; each instance on DNL 1 differs from the other (similar to multiperspectivity in novels) inter-textual references to specific, classical authors (e.g., Martial or Homer) and to concrete tales of an oral storytelling tradition (parables and fables) diegetic and mimetic counterpart narratives (‘illuminate’ each other) punctuate DNL 1

Fig. 14: Dominant forms and potential functions of narrative in plays of the early modern period.


4 Stories in Conflict and Competition

– –

Dominant narrative modes and features of narration (‘narration as an abstraction’) placed and qualified within the communication model of dramatic narration

– –

– –

– –

– Cultural dynamics and performative power of the above mentioned dominant forms

accumulation of many stories within one frame story (episodic structure) approximation of discourse structure of established narrative genres through application of features of verse and prose romances, adaptation of motifs known from famous narrative inter-texts, imitation of markers of oral narratives (esp. folklore and fairy tales), and appropriation of structures of well-known medieval verse and prose story collections diegetic storytellers on DNL 1 as dissemblers, liars, ‘prophets’ conflicting and competing embedded stories on DNL 1; intertwinement of embedded past and future narratives on DNL 1 diegetic synopses of prior occurrences à la ‘previously in the Lancaster tetralogy on DNL 1 explicit diegetic reflections on nature of history on DNL 1 by characters and on DNL 2 by an allegory that make 2 Henry IV a meta-history exploitation of discrepant awareness between the internal and external communication system through meta-theatre and combination of diegetic and mimetic storytelling (discrepancy between DNL 1 and DNL 5 triggers dramatic irony) on DNL 1, embedded tales of oral tradition (recounted dreams, parables, fables) generative narrator on DNL 1, splitting the diegetic level into a frame story, DNL 1a, and an embedded story DNL 1b (both stories are rendered mimetically, in drama- and theatre-specific manners; e.g., stylised dumb shows on DNL 1b) generative narrators on DNL 2 (some more marked and/or intrusive than others)

Heightened degree of narrativity and its forms engender self-reference and self-definition (genre-system): – meta-studies in the nature of history and storytelling (in drama and historiography) – revealing the constructedness of historiography and the subjectivity of historical truth-making processes – meta-study in the ambiguous nature of stories and their possible interpretations – play as experiment in dramatic and narrative form: play’s discursive structure transformed into one that has to be regarded more as traditionally narrative than conventionally dramatic and hetero-reference as well as political engagement (culture): – challenging historical accuracy in historiography – probing the nature of royalty

Fig. 14 (continued)

4.4 Dominant Forms and Potential Functions of Narrative in Early Modern Drama

– –

Fig. 14 (continued)


questioning of contemporary institutions which have the power to construct public and national history and pointing out their near-exclusive power to interpret, construct, and authorise self-serving as well as selfpromoting kinds of history inclusion of voices marginalised or unrepresented in hegemonic Renaissance historiography exploring the role of contingency, half-truths, and counter-fact (e.g., in narrative forms of rumours or dreams) in historical processes and world-making debate of politics, Jacobean political and legal realities (e.g., the King ruling ad libitum and making brutally use of his privileges and power) means of coming to terms with a social atmosphere of distrust, threat, and violence: in smallest social unit, the family, and in pubic social practices like executions and their theatrical staging; both are handled in the safe havens of ‘theatre’ and ‘fiction’ (cathartic function) social criticism: visualisation of the power imbalances between men and women of a certain rank and of the abuse of power positions by men in the highest ecclesiastic and secular ranks philosophy of state: exemplification of good and bad forms of governance (use of narrative within family relations as metaphor for the condition of the state) easily digestible narrative chunks as both break from a complex, troubling reality (e.g., famines, plagues, James I’s personal rule) and as criticism of simplistic worldviews (they are matters of allegedly simpler worlds, e.g., fiction and bygone, medieval pasts) transgression of genre conventions used to challenge simplistic generic and political worldviews

5 The Containment of Different Narratives and of Narratives of Difference in Drama: The Renewal and Self-Definition of a ‘Sleeping’ Genre as well as Theatrical Configurations of Restoration and Early Eighteenth-Century (Drama) Cultures With the Restoration of 1660, both the monarchy and theatrical life saw their reinstitution. While during the English Civil War and the Puritan Interregnum, theatres had been closed and dramatic production had largely come to a standstill, with Charles II’s ascension to the throne, two theatre companies, run by William Davenant and Thomas Killigrew respectively, were sanctioned to stage plays (cf., e.g., Munns 2010, 82–83). With the distribution of these two licenses, theatre and drama returned with vigour. After the pause that Parliament had inflicted from 1642 onwards, the theatre now saw numerous innovations. Among them were the stage presence of female actors, a distinct theatre architecture (fully enclosed theatre spaces, “incorporating aspects of the private playhouses and court-theatres of the pre-Civil War era” (Munns 2010, 84), new stage forms (the proscenium arch), and novel theatrical techniques (e.g., artificial lighting).1 Playwrights embraced these innovations and made use of them for their plays,2 while still continuing to employ narrative topics and modes – which they did in unprecedented ways, both on the level of story and of discourse, and to new ends. Interestingly, even after the hiatus between 1642 and 1660, conflicting narratives provided a common thematic thread in plays and on all of the five levels of communication in drama (cf. Sect. 3.3, Fig. 13). Like early modern playwrights, dramatists between 1660 and 1750 exploited the dramatic potential of narrative

1 These numerous innovations had mostly been adopted from continental theatre techniques and practises, above all French ones (Worthen 2003c, 377). 2 Though welcomed by many theatre practitioners (albeit not all of them: John Gay submitted nolens volens to the present theatre machinery; cf. Sect. 5.3), not all the changes of the English theatre culture after the Interregnum period were and could be regarded as innovations. Like all literature, drama became a lucrative market, and not just in publishing. Theatre tickets, too, became rather expensive, making theatres relatively exclusive spaces, spaces for the (rising) English elites. As such, they automatically became spaces of exclusion and class distinction, marginalising those who could not afford tickets. https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110724110-005

5 The Containment of Narratives of Difference in Drama


and, especially, rivalling stories. Equally true, however, is that Restoration playwrights do not have stories compete, as their predecessors did, but rather attempt to unify them. They contain disparity and enclose different narratives as well as narratives of difference. This may – at least partly – be due to a historical idiosyncrasy, an experience that people born somewhat before 1642 were likely to have had: the experience of rapid, large-scale change within the span of a single lifetime.3 John Spurr (2010) calls the time between 1649, King Charles I’s beheading, and 1750 an era of ‘differences contained.’ The idea of a time in which diverse possibilities isochronously exist – some of them smouldering, some of them coming to the fore – is a recurring motif in literary historical and cultural analyses of the late-seventeenth and early-eighteenth centuries. Ingo Berensmeyer, varying the topic, frames the era as one of multiple latencies, calling it a period of latent social unrest and rapid modernization [. . .]. In its climate of latent democratization, in which the first recognizable parties were formed and public opinion first became a significant factor in the realm of politics (pamphlets, the ‘mob’), [. . .] high cultural forms [i.e., dramatic ones] had to be tested against social reality. (2011, 131)

While some attribute the period’s quality of ‘contained differences’ to concurring latencies, others explain them with fast-paced, actual changes and counterchanges. They contend that people at the turn of the eighteenth century were witnessing different worlds and changing mentalities in an unprecedentedly rapid succession; and more often than not, they themselves seem to have held diverse, sometimes divergent points of view. As Stuart Sherman explains with regard to John Dryden, who arguably established Restoration drama, and his contemporaries, Dryden and his audience had survived such pressing moments of choice, had traversed such arduous political and cultural changes of mind over time, from monarchy to Commonwealth to Restoration to crisis to Revolution, that many or most, including the playwright himself, could recall however reluctantly moments when, out of conviction or self-interest or some barely assessable combination of the two, they occupied the opposite stance from the one they now assumed. (2012, 16)

In this chapter, then, I will have to ask how the existing latencies and the actual transformations in the socio-political structure and culture, and the various

3 John Spurr (2010, 3) illustrates the extent and scope of changing life and culture by stating, “[t]he century between the Civil War and the reign of George II saw the transformation of English political, social, and religious life. [. . .] We would surely find mid seventeenth-century England strange and alien [. . .]. Mid eighteenth-century, on the other hand, [. . .] would be full of familiar sights and institutions.”


5 The Containment of Narratives of Difference in Drama

political and social identity narratives they produced, within one century became manifest in the genre on the rise again after 1660, drama. Favoured semantic dimensions will be explored, as will how different intersections of dramatic and narrative modes were included in dramatic narration. Doing this, one will be able to determine how playwrights and their respective works responded to and maybe even partook in the generation of changing mentalities of the mid-seventeenth century and early-eighteenth centuries. For this reason, I study here the intersections of drama and narrative in three plays penned and staged between 1660 and 1737, when the Theatre Licensing Act was issued to control any potential implicit or explicit criticism of the government and other authorities. I look at plays which attempt to unify and cope with altered realities and with the conflicting narratives the copresence of old and new realities produced and which, moreover, tackle the problems brought about by changed circumstances in the institution of theatre itself. I ask how the genre that rose again like a phoenix from the ashes, during the Restoration and after, dramatised concurring narratives and to which potential contextual purposes, i.e., to hetero-referential (e.g., concerning politics) and/or self-referential (e.g., regarding a possible generic self-definition) ends. To select plays as both representative and diverse as possible regarding their use of narrative in story and discourse, I have turned to some of the most popular playwrights of the later seventeenth century and early-eighteenth centuries. These playwrights, who employed a wide range of different kinds of dramatic narration, arguably dominated the processes of reshaping and redefining the genre of drama after the Interregnum. John Dryden’s tragicomedy Marriage à la Mode (Sect. 5.1) serves as an example of a play that seeks to reconceptualise the genre of drama by the containment of different stories, stories of difference, and different modes of dramatic narration. Doing this, it also tries to cope with the issue of change in political and cultural structures. Aphra Behn’s The Rover (Sect. 5.2) can be regarded a comedy which, not least due to its popular multiple plots, proved to be defining for the whole genre for centuries to come. In addition, it topically discusses post-Interregnum values and attests to women’s new cultural visibility (not just in theatre, but also more generally)4 – especially by way of a narrative framing device which foregrounds female perspectives. It is also this framing device which arguably helps the playwright to question the consequences of a ‘new female visibility’ – not only for women, but for men as well. What is, however, even more vital in this context is the fact that The Rover allows for an analysis of the nexus of

4 Cf., e.g., Margaret Doody’s elaborations (2010).

5.1 The State and the State of the Art in Restoration Drama


narrative and drama from yet another narratological perspective. As the play was penned by a dramatist who also became famous for her role in bringing a new genre to life, the novel,5 we may go beyond asking which narrative modes were taken over from traditional narrative texts for dramatic purposes. Instead, we can witness the emergence of a genre-independent, transgeneric ‘authorial voice’ or ‘narrative framing device,’ developed by writers shaping both genres and applied independently to both Restoration plays and novels. John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera (Sect. 5.3), probably “the most influential English drama of the eighteenth century” (Dugaw 2004, 805), with its unique hybrid dramatic form, offers yet another, complementary gaze on the intersection of drama and narrative. It meta-referentially reflects early-eighteenth-century plays, theatre practices, and capitalist culture. Gay opens up the aforementioned intersection to further generic experiment (adding, e.g., theatrical and musical modes) and creates an unprecedented, new kind of drama, which in its generic boldness and indeterminacy arguably outdoes all that has been done before.

5.1 The State and the State of the Art in Restoration Drama: John Dryden’s Epically Construed Tragicomedy Marriage à la Mode as Philosophy of (Marriage, Sex, and) State and as Poetological Definition of Drama In his tragicomedy Marriage à la Mode, likely first performed in 1671 and published in 1673, the first Englishman to become Poet Laureate in 1668, John Dryden, contains difference in manifold ways. First and foremost, he deals with two topics which could not be more unalike within one drama. He designs an unconventional ‘philosophy of state’ and illustrates his ‘philosophy of a new drama à la mode.’ As the topics that the tragicomedy brings together are dissimilar, so too are the techniques combined to deal with these issues distinctive. Dryden fuses narrative modes, on the one hand, and theatrical and dramatic modes, on the other, to, firstly, deal with the new realities and mind-sets of a post-Interregnum culture and, secondly, to breathe new life into the genre that had been anesthetised by the anti-theatrical politics of the Interregnum. As James Noggle and Lawrence Lipking (2012, 2208) point out, “[t]he newly chartered theatres needed a modern repertory, and he set out to supply the need.” In the following, I ask what Dryden’s stylistic combinations of narrative and drama look like and which kind

5 In this, Behn is similar to Henry Fielding, who gave up playwriting for the novel – admittedly, only after the Theatre Licensing Act of 1737, and thus not totally of his own accord.


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of ‘new’ drama results from the playwright’s endeavours. In addition to the self-referential qualities of Marriage à la Mode, I explore the hetero-referential functions that Dryden’s amalgam of narrative and dramatic modes supposedly fulfilled for its first audiences. Before I come to this, however, I trace the ways in which the Restoration playwright and his dramatic oeuvre can be linked to narrative genres and contexts beyond the present play.

Marriage à la Mode in Its Narrative Contexts Even if one does not wish to go so far as Steven Zwicker, who contends that Dryden surpasses all his contemporary colleagues in defining Restoration literature (even poets as renowned and influential as Andrew Marvell or John Milton, cf. Zwicker 2010, 185, 189–91), one must certainly agree that he shaped the post-1660 literary landscape like no other.6 He “wrote in every mode and genre that thrived in these years” (Zwicker 2010, 185), and he had a distinct share in fashioning these modes and genres. What is significant for a study concerned with dramatic narration are the facts that Dryden was, firstly, a truly transgeneric author, consciously exploiting inferences between the genres he worked with and that, secondly, he established a new kind of drama both in theory and in practice. This, too, he did by transgressing traditional genre boundaries, oscillating between drama, narrative, and criticism. His critical “An Essay of Dramatick Poesy” (1971 [1668]) is a particular case in point, not only regarding its title, which indicates a transgeneric union of two genres that were to be separated later, in the eighteenth century, by literary theory,7 but also regarding its content and form. In its content, the “Essay” reflects the difference between ancient and ‘modern’ playwrights, the competition between French and English aesthetics of drama, and the topics of ‘wit,’ ‘rhyme,’ and the ‘mixing of genres.’ The four viewpoints presented are not evaluated or ranked in any way; on the contrary, diverse, critical stances are

6 James Noggle and Lawrence Lipking (2012, 2208) likewise frame Dryden as “the commanding literary figure of the last four decades of the seventeenth century.” 7 I am referring to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s influential distinction between supposedly “natural forms of poetry”. It proved so influential that literary critics keep forgetting, for the sake of their argument, the anachronism of their application (when applying an eighteenthcentury distinction to, say, seventeenth-century works) as well as Goethe’s relativisation. Even according to him, these ‘pure’ forms are often found ‘mixed’ in literary practise (cf. 2010, 227–228).

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presented successively and granted equal importance.8 Formally, Dryden’s first full-length critical essay bears an interesting transgeneric feature: It is not rendered in academic, theoretical prose; rather, is composed in a predominantly dramatic mode, namely, as a dialogue. His four speakers, all of whom introduce and reflect different topics, are said to “[fix] the topic of critical debate [. . .] [and help] formulate a national style, that loose and flexible aesthetic that defines so much of Restoration literary practice” (Zwicker 2010, 189–190). A literary critic whose theoretical prose was influenced by dramatic aesthetics,9 John Dryden was also open to generic experiment in his literary production. He allowed contextual inferences between prose and drama in at least two respects: As a classicist and translator of literary epics, such as Virgil’s Aeneid (1697), he has narrative qualities, especially epic modes, inform his literary writings. Heroic plotlines similar to those of ancient epics feature in his comic plays, even in dramatic genres that, literary historically speaking, do not automatically lend themselves to this kind of combination.10 Apart from this, the Restoration poet wrote narrative poems and adapted narrative poems like Milton’s Paradise Lost (1667) for the stage.11 Dryden’s transgeneric versatility and his intimate knowledge of classic epics very consciously resulted in a crossfertilisation of his dramatic and narrative accomplishments. In one of his early prefaces, he states that one of the major achievements in modern playwriting ought to be “quick turns and counterturns of Plot [sic]” (Dryden, quoted in Sherman 2012, 16) as well as a “compression of Accidents [sic]” (Dryden, quoted in Sherman 2012, 18). In consequence, his new kind of drama would and should be like an epic whose events are compressed within the space of an evening: “an Heroick Play ought to be an imitation, in little of an Heroick Poem” (Dryden, quoted in Sherman 2012, 18; emphasis mine). This, the demand that narrative sensu ‘heroic’ or ‘epic’ should inform playwriting, and other manifestations of ‘narrative’ are realised in Dryden’s play Marriage à la Mode. In the following, I examine the ways in which the transgenerically versatile Restoration author

8 Even in his criticism, the topic of ‘differences contained,’ which will be further explored below with regard to his play, is palpable. 9 Admittedly, there are classical philosophers like Sophocles who, in their philosophical writings, employed the structure of the dialogue. One could argue, thus, that Dryden’s idea for his essay’s dialogue is modelled on their example and not on plays. Be that as it may, the dialogic form remains a traditional and predominant mode of drama. 10 At least, they are often said not to lend themselves to them: Aristotle, for instance, theorises a strict distinction between the heroic, which he reserves for tragedy, and the simple, the comic. 11 Dryden’s The State of Innocence ([1677] 2016) is the result of this.


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exploits his contextually conceived ideas of joining narrative and dramatic modes text-internally in his dramatic practice and with which effects.

Marriage à la Mode’s Text-Internal Narrativity In his tragicomedy Marriage à la Mode, John Dryden makes use of numerous aspects of narrative and creatively employs them in diverse ways. On his story-level, he contains ‘different narratives’ and ‘narratives of difference’ in the sense of both ‘different stories’ and ‘stories of difference’ (i.e., opposite probabilities) within his plays. He moulds them into the form of a dialogue and puts them into dialogue with each other; at the same time, he takes part in an inter-textual dialogue with early modern playwrights. In addition to this, he combines and contains the oppositional stylistic modes of narrative, drama, and theatricality in various proportions to experiment with and stretch the possibilities of dramatic narration. In the following, I detail how Dryden takes advantage of narrative and narrativity for his tragicomedy and outline which text-internal and cultural effects his endeavours have. To elaborate on my first thesis, namely, that the Restoration playwright restrains different stories and stories of difference, or, opposite probabilities within the present play, I have to begin by stating that John Dryden combines narratives that could not be more different – one heroic, one comic – and plays with them. He therefore exemplifies a major fact of Restoration drama, accurately described by Derek Hughes: The principal topic of Restoration drama during its first decade [and even beyond it] was the Restoration itself. Play after play portrayed a cycle of usurpation and providentially restored authority [. . .]. The leading genre was one that was appropriate to portraying the sequence of calamity and regeneration: tragicomedy. (Hughes 2006, 32)

The author of Marriage à la Mode, too, weaves otherwise unrelated plots together and enriches each of them by displaying other latent possibilities. He uses the genre of tragicomedy to contain difference, to establish analogies between marriage, sex, and state, and to devise not only a reinvigorated national drama, but also an eccentric ‘philosophy of the Restoration state.’ The play’s narrative structure is, as the above claim already indicates, highly complex and must be dissected. The tragicomedy is a fine example for what Michael McKeon (1983, 141) has called “Dryden’s enthusiastic dedication to the formal device of the double plot”. Dryden renders his otherwise unrelated plots as dialogue – an essentially dramatic form – and he puts them into dialogue with each other. He combines a heroic storyline with a comic one:

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while the former deals with questions of political legitimacy and the heroic balancing of love and honour, the latter turns to questions of marriage and the legitimacy of sexual conduct. Dryden joins disparate narratives with divergent aesthetics – linguistically, there is, e.g., prose on the one hand (I.i.23–99) and heroic couplets on the other (II.i.450–547), and stylistically, there is comic lightness on the one hand and epic gravitas on the other12 – and presents these distinctions within a single work of art. Admittedly, Dryden is not the first dramatist to employ double plots, to which even the present study attests (cf. Sect. 4.1). The case of Marriage à la Mode is special, though, in its application of the split-plot. Dryden does not his different stories compete, as Shakespeare does with his Falstaff- and Henry IV-plots; and he does not rank one of them above the other (be it ever so subtly as by, e.g., naming the play after one of the central characters and not the other). Rather, the Restoration playwright presents different narratives of equal semantic importance, emphasising difference at all times. At the same time, he balances his two main plots by analogising them. Dryden’s careful controlling of the split-plot becomes manifest in the following: firstly, he conjoins what was separate before and what would be separate again after the Restoration. In an inter-textual dialogue with his predecessors, the Restoration playwright borrows from two early modern plays. For his tragicomedy’s heroic plot, he borrows from Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher’s Beggars’ Bush ([c. 1622] 1967), and he derives his comic plot from John Fletcher’s Rule a Wife and Have a Wife ([1624] 2018; cf. Maguire 1992, 57). What became, not least through Dryden, high fashion after 1660 was not supposed to be continued after the turn of the eighteenth century: “within three years of Dryden’s death, the heroic and comic plots were sundered, with the comic plot turned into a two-act piece sufficient to fill out a program.” (John Loftis and David Stuart Rodes; quoted in Kalitzki 1980, 65) What can be deduced from this glance at inter-textuality and literary history with regard to John Dryden’s unique plot combination is the following: the playwright does not only satisfy his audiences’ predilection for the double plot. He also establishes unlikely but entertaining thematic analogies between marriage, sexual conduct, and state.13 Both his comic and heroic plots stage matters

12 Within this section, all not otherwise marked act, scene, and line numbers in brackets refer to Dryden (2004 [1673]). 13 These analogies are so striking in Marriage à la Mode that they have often been discussed, albeit with different foci and in multiple constellations. Jason Denman (2008) looks at ‘erotic and political timing,’ Laura J. Rosenthal (2008) explores the interconnections between ‘sex’ and ‘nation’ in the present play, and Paulina Kewes (2012) illuminates the intersections of


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of ‘sincerity’ in private and public relations, as well as ‘fidelity’ in the form of loyalty towards a spouse or/and king. In his comic plot, Dryden negotiates the question of “Why should a foolish marriage vow, | Which long ago was made, | Oblige us to each other now | When passion is decayed?” (I.1.4–7) by tracing the secret sexual ambitions and achievements of a group of four courtiers. Doralice, the wife of Rodophil, plays with the thought of betraying her husband with Palamede, who – at first unbeknownst to her – happens to be a friend of her husband’s, while Rodophil entertains an affair with Melantha, the woman who – unbeknownst to him – is destined to marry Palamede. What is entertaining and amusing in the comic plot becomes political and (potentially) lethal in the heroic one. A lack of sincerity and changing loyalties lead to the killing of the King of Sicily, Theagenes, and the unlawful seizure of a throne by usurper Polydamas. They result also in the political prosecution of family members of the old king, such as his son Leonidas, and of the people who remained faithful to those to have a rightful claim to the throne. Among them are Hermogenes, Leonidas’ foster father, and even members of Polydamas’ family, for instance, his deceased wife and their now grown-up daughter Palmyra (cf. I.i.290–323). As these short plot summaries show, the two disparate plots are linked by superordinate themes of ‘lacking sincerity’ and ‘interpersonal dishonesty.’ What is blatantly different, discordant, and potentially even disruptive to audiences in terms of genre, form, and content is carefully controlled by means of a thematic thread. Even though each story still functions on its own, has its own aesthetics, and belongs to different generic traditions, the containment of disparate narratives arguably results in a play that is more than the sum of its parts. The various comic entanglements of yearning lovers, the usual battle between the sexes, the odd state conspiracy, and the dignified, honourable courtship of Leander and Palmyra, taken together, effect a general philosophy of state. Dryden’s dramatic philosophy of state, clad in the containment of different plots, analogises marriage, sexual conduct, and state; and it argues for honourable, loyal behaviour in marriage, which seems to be the basis for a stable society. His philosophy hinges on one decided difference between fidelity in marriage versus fidelity in state matters: what remains latent in the comic plot, the sexual betrayal of a spouse (even if it is often explicitly talked about, cf., e.g., V.i.386–391), becomes actualised in the heroic plot, the betrayal of a king. The latter is even thematised twice: firstly, in retrospect, the usurpation of the

‘passion’ and ‘politics’ on a more general pane, regarding Dryden’s dramatic oeuvre as a whole. However, their primary interest does not lie in issues of narration and narrative.

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throne by unfaithful general Polydamas is recounted; secondly, in Act V, the process of changing allegiance of courtiers and guards towards their true king, Leonidas, is presented (V.i.504–511). With Laura J. Rosenthal, one can assume that reading what she terms ‘sex comedies’ like Marriage à la Mode “for their representations of family, community, and nation, rather than for the individual gendered and class-related conflicts over freedom and constraint, brings their political force and political anxieties more sharply into focus.” (Rosenthal 2008, 8) While Rosenthal substantiates her claim by arguing that Doralice is asking an expansive philosophical question rather than a personal one when she sings a song starting with ‘why should a foolish marriage vow’ instead of ‘why should I oblige a foolish marriage vow’ (Rosenthal 2008, 8), one can support her assertion even further by taking Dryden’s split-plot analogy into account. Just as extramarital erotic desire and libertinism pose a threat to marriage, so does disloyalty in politics violate the state order. As fast-paced and entertaining as the seduction plot is, Doralice and Rhodophil as well as Melantha and Palamede decide, in the end, to stay true to each other because, once the love chiasm is intradiegetically revealed, the spouses feel attracted to each other again (cf. V.i.363–421). The ideal of honesty and fidelity in private relationships is further stressed by means of the heroic plotline. The honourable Leonidas and ideal Palmyra decide to stay forever true to their promise to marry each other – even though they are not yet married (II.i.534–535) and even though they, because of their vows, are facing imminent public humiliation (III.i.334–348), torture (V.i.432), and death (V.i.478). As the end of the play shows, virtue and constancy in interpersonal relationships and state matters is rewarded, insincerity and dishonesty punished. Leonidas, the rightful heir to the throne, is reinstated and can marry Palmyra; Leonidas intends to recompense Palamede and Rhodophil for the “loyalty and valour” they have not only shown in private but also, towards him, in public (V.i.512–523) and pardons Polydamas. The latter repents his former political disloyalty to both Theagenes and Leonidas by stating “Oh, had I known you could have been this King, | Thus godlike, great, and good, I should have wished | T’have been dethroned before.” (V.i.537–539) The boundaries of in/sincerity and dis/honesty are tested by Dryden’s double plot – both in marital and state matters. And despite all initial expectations raised by the dramatist to the contrary (also by entitling it Marriage à la Mode), in both plots, loyalty wins out over disloyalty and is rewarded, while untrustworthiness, like that of the rebellious Argaleon, is punished. The equation, which sounds simple at first, becomes more complicated at second glance: the dissonance in the generic design of the play (comedy stays comedy and the


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heroic plotline stays heroic) and in the contents of both plots14 is matched only by the heterogeneity of the plots themselves. Latent possibilities different from the actual outcome – namely, the possibility of infidelity, adultery, and another dethronement – are constantly indicated and remain latent options even after a solution has been achieved.15 The possibility and even probability of the married couples’ adultery is not completely dispelled, but contained. The spouses formulate a truce that contains an ‘if,’ which Doralice formulates like this: “I will add but one provisio: that whoever breaks the league, either by war abroad or by neglect at home, both the women shall revenge themselves by help of the other party.” (V.i.416–419) The marriages thus appear to be as fragile as Polydamas’ position. Argaleon, who had hoped to succeed Polydamas, will not yield to the new king. He stays in open opposition: “I neither now deserve nor will deserve it [grace from you, Leonidas].” (V.i.579) Thus, alternatives to the solutions realised in the play remain latent and possible at all times. With the different plots and narratives of difference contained in one drama, Dryden stages sincerity and fidelity as desired ideals in both private relationships and government. It is these qualities which guarantee familial and political stability, not divine right and authority, as pre-Restoration, early modern hegemonic beliefs indicate. At the same time, he presents fidelity and sincerity as precisely that: ideals to be striven for. In a post-absolutist society that has witnessed many social changes and different state forms within a short time span, social stability (both in marriage and government) is shown to be contractual. Dryden’s way of dramatic narration in Marriage à la Mode contains, much like the times then, dialectic circumstances. He thus captures and expresses what was already latently graspable to pre-Civil War Englishmen (cf., e.g., Chapters 3.1 and 3.2), but what arguably came strongly to the fore after the changes in government, the manifold religious controversies, and the wake of Scottish Enlightenment. One of the predominant insights and new experiences among Dryden’s contemporaries was certainly this: social order is neither naturally God-given nor inalterable. Instead, it rests on ‘either-or’ binaries, breakable truces, as well as the actions and sincerity of more or less fallible people.

14 The two plots are just loosely linked by the character of Melantha, who now and then calls at the court, and by Palamede and Rhodophil’s brief intervention in the court’s power struggle on Leonidas’ behalf. 15 Cf. also Stuart Sherman (2012, 15), who, referring to his “An Essay of Dramatick Poesy”, compliments Dryden in this respect: “The successive representation of opposite probabilities is the playwrights stock in trade, and one of Dryden’s chief accomplishments as dramatist was to device new ways of crafting this commodity[.]”.

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Besides his unconventional ‘philosophy of state,’ which he puts forth in the form of the double plot as well as narratives of contained difference, and in which he analogises sex, marriage, and government, Dryden also proposes a ‘philosophy of writing a new kind of drama.’ He does so by experimenting with different stylistic modes, balancing and containing them. Thus, Marriage à la Mode is arguably a self-conscious exercise that puts forth a ‘drama à la mode’: one that experiments with narrative modes, on the one hand, and with dramatic and theatrical ones on the other. Dryden’s play is, as the next paragraphs show, highly poetological in that it attempts to define a new English drama, not in the form of a theoretical text, but in the form of a drama which tests the boundaries of narrative, drama, and theatre. The antithetical set-up which defines Marriage à la Mode’s story-level arguably finds its structural correspondence in the play’s specific dramatic narration. Here, too, differences are contained: though kept clearly apart from each other, still they are presented, side by side and in various proportions, within one work of art. While Dryden’s heroic plot is characterised by dramatic storytelling that predominantly exploits traditional features of narrative, such as the ‘diegetic storyteller’ on DNL 1, his comic plot appears as a self-referential experiment: it partly reads like a re-exploration of conventional dramatic and theatrical modes and partly like a drama-theatrical hyperbole (in terms of récit). Looking at Dryden’s heroic plotline, one notices a high grade of narrativity. This is largely due to the fact that he repeatedly and at crucial turning points in the plot takes advantage of diegetic storytelling for dramatic purposes. He presents his audiences with at least two important ‘storytellers,’ who are situated on the play’s intradiegetic level (on DNL 1, i.e., they are part of the story world): Amalthea, sister to Polydamas’ favourite Argaleon, and Hermogenes, foster father to Palmyra and Leonidas. The female storyteller, Amalthea, plays an important part in the play’s exposition: she recounts the events that precede the dramatic action (I.i.276–338). In a dialogue with a court lady, who is reduced to the dramatic function of giving cues to the storyteller, the act of storytelling is foregrounded and, with this, becomes a topic of the play. The audience also gain some quite important information. They learn that Polydamas came to the throne by foul play and that there must be a rightful heir to the throne, Leonidas, who fled with his mother from the usurper. Amalthea’s diegetic story serves not only as an exposition of previous events in a very short time span, but also, in its being a staged and highlighted act of storytelling, the establishment of a dramatic arc of suspense. While Amalthea’s storytelling tends to conventional dramatic forms likely to be narrative in their recounting of events, namely, teichoscopy and messenger reports, the storytelling of Hermogenes, Leonidas’ foster father, fulfils more


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experimental tasks. His verbal narratives constantly introduce the unexpected “turns and counterturns of plot” about which Neander, one of the characters in Dryden’s “An Essay of Dramatick Poesy”, enthuses because they attribute “spirit” to a play (1971 [1668], 53). Hermogenes, who has an advanced knowledge of what happened to the people who fled from Polydamas after his usurpation of power, first leads the tyrant astray, who entreats him, “[t] ell me, old man, and tell me true from whence | Had you that youth and maid?” (I.i.388–389). First he makes him believe the untruth that Leonidas and Palmyra are his own children (I.i.394); then that Leonidas is Polydamas’ lost son (I.i.424); then, that not Leonidas but Palmyra is Polydamas’ lost child (III.i.408), which is part of the truth; and, finally, in a dialogue with Eubulus and Palmyra, that Leonidas is the true heir to the throne (IV.iv19) – which is the whole truth. In this respect, the application of an intradiegetic storyteller like Hermogenes can be regarded as a poetological exercise. He and his diegetic “turns and counterturns of plot” are one means by which Dryden puts his ‘philosophy of writing drama’ into practice. At this point, one has to concede though that there are also non-narrative ways with which Dryden experiments to trigger his plot turns. In the comic plotline, he produces the ‘quick turns’ he strives for not by employing a storyteller, but by using traditional dramatic conventions, such as costume (women are disguised as men, e.g., IV.i.210–236 and IV.iii.1–80) and stock events (the coincidental meeting of the pairs of adulterers for a tête-à-tête at the same place (cf. III.ii). In sum, both strategies, contained in one play, are not only poetological exercises in the ‘art of the quick turn.’ On a meta-level, they arguably also epitomise the younger theatre history: the multiple turns brought about by dramatic and narrative strategies possibly help Dryden to creatively deal with theatre’s varied fortunes after 1642. The “[q]uick turns and graces of our English stage”, which are addressed in Dryden’s “Essay” (1971 [1668], 45; emphasis in original) and arguably do not only refer to the mixture of serious with mirthful matters in dramatic writing, but also to England’s eventful theatre history, are turned into something positive in that they are transformed into dramatic art. While the turns triggered by dramatic modes seem to serve entertainment purposes in that they provide immediate comic gratification, the turns introduced by Hermogenes, the storyteller, problematise once again matters of interpersonal sincerity and loyalty. In contrast to the way in which these issues are handled by the split-plot, they are here illuminated – through Hermogenes as a storyteller – in a much more complex, paradoxical manner. The lies, halftruths, and truths that Hermogenes repeatedly utters, as well as the stories that he devises to substantiate the currently valid ‘truth,’ both serve his loyalty to his wards Leonidas and Palmyra and his duty to guard them from bodily harm

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(IV.iv.15–19). While in the paragraphs above, insincerity went hand in hand with infidelity, in Hermogenes’ case, insincerity accompanies fidelity. On the intradiegetic level of the play, Hermogenes’ storytelling is a completely altruistic exercise.16 Structurally, the storyteller, with the multifarious, alleged truths he introduces, functions as a deus ex machina. The dramatic convention of Greek and Roman plays is, in his character and at the intersection of drama and narration, reissued and interpreted in a new way: It is not a God who intervenes in the action, but a storyteller, a fallible man who repeatedly spurs the action on by unexpected turns of the plot. Both Dryden’s excessive plot turns and his Restoration version of a deus ex machina respond to English contemporary realities. With Judith Kalitzki (1980), one can put on record that “[t]he interest in this play [. . .] lie[s] [. . .] in the variety of truths it presents and the way conflicting truths are presented side by side.” These varied, contained truths accommodate both “the variegated succession of opposite probabilities that had shaped English political experience throughout the seventeenth century” (Sherman 2012, 16) as well as the changed culture and mentalities responding to a reality in which humans, and no longer God, are the shapers of their world. Whereas, in the previous paragraphs, I delineated the ways in which storytellers govern Dryden’s Marriage à la Mode, I will now examine how the playwright balances the predominant mode of his heroic plot by stretching the possibilities of traditional dramatic and theatrical styles in his comic plotline. To devise his new ‘drama à la mode,’ Dryden complements his play’s narrative quality with some pertinent stylistic modes of drama and theatre (and exaggerates them). In the comic plot, he thematises and discusses Restoration drama aesthetics both implicitly and explicitly. Here, it becomes especially plain that the term ‘Restoration’ does not only apply to the restoration of monarchy, but also to the restoration of theatre and drama. Besides narrative means that were used in drama before, Dryden seems to employ every traditional device of theatrical entertainment: songs (I.i.4–21, IV.ii.50–70), dances (IV.ii.8–9, IV.ii.70–71), masquerades (IV.ii.) – all of this is embedded in his play on DNL 1. In terms of récit, though, all of this is accumulated in excess, as if he wanted to make sure that none of it would be forgotten. In this respect, Dryden’s play can be regarded as an archive of former modes of theatrical entertainment. At the same time, he applies them with an exaggeration and an artificiality that helps him to define an ‘English drama à la mode.’

16 Note the contrast to the self-interested and self-serving storytellers on the early modern stage introduced in Chapters 3.2 and 3.3.


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The English drama à la mode not just feeds on its tradition; it self-confident plays with modes beyond the dramatic, especially the narrative, as shown above; it also distinguishes itself from French literature and culture, which was brought back by the royal exiles upon their return to England. Explicit references characterise French drama as highly stilted. Melantha, for instance, the woman flirting with Doralice’s husband, learns and practises French words taken from literature, which she crams into conversation at every possible (and impossible) opportunity. Even her maid chastises her for her excessive use of French by explicitly referencing Continental texts: “you have so drained all the French plays and romances that they are not able to supply you with words for your daily expenses.” (III.i.224–226) French dramatic and narrative literature not only serve as sources for Melantha’s discourse; she is also drawn to them as forms of entertainment. In a dialogue with Doralice, she declares, “I’ll sacrifice my life for French poetry.” (IV.iii.174) French literature thus becomes inextricably tied to Melantha, a preposterous and silly character, and is thus devalued. With Doralice’s (arguably no less pathetic) answer, in contrast, Dryden explicitly argues in favour of national poetry, which he finds superior to French literature. Doralice, who is, compared to Melantha, an intelligent and witty character, ranks her own country’s dramatic literature over Continental art forms: “I’ll die upon the spot for our country wit.” (IV.iii.175) With this, Dryden seems to make fun of the plays brought to the English stages from abroad, which he links to the ‘artificial’ and ‘ridiculous,’ and entreats the audiences to embrace a newly emerging national theatre – in his depiction, a drama for more refined tastes (like Doralice’s). Dryden’s careful balancing of difference in his dramatic narration, i.e., his complementing of salient narrative modes, on the one hand, with dramatic and theatrical modes, on the other, goes beyond explicit references to drama and theatre. He also implicitly ridicules a courtly audience drawn to arguably pompous drama and comic plots by characterising their behaviour as influenced by stilted theatre. Especially Melantha is displayed as ‘theatrical’ in the sense of ‘unnatural,’ even ‘pompous.’ Her gestures, facial expression, and dialogues do not appear to develop organically. In fact, they have a distinctly rehearsed and studied air: Melantha not only repeatedly “practice[s] [. . .] postures for the day” (III.i.252, 260–261), but also rehearses a possible dialogue with an anticipated interlocutor, her lover, imagining his answers and replying to his imagined questions (III.i.279–95). She becomes so immersed in her fantasy that she even feels physical results, which culminates in an ecstatic exclamation: “What do you mean to throw me down thus? Ah me! Ah, ah, ah.” (294–295) This imagined dialogue appears silly because it is, absurdly, rendered in the form of a monologue. This dramatic mode is depicted as inadequately

5.1 The State and the State of the Art in Restoration Drama


applied and, thus, characterises not only the speaker as inane, but also – by extension – an allegedly deficient drama. Melantha’s theatrical sensu ‘artificial’ behaviour and a drama that inadequately applies its resources are submitted to Restoration audiences’ laughter. The ridiculousness of hyperbolic characters as well as a disproportionately artificial and supposedly flawed drama is further heightened in a scene which, at the play’s end, is supposed to restore the order among the loving couples of the comic plot. Palamede woos his wife-to-be and wins her over – not in an intellectually stimulating, individualised, and original dialogue, but in actually existing songs adapted from French dramatic inter-texts (viz., from Molière’s Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme) and even French drinking songs (V.i.163–211). The love scene appears, in consequence, like a farce. It is not spoken (the default case in dramatic dialogues of this genre); it is sung; lyrics and melodies from French plays replace personalised banter. Not least due to this, the scene between the lovers appears, compared to other scenes in Marriage à la Mode – even if they are rhymed as, for instance, in the heroic plotline –, unlikely, highly artificial, and comic. The farcical effect is even heightened when Palamede starts singing while his betrothed speaks. With this kind of implicit dramatic-poetological discourse in Marriage à la Mode, John Dryden, once again, tries to establish a national, post-Interregnum drama distinct from Continental plays of that period. The latter are derided by being linked to the farcical, of which Dryden, contrasting it to comedy, remarks, that I detest those farces which are now the most frequent entertainments of the stage, I am sure I have reason on my side. Comedy consists, though of low persons, yet of natural actions and characters [. . .]. Farce, on the other side, consists of forced humours and unnatural events. Comedy presents us with the imperfections of human nature. Farce entertains us with what is monstrous and chimerical [. . .]. In short, there is the same difference betwixt farce and comedy as betwixt an empiric and a true physician: both of them may attain their ends; but what the one performs by hazard, the other does by skill. (Dryden 1997 [1671], 467)

When Dryden has Palamede chant, finally drown out his betrothed’s voice, and yet still win her over, he is illustrating his theory. Love scenes like the one between Palamede and Melantha, full of airy substance and lacking verbally transmitted semantic content, are implicitly judged as unnatural, absurd, and confusing. Music, song, choreography – highly theatrical modes – and their abundance in plays is ‘skillfully’ applied and played with. At the same time, it is linked to Continental drama by an utterance of Palamede, who cuts Melantha short by saying and singing, “I am resolved to win you en français: to be very airy, with abundance of noise and no sense. Fa, la, la, la, etc.” (V.i.202–4) Equating it with farce and exaggerating its alleged features, Dryden discredits French


5 The Containment of Narratives of Difference in Drama

drama. He not only implicitly criticises it by presenting it as grotesque and inadequate, but also explicitly ridicules it through statements like Palamede’s. With Marriage à la Mode, John Dryden puts his theory of theatre into practise. After the enforced dramatic and theatrical abstinence throughout the Civil War and the Interregnum, Dryden is one of the paradigmatic writers to turn to playwriting again and to establish a national Restoration drama. Even though he himself employs farcical and highly theatrical features to distinguish his ‘new’ drama from contemporary popular French plays, he prevents Marriage à la Mode from drifting to the allegedly ‘farcical’ or ‘French’ by designing a play of contained difference. His comic story is ennobled by the co-ordination of a heroic narrative; and, for his dramatic narration, he exploits an abundance of dramatic and theatrical modes, on the one hand, by coordinating and balancing them with salient narrative modes, on the other. With J. Douglas Canfield (2004, 43), one can thus assert that “Dryden explores artificiality [and dramatic art] throughout with his scrupulous attention to such devices as symmetries, formal correspondences and linguistic echoes.” When naming these symmetries and correspondences, one must not forget to highlight Dryden’s enrichment of dramatic modes with narrative ones, since it is they which reconstitute the genre of drama. They were applied to self-referentially and self-consciously reflect and further develop a new national drama. With his highly geometrical arrangement of differences and heterogeneities, 17 Dryden not only self-referentially exemplifies his idea of a postInterregnum English ‘drama a la mode.’ He also, hetero-referentially, devises an idiosyncratic philosophy of state, provocatively analogising topics as different as marriage, sex, and government. With this, he captures as well as processes a predominant experience of his time: that of a quick succession of changes within one period. He moreover sorts out newly emerged truths: In contrast to the early modern dogma, social order and power to rule are not God-given. By Dryden’s time, both were increasingly experienced as fragile and dependent on humans. These changes in mind-sets had to be administered; in this case, with dramatic means. It is, consequently, true that Dryden “made [. . .] [mutability] the occasion of his art” (Sherman 2012, 16); but it is equally true and important that he makes his art appear mutable, too, in his creative and skilful exploitation of the idea of ‘difference and change contained.’

17 To summarise, Dryden features on Marriage à la Mode’s story level a plentitude of narratives (sensu plot and narratives of difference, i.e., plots with turns and different probabilities contained), and, in his dramatic narration, he carefully balances heterogeneous stylistic modes (narrative ones, on the one hand, and dramatic and theatrical ones, on the other).

5.2 Narrative and Moral Double Binds in Aphra Behn’s The Rover


5.2 Narrative and Moral Double Binds in Aphra Behn’s The Rover: Experiments in Narrative Perspective and Authorial Comment by Way of Dramatic Expression as well as Assessments of Female Life Options in the Restoration Period Those keen on exploring the various shapes of Restoration playwriting at the intersection of drama and narrative will find an abundance of them in Aphra Behn’s oeuvre. Although wonderful examinations of the theatrical and dramatic qualities of her prose already exist (cf. Aercke 1988; Fludernik 2010 [1996], 130–131; Fowler 2015), criticism has so far neglected the complementary point of view. Even if Behn did not start publishing prose until the mid-1680s (Fowler 2015, 97), the prolific, transgeneric author also exploits differences and similarities between drama and narrative for dramatic purposes. Behn’s most successful comedy, The Rover, or The Banish’d Cavaliers (1677), is a case in point. Here, too, the idea of the Restoration as a period that contains difference takes form – exactly at the intersection of drama and narrative. The first female author to employ professionally established dramatic trends and qualities (such as the ‘multiple plot’) – which were tellingly baptised ‘Behnlike’ – Aphra Behn was often in the lead of new dramatic fashions, which were later taken up by her successors (Finberg 2008, xiii; cf. also Owen 2006, 69).18 Yet, especially interesting for the present study is this: Even those of her works which, accordingly, appear ‘dramatic’ and ‘theatrical’ through and through, and which had a formative influence on the genre in times to come (Finberg 2008, x), display various elements which, up to now, have been framed as entirely narrative. I am not just speaking of the smaller stories, e.g., the diegetically recounted events that led up to the events at the time of the plot (cf., e.g., I.i.48–51, I.i.70–74) or the messenger’s reports that pervade the intradiegetic level (cf., e.g., IV.ii.5–9, IV.ii.14–15, IV.iii.8–12).19 Rather, I am referring to Behn’s virtuoso establishment and exploitation of the complex, multiple plot, which – as is the case of, for instance, the ‘messenger’s report’ – has come to be seen as a stock convention of a dramatic mode, but is actually an exploration in stretching the possibilities of (simultaneous) narratives for dramatic purposes. In addition, I address the playwright’s fascinating use of transmedial features in her play’s structure with

18 Jane Spencer (1996, 85) even frames reactions against Behn’s writing as result of her continuing influence and success onstage, especially in the first half of the eighteenth century. 19 Within this section, all not otherwise marked act, scene, and line numbers in brackets refer to Behn (2009 [1677]).


5 The Containment of Narratives of Difference in Drama

which she, independently from drama, experiments in another genre, too: namely, the newly emerging novel. To be more precise, in The Rover, Behn establishes something very much like an ‘authorial voice’ as well as ‘perspective’ in her play (both on DNL 3); and she does so by dramatic means. In the following, I illustrate these claims and ask which text-internal and text-external, cultural functions Behn’s narrative modes fulfil in her comedy. First, however, I briefly point out the ways in which Behn and The Rover can be contextually linked to narrative.

The Rover in Its Narrative Contexts Looking at the context in which Aphra Behn’s dramatic oeuvre was produced, one realises that both the playwright and her work exhibit few, but strong ties to narrative. Like her contemporary John Dryden, Behn can be considered a universal genius in her writing. She, too, was a transgeneric author, excelling not only in playwriting, but also in poetry, translation, and prose fiction. What makes her even more appealing than Dryden for the present study is, as Melinda Zook (1998, 75) puts it, the fact that “[s]he has been celebrated as one of the most prolific popular playwrights and an early practitioner of the novel.” For this reason, Behn, her era, and her contemporaries, such as Henry Fielding, are especially fascinating subjects for those interested in the ties between drama and narrative. A new, paradigmatic narrative genre was forming and, as it ascended (over others), it was turning the whole system of genres upside-down: the novel. Unlike Shakespeare or Dryden, whose transgeneric faculties were contextualised in the previous sections (cf. Sections 3.1, 3.3., and 4.1), Behn and Fielding exist at a very special intersection of drama and narrative. Both made drama a political issue (with their criticism of mouldering, hegemonic structures)20 and participated in the establishment of the novel as a particular and exemplary instance of a narrative form. It is, in consequence, the special nexus between political drama and the novel that is of primary interest for this study. Analysing the shapes this exceptional intersection takes, one must not forget that both Behn and Fielding wrote their novels only after they had (largely) stopped playwriting. Behn took to novel-writing in her later career; Fielding was forced to turn to prose after the Theatre Licensing Act of 1737, a law passed

20 Behn, with her proto-feminist stance, and Fielding, with his governmental criticism, have to be seen as fundamentally political and critical playwrights.

5.2 Narrative and Moral Double Binds in Aphra Behn’s The Rover


due to provocatively critical plays, Fielding’s among them.21 Because of this temporal succession (and in contrast to authors previously discussed), one cannot ask, concerning Behn and Fielding, which narrative modi of their prose writings influenced their dramatic work. One cannot ask which features of the paradigmatic narrative, the novel, were taken up in their plays. Instead, one has to reframe this question, enquiring which transgeneric features of the time, often employed to criticise the idiosyncracies of their age and culture, were taken up by authors like Behn and Fielding. Which transgeneric features did the playwrights experiment with in both genres (and generically independently from each other)? In his monograph Novel Horizons, Gerd Bayer examines some of the independent, but parallel generic developments that connect theatrical and narrative works of the Restoration and afterwards. His study particularly focuses on the emergence of para-texts, which he regards as a defining feature in both the restoration of the dramatic genre and the establishment of the novel. According to Bayer (2016, 73), “they played a significant role in the formation of generic competence, and particularly so at a historical moment when all manner of critical debate had been interrupted by powers that were and their ban on theatrical performances[,] [. . .] [and] contributed to a general literary climate that allowed for a generous redrawing of generic boundaries.” In The Rover, too, independent but parallel genre developments that connect Restoration plays and the emerging genre of the novel can be found (on an assumed DNL 4). Here, para-texts such as a prologue and an epilogue feature prominently, which recalls – and actually antedates and anticipates – what has been termed Herausgeberfiktionen in novels.22 Since Bayer has traced the parallel development of the late-seventeenth- and early-eighteenth-century para-texts in both genres in depth, I turn, in the following, to another, highly interesting case in point, which developed simultaneously in both the Restoration play and the novel. In other words, I turn to a framing function that exists in drama, but has been disregarded there. Instead and arguably erroneously, it has come to be seen as a defining and exclusive characteristic of the novel: the authorial voice. Before 21 Fielding’s Pasquin. A Dramatic Satire on the Times. Being the Rehearsal of Two Plays; A Comedy Called The Election and a Tragedy Called The Life and Death of Common Sense (1754 [1736]) and The Historical Register for the Year 1736 (1737) are arguably cases in point. 22 By way of this Herausgeberfiktion (‘editorial fiction’), the prologue attunes the audience to The Rover’s professed quality. The prologue itself is said to be “[w]ritten by a person of quality” (Prologue.0). As the play is allegedly written by a man, the playwright is referred to as “him” (Prologue.38). On the combined authority of a person of distinction, who advertises and introduces the play, and the maleness of the playwright, i.e., the unfailingly divine power of a writer of the ‘better sex,’ the play’s value is even doubly proven, even to the anticipated critical voices in its reception.


5 The Containment of Narratives of Difference in Drama

coming to this, I will close this section, which is concerned with the literary historical context in which The Rover emerged, by re-emphasising that it is a new narrative genre, the changing systems of genres, and transmedial experiments made independently in plays and the novel, that ties the present play to contextual narrative facts.

The Rover’s Text-Internal Narrativity Aphra Behn has been termed “very much a writer of her own time, who had her finger on the cultural ‘pulse’” (Owen 2006, 69). At the same time, while the political engagement of male playwrights, especially Dryden, has been widely researched, Behn’s plays have only rarely been subjected to an examination of their commitment to contemporary politics (Zook 1998, 76–77). This section seeks to eliminate that lacuna, and is based on the assumption that The Rover, in particular, is “mired in the controversies of the time” (Zook 1998, 76). The play frames controversies on gendered power structures in a proto-feminist way, thanks to a skilful utilisation of narrative means for dramatic purposes both in the configuration of its plot and its establishment of an authorial voice. Using narrative double binds in her plot, Behn emphasises the moral dilemmas her characters are facing. In doing so, the playwright assesses the (limited) life options women have both in her play and in Restoration culture, despite their newly won presence in the public, for instance, as independent actresses and authors. To illustrate how I come to frame The Rover’s plot design as narrative, I will start with a comparison. While Dryden processes, in his comedy Marriage à la Mode, the rapid cultural changes of his time by combining two radically different kinds of stories, one of which is explicitly based on narrative sensu epic (cf. Section 4.1), Behn’s work, in its response to Restoration’s culture of ‘contained difference,’ appears saliently narrative in that it features even more plots. Admittedly, plots, even though they have the capacity to ‘tell stories,’23 do not necessarily and automatically display high degrees of narrativity.24 Yet, in The Rover, they still do. With a plenitude of plots, with the way in which the plots are individually designed, and with the manner in which they are combined, the comedy saliently relates to narrative. 23 ‘Story’ is to be understood in its minimal definition here: as a series of events that lead to a change of situation. 24 Some of Samuel Beckett’s works are cases in point; for instance, his classic Waiting for Godot (2011 [1953]), despite its minimal plot, resists being understood as narrative.

5.2 Narrative and Moral Double Binds in Aphra Behn’s The Rover


Behn’s dramatic narration explores the contained differences between male and female life stories in the Restoration period and, in addition, tackles the fissures between actual and possible futures for women of different classes. As Ansgar Nünning (cf. 1992, 22, 18–30) has beautifully shown with his meticulous analyses of ‘forced marriage’ and character (constellations) in Behn’s comedies, the playwright changes and further develops traditional means of drama to establish a critical distance towards the sexist norms and values of her time. She does this, however not just with her choice of topic, characterisations, and character constellations; making use of narrativity, The Rover presents a multitude of, especially, female life stories and a multiplicity of simultaneous possible worlds within the story world, which amounts to a female perspectivisation on DNL 3. In addition, on a structural level, it contains elements to be found in narrative genres as well. A framing device that was, at roughly the same time but independently, established within the rising genre of the novel comes particularly to mind: an ‘authorial voice,’ which, by way of drama-theatrical modes of expression (i.e., songs on DNL 2 and stage directions which pertain to gestures on DNL 1) comments on the action or evaluates it. To start with, I will focus on the narrativity highlighted on the play’s story level: juxtaposing five love and courtship plots, Behn not only adheres to Restoration audiences’ propensity for multiple, intertwined plots (cf. Gymnich 2011, 115), but also strains The Rover’s overall storyline beyond plausibility. Exaggeration makes the play, in consequence, comic and entertaining; it lends and air of ‘otherworldliness’ to it. At the same time, the comedy does not cater to escapism at all. Rather, with a perspective favouring female points of view on DNL 3, the play points to otherwise silenced, but pressing cultural and political power imbalances of the playwright’s age and the moral dilemmas women of this time might be confronted with. The play, set in Naples during the carnival season at an unspecified point during King Charles II’s exile, interrelates two courtesan plots with three plots revolving around what, in Restoration terms, could be called ‘women of quality’ (cf. Gymnich 2011, 115). To the plot of the budding love between the libertine Willmore, who is, on the story level, a companion to Charles in exile, and his just as rakish female counterpart, the noblewoman Hellena,25 Behn adds the courtship plot of a more conventional couple. Captain Belvile, Willmore’s friend, and Florinda, Hellena’s sister, try to stay true to the

25 Willmore and Hellena are characters in the tradition of so-called ‘Truewits.’ Their budding relationship is based on their intellectual equality and their quick-wittedness; thus, they can be considered as the prototype of the ‘gay couple.’ For more information on the intricate relationship between wit, courtship, and typical character constellations in Restoration comedies see, for instance, Marion Gymnich’s pertinent and illuminating overview (1996, esp. 50–52).


5 The Containment of Narratives of Difference in Drama

vows they have previously made to each other. Florinda and Belvile are working hard to prevent her from having to marry the men selected for her by her father and brother, respectively. In the third love plot concerning ‘women of quality,’ which, as a minor one, complements the other two, Frederick, a notorious womaniser just like Wilmore and friend to Belvile, renounces his rakish ways, suddenly deciding to marry Valeria, a relative of Florinda and Hellena. The plots concerning concubines centre on the (mis)fortunes of the prostitutes Angellica Bianca and Lucetta, respectively. While the latter deceives Blunt, a rather simple-minded Englishman who is also of Belvile’s party, by first seducing and then robbing him, the former falls in love with Willmore and is deceived by him. Behn establishes the play’s artificiality and, at the same time, political topicality not only by stacking multiple plots focused on women together; with each plot, she also tells at least two or more coinciding stories. These narrative alternatives, more often than not, turn out to be no real alternatives, but rather double binds. By way of example, I will focus on Florinda’s plot. On DNL 3, Florinda’s story is not only endowed with considerable weight and importance; it is part of introducing a perspective in plays that favours female points of view. The young lady’s narrative is not only the story of a damsel’s path to successfully marrying the man she loves. In addition to its actual outcome, Behn indicates very different ways in which Florinda’s story could end. Yet, whatever way her protagonist turns, whatever decision she makes, will have bad results for her. Right at the beginning, in a spirited, witty dialogue between Hellena and her brother, Don Pedro, an alternative ending to Florinda’s story (and life) is diegetically conjured up. Hellena, the nun-to-be, imagines what her sister’s life would be if she married, as destined, the man her father has chosen for her (I.i.82–128). Considering Don Vincentio’s age and potential infertility, Hellena’s outlook for Florinda’s life as a married woman is grim: “he may perhaps increase her bags, but not her family” (I.i.87). Imagining Don Vincentio, his economic virtues notwithstanding, as a “[belching] coxcomb”, (I.i.109, 115), who will or will not have sex with Florinda in a “moth-eaten bedchamber” (I.i.103), Hellena concludes her description of her sister’s fate: “I had rather see her in a Hôtel de Dieu [i.e., a nunnery], to waste her youth there in vows, and be a handmaid to lazars and cripples, than to lose it in such a marriage.” (I.i. 126–128) With this, marriage – framed as contractual and based on economic designs only – is devalued; it judged as unworthy of a young woman’s future. In addition to the picture of Florinda as young wife to an unsavoury old man who fails to sexually satisfy and reproduce, Behn imagines Florinda’s future as that of a fallen woman. She has her protagonist nearly be raped three times: once by Willmore (III.v), once by Blunt (IV.v), and finally even in a

5.2 Narrative and Moral Double Binds in Aphra Behn’s The Rover


contemplated gang-rape (V.i.88–92) in which even her brother, unaware that she, in disguise, is his sister, intends to partake (V.i.91–104). While the first version of Florinda’s expectations is diegetically sketched, Florinda’s potential life as a fallen woman is, on stage, visually related. As one can deduce from stage directions and dialogue, Florinda is repeatedly reduced to an object and pawn in a power game determined by male desire. She is variously grabbed (she asks Wilmore to “let [. . .] [her] go”, III.v.46, 50, or to “unhand” her, III.v.41), “gazed” at (IV.v.23–24), “pulled” (IV.v.45–46, 105–106), and pursued by sexually aroused men (IV.v.110–111). The passive verbs make clear to the reader of The Rover what its audience visually witnesses: the young woman is not in charge of her own life. Florinda lacks agency; the men use her as a toy they can grab, pursue, and prostitute. The narrative double binds just presented – i.e., the simultaneity of actual and possible life stories of women, resulting in moral dilemmas from which there is no escape – exhaust, on an intra-textual pane and in yet another way, the major Restoration topic of ‘difference contained.’ They also enhance the experience of The Rover’s political topicality: The palimpsest structure of the play captures and envisions the sometimes latent, but graspable contemporary dilemma of multiple, conflicting ideologies concerning unmarried women’s lives. In her article “Behn, Women, and Society”, Susan Staves (Staves 2006) distinguishes three such sets of beliefs and defines them as ‘religious,’ ‘economic,’ and ‘libertine.’ With the help of her accumulation of five unmarried women’s plots, which, not only in Florinda’s case,26 feature latent alternatives, these exact ideologies are visualised and judged by Behn. They provide a frame on an assumed level DNL 3 that puts a certain perspective on the events and ideologies (explicitly and implicitly) thematised on DNL 1. According to Staves (2006, 12), “[e]ach of these ideologies had very different understandings of what the value of women was”. Against the backdrop of upheavals past, the Restoration Church of England highlighted the analogies between “hierarchies [. . .] political and domestic” (Staves 2006, 13) and, in view of those, emphasised the duty of daughters to submit to those hierarchies, especially by heeding their parents’

26 In each scenario, the outlook differs a little: the future of Hellena, the female rake, oscillates between becoming wife, mistress, or nun. Valeria’s prospects vacillate between becoming Frederick’s wife or his mistress, the latter of which would lead her to prostitution. Lucetta, as prostitute, is used by men, while, as a thief, she regains agency by using them. Finally, Angellica Bianca’s life dithers between her existence as a self-determined, female courtesan who contents herself with men’s “gold” instead of hearts (II.i.136, 141–146) and a woman innocent and virginal in love matters, when she falls in (and out of) love with Willmore, and, thus, becomes dependant on him.


5 The Containment of Narratives of Difference in Drama

advice when it came to match-making. Pre- and post-marital chastity – both in women and men – was equally valued by the church (Staves 2006, 14). The church’s ideology is threatened in The Rover by Florinda’s own marital preference and by the repeated attempted rapes; it is, thus, questioned. Also questioned are Restoration’s economic ideologies (Staves 2006, 15–20). The financial concerns of patriarchal powers are valued above of the interests of young women. Florinda is doubly determined by the financial ideology: her father’s choice and her brother’s choice are ranked higher than her own (due to Belvile’s foreignness and financial circumstances). Marrying a social equal is to perpetuate the family’s rank and significance in the exclusive circle of the upper class in which the family is used to moving. In that sense, the value of women like Florinda lies in securing, through their marriage, their family’s social and financial capital. This ideology is likewise questioned by Behn (partly through her favouring of female perspectives on DNL 3). After all, her plot design of alternative versions to Florinda’s life conflicts with theological beliefs. The interests of Florinda’s brother, Don Pedro, and Don Antonio, her brother’s marital choice for her, are opposed to the pursuits of Belvile. The representatives of the economic ideology, who are, by the way, presented as morally questionable,27 stand in contrast to Belvile, an example of the churches’ ideal of sexual abstinence in both men and women. The latter stays honourable even when tempted (e.g., III.i. 201–227) and defends any woman’s sexual and physical integrity.28 In contrast to the two conflicting Restoration ideologies just outlined, in The Rover, Behn seems to favour ‘libertinism’ most, which came with Charles II from France and “made the senses a primary source of knowledge [. . .] [and made] what conventional morality regarded as vices (fornication, adultery, drunkenness [. . .]) [. . .] virtually obligatory rituals” (Staves 2006, 20). With the character of Hellena, who encourages her sister to fight for Belvile (and, thus, for her emotional and sexual preferences), and who enjoys some rather explicit banter with Willmore (e.g., I.ii.123–196), Behn celebrates the idea of women’s open anticipation of sexual pleasure. At the same time, she indicates that this ideology works better for men than for women, and that as a male ideology, it

27 Both are sexually promiscuous: Don Pedro attempts to rape a young woman, and both Don Pedro and Don Antonio court Angellica (even though Antonio has promised to marry Florinda) and quarrel over her. 28 He, for instance, reprimands Willmore for his attempted rape of Florinda, saying, “[i]f it had not been Florinda, must you be a beast, a brute, a senseless swine?” (III.vi.2–3).

5.2 Narrative and Moral Double Binds in Aphra Behn’s The Rover


potentially even threatens female members of society. Libertinism does not work as well for Hellena as for Willmore because she, in the end, will not be able to stay independent and prolong the enjoyment of libertine pleasures.29 She will, as the latent and actual stories in The Rover suggest, face a moral dilemma and have to decide to end up either as a nun, a fallen women, or a wife (as she does in Act V). But libertinism not only has its drawbacks for women; it also poses a potential peril to them. Willmore’s radical enjoyment of sexual pleasures endangers women of all social circles. Florinda and Hellena as ‘women of quality’ are at risk of losing their virginity to him and, in consequence, to be personally “ruined” (III.v.71) and socially “undone” (77), while Angellica, protagonist of one of the courtesan plots, despairs over her own powerlessness in having yielded to Willmore’s attempts at seduction (V.i.244–262). To sum up, presenting the conflicting Restoration ideologies side by side, Behn illustrates the unresolvable conflicts women of all classes are caught up in: ‘religious,’ ‘economic,’ and ‘libertine’ options are no real alternatives to a conventional female life. In the end, all of these ideologies are patriarchal projections that display male ideas of female manners and morals, which force the women into moral dilemmas that ultimately cement their subjection to male power. They can choose only between equally undesirable life options, wife, whore, or nun – a fact which calls into question the existence of women’s choice and agency at all. Not only in the case of rape is any decision denied to women (the men decide for them by prostituting them, making them ‘whores’), but also in general. Structurally – and in all ideologies, even the libertine one – the female scope of action is limited or non-existent: women are but objects, commodities to be “[marketed] in marriage and prostitution” (Diamond 1997, 598). Having analysed and interpreted the narrative double binds on The Rover’s story level as they are framed by the implicit level of perspectivisation, I will now turn to matters of récit. To capture the ties between narrative and dramatic modes in Behn’s drama as aptly as possible, aesthetics that arguably were applied transgenerically, viz. in both the novel and the reinvigorated Restoration drama, must be considered. As an author who practised in both genres, Behn’s experiments with what one can identify as an ‘authorial voice’ or ‘narrative voice’ is genre-independent. That is, if such a voice is present in her drama, as I think it is in The Rover, this voice must not be framed as a dramatic adoption of a narrative mode (narrative sensu ‘longer prose text’). Rather, it has to be

29 Hellena, for instance, rhetorically asks what she will get out of a relationship with Willmore if they stay unmarried: “A cradle full of noise and mischief, with a pack of repentance at my back?” (V.i.45–46).


5 The Containment of Narratives of Difference in Drama

framed as a transgeneric mode, which, nevertheless, links both drama and longer narrative prose texts30 in that it occurs – roughly at the same time, but independently – in both genres. In contrast to major drama theories (cf. Korthals 2003, 127; Margolin 2014 [2012]), I hold that The Rover does not feature what has been called a Nullerzähler or ‘zero-narrator.’ Quite on the contrary, in Behn’s comedy one can discern an authorial voice or framing device, infiltrating both DNL 2 and DNL 1. How does this exactly work? The discerned narrative framing device comments upon the information given on DNL 1, sometimes very clearly, on an assumed extradiegetic level I, DNL 2 – in the form of song, for instance. In less technical terms, the authorial voice evaluates the unfolding events, which occur on the level of story. Furthermore, the narrative framing device becomes visible in stage descriptions, which refer to gestures on DNL 1. That is, the authorial voice in The Rove is established by dramatic means, i.e., visually and verbally. What has already been investigated for Behn’s prose and lyric narratives remains a major lacuna in her dramatic writing – a lacuna to be filled at least rudimentarily with the following analysis. As Dawn Lewcock (1996, 66) maintains, [l]iterary analysis of [. . .] [Behn’s] work shows her use of a narrator’s voice to comment on her stories, sometimes as the dispassionately passionate observer in Oronooko, sometimes as an ironic aside with the implicit assumption of a common understanding with her readers, as in her shorter novels and longer poems.

What Lewcock asserts for Behn’s narrative prose and poetry arguably also holds true for her dramatic oeuvre. The Rover is steeped in commentary and evaluative framings that perform the function of an authorial voice,31 which guides a work’s reception by expressing opinions and giving explanations. While Lewcock studies, by way of a dramaturgical analysis of the new Restoration stage set, what she calls ‘visual commentary’ in, for instance, Behn’s The Amorous Prince (1671), I will, in the present play, examine traditional dramatheatrical modes like songs and stage directions (in drama as read) viz. spatiovisual realisations of those in forms of gesture (in drama as staged) as authorial commentary.

30 Some of these texts will in the years to come, as literary history has shown, be termed ‘novel.’ 31 In contrast to Wayne C. Booth (1974), I would like to understand ‘authorial voice’ not as a category that refers to the actual author and, as he would call it, the ‘implied author’ of the play. Rather, I am referring to a strictly inner-textual function of the play: an inferred speech position or perspective from whence the diegetic facts, events, and actions are referenced and commented.

5.2 Narrative and Moral Double Binds in Aphra Behn’s The Rover


The Rover, which is set during carnival, offers splendid opportunities to celebrate the return of theatre by calling for a plethora of costumes32 and incorporating a colourful abundance of theatrical forms such as music and dance (e.g., I.ii.76–77, 111–112, III.i.156–157). Behn’s play is not least because of this a true spectacle – a spectacle which is, however, not only used to enhance the audience’s pleasure of visual and comic effects, but also to explore the possibilities of expression for the newly reinvigorated drama. One of these possibilities is an authorial commentary brought into existence via a complement to one of the play’s tunes: song lyrics. In a song that precedes the first stage appearance of Angellica Bianca, a ‘fall of man’ story – or rather, ‘fall of woman’ story – is told that functions as such a commentary on the fates of women in the comedy. (to a lute above) | When Damon first began to love | He languished in a soft desire, | And knew not how the gods to move, | To lessen or increase his fire: | For Celia in her charming eyes | Wore all Love’s sweets, and all his cruelties. | But as beneath the shade he lay, | Weaving of flowers for Celia’s hair, | She chanced to lead her flock that way, | And saw the amorous shepherd there. | She gazed around upon the place, | And saw the grove (resembling night) | To all the joys of love invite, | Whilst guilty smiles and blushes dressed her face. | At this the bashful youth all transport grew, | And with kind force he taught the virgin how | To yield what all his sighs could never do. (II.i.164–181)


Similar to many plot points on The Rover’s story level, i.e., when Florinda narrowly escapes attempted rape or Angellica’s trust is betrayed, the song, situated on an ‘extra-diegetic level one’ (or, DNL 2; cf. Sect. 3.3, Fig. 13),33 describes an end of innocence. In all the cases on the story level, the biblical ‘fall of man’ story, in which woman seduces man, is reiterated. When Willmore, attempting to rape Florinda, says, “a judge, [. . .] saw [he] those eyes of thine, would know ’twas they gave the first blow” (III.v.42–44), and asks, “Why, at this time of night, was your cobweb door set open, dear spider, but to catch flies?” (III.v. 53–54), he is doing no less than implying that she, his victim, seduced him – even though Florinda fiercely and fervidly defends herself. And, when Angellica accuses Willmore of breaking his promises, he blames her beauty for having

32 Some of the characters, such as Hellena, have four costumes and, during the play, change up to five or six times. 33 As the commentary specifies, “the player and the singer are in Angellica’s balcony, hidden behind the curtain [. . .]. Angellica and Moretta might play and sing themselves, or professional musicians might be used.” (Behn 2009 [1677], 341). Whoever sings (a character or a musician), the song is not sung in character or marked in any way as being part of story world. The drawn curtain indicates that the song is in any case to be understood as an extra-diegetic commentary that frames the character constellations on the story level which are similar to those presented in the song.


5 The Containment of Narratives of Difference in Drama

forced him and others to make false promises (V.i.263–270). Other representatives of Willmore’s sex argue similarly: When Blunt fantasises about all the sexualised violence he has in store for Florinda (IV.v. 48–56), he justifies his intentions with his need to ‘defend’ himself from her, feeling no longer safe due to her presence (IV.v.42–43). Promising to “be revenged on one whore for the sins of another” (IV.v.51) by raping and beating Florinda, it is the man, once again, who frames himself as a victim, to whom justice needs to be done. The song, which stands out from the narrative, as it is the first music with lyrics in the play and as it is not situated on the story level, is a variation on the biblical and traditional fall narrative; it cites the misogynist argument, but evaluates it differently. In the song’s narrative, the woman is constituted as a temptresses, too: in the shepherd’s opinion, the woman he desires has “charming eyes”. That is, he interprets her eyes both as alluring and as exerting magical power over him. It is, thus, once again the woman, who is in touch with magic energies and, thus, a witch who tempts. Allegedly “bashful” and shy, the youth only turns to action, deflowering the woman, when he beholds her ‘gaze.’ This gaze tells him that the shepherdess, much like Florinda in the anticipated garden scene, recognises the situation as one that might come to sex (whether she likes it or not). Like Willmore, the shepherd interprets the woman’s ‘blushes’ and ‘guilty’ smiles as an invitation. Yet, there are at least five signals in the brief narrative provided by the song lyrics that reframe this culturally deeply rooted male reasoning as self-serving and misogynist. To start with, Damon “first began to love” (emphasis mine). This expression not only refers to the first time he desires Celia, but also implies that he is the first to think of having sex with the shepherdess (and he does think of sex before the virgin does; it is only in the second stanza that she thinks of the “joys of love”). Secondly, there is no introspection what concerns Celia. We do not have access to Celia’s inner thoughts. Her alleged desires are related to us by the lyrical ‘I’ and Damon’s inferences. They are, thus, possibly not her desires at all. Thirdly, the characters and their telling names are less ambiguous than ‘Florinda,’ ‘Angellica,’ and ‘Willmore:’ Damon (Greek daimon) is a ghost who, up to the Restoration-era, had been increasingly associated with Satan. Damon is, as such, a representative of hell, while Celia (Latin caelum) is a representative heaven and, thus, angelical. The song’s assignment of guilt lies, in consequence, distinctly with the man, who, fourthly, lies in the shadows, awaiting the woman, or, as his diabolic name implies, perhaps ambushing her. He, fifthly, uses not his “sighs” but – in his opinion, “kind” – “force” to make her yield. The song with its lyrics, thus, must be interpreted as an authorial commentary that is to guide the action’s reception. All the intradiegetic events in which men fashion themselves as victims and women as perpetrators are reframed as wishful

5.2 Narrative and Moral Double Binds in Aphra Behn’s The Rover


thinking at best and intentional, destructive lies at worst. As the commentary by the framing entity on NL 2 makes clear, they are to be understood as misogynist constructs that aim to vindicate patriarchal abuse.34 This musical and verbal commentary on the action is complemented by a visual commentary based on stage directions and visual semantics. With the restoration of the theatre, the secondary text, i.e., the stage direction, becomes increasingly important (in contrast to the very few stage directions in Renaissance drama).35 They, too, guide the reception – verbally, as secondary text, when the comedy is read, or visually, when the stage directions are embodied in the play’s performance. Some stage directions comment on the power relations within the play. If one disregarded this commentary, the play would be understood in a way diametrically opposed to the way it is meant to be. As Ansgar Nünning (2009a) remarks, Behn evaluates the antagonism between the sexes distinctly more critically than the male playwrights of her time. While Nünning attributes this fact to the dominant perspective of female characters in The Rover, Behn’s criticism of arranged marriages, and her position as the first playwright to be called ‘female wit,’ I would like to argue that The Rover’s critical depiction of gender rivalry also hinges on the visual commentary generated through DNL 3 and becoming materially manifest in an authorial voice on DNL 1 in stage directions (cf. Sect. 3.3., Fig. 13). This visual commentary is a discursive function that complicates the impression that, in the comedy’s end, the woman will be victorious in the battle between the sexes. True, the female rake, Hellena, will prevail over her brother and father by refusing to go to a

34 At this point, one has to concede that commentaries brought forth in songs are traditional framing devices that derive from Greek theatre. Here, the choir was used (on what I hold to be an extra-diegetic level, DNL 2; cf. Sect. 3.3, Fig. 13) to comment on the action (on an intradiegetic level, DNL 1) – accusing, questioning, pleading, or praying –without directly intervening. Yet, in The Rover, the songs do not plead or pray or anything like it; they fulfil a slightly different function, as delineated above. In addition, the tasks of commenting and judging in The Rover are not only met by songs (which could be regarded as akin to the songs of choirs), but also by visual devices. The commentary in Behn’s play is thus not the same as that of a choir. Rather, it can, in line with the view of German classicists (cf. Haß 2005, 50), be framed as a detached ‘authorial voice’ or ‘narrative voice,’ analogous to the one rising with the genre of the novel. 35 Granted, as Elaine Hobby (2012, 179) reminds us, “stage directions are not a reliable guide to the playwright’s own design, because on the Restoration stage it was the actors, not the author, who determined the actions, the printed text merely recording what had been performed.” At the same time and as she contends, too, some of the stage directions, in their design, are too carefully composed and too consistent with other stage directions to be the simple invention of some actor or the other (Hobby 2012, 179–180). They must originate in Behn’s writing.


5 The Containment of Narratives of Difference in Drama

nunnery and outwit the eponymic rover, Willmore, by convincing him to marry her.36 Yet, the stage directions or visual semantics adjust this view of the victorious woman. Consider Willmore’s repeated act of kneeling in front of a woman, kissing her hand.37 Performed three times within three different contexts, the action shows, in its recurrence, where the victory and power in the antagonism between the sexes actually lies: with the men. The authorial framing device visually links Willmore’s gesture of submission to three very different women, and relates the three (very different) women to each other. Firstly, the rover “[k]neels and kisses [. . .] [Angellica’s] hand” (II.ii.151–152 SD), promising his love for hers, “[e]ntirely” (II.ii.154), so the courtesan will have unpaid sex with him. Secondly, he repeats the gesture when Hellena forces him to “[k]neel and swear” (III.i.258) never to see Angellica again. The third and last time Willmore “kneels and kisses [. . .] [a] hand” (V.i.155 SD) is upon his apology to Florinda for his attempt to rape her. All the gestures have in common that they are entirely hollow, i.e., meaningless. Willmore does not keep the vows he makes with this gesture, neither to Angellica nor Hellena. And his aside to Florinda’s absolutory phrase, “[t]he friend to Belvile may command me anything” (V.i.157), namely, his “[d]eath, would I might” (V.i.158) also bodes ill. In the repetition of the self-same visual gesture and its contextualisation with Willmore’s actions afterwards, an authorial judgement is given. Just like other predominant stage directions and visual semantics referring to the carnival, namely, the repeated putting on and taking off of vizards, Willmore’s gesture is a camouflage tactic. It is even marked as an especially perfidious one: The obvious gesture of submission towards the opposite sex is nothing but a masked exertion of power – Willmore will get his will with Hellena and Angellica (and possibly, in the future, beyond the play’s action, also with Florinda). With this, the authorial voice shows where the power actually lies: not with the women, who, in Florinda and Hellena’s case achieve partial success at best, but with the patriarchal structures still prevailing. To sum up: Exploring a framing device which literary criticism has so far erroneously linked only to the novel, ‘authorial voice,’ to comment on the action, and ‘perspective,’ to judge and frame it, Behn experiments with different means of transgeneric expression in drama. Using drama-specific features, para-texts, songs, and stage directions, she gives her play a proto-feminist perspective. Additionally, she assesses female life options in the Restoration

36 Here one must concede that, besides Hellena’s wit and beauty, it is certainly also her dowry of “three hundred thousand crowns” (V.i.522) that helps the female rake to reform Willmore. 37 See also Elaine Hobby’s analysis of this gesture (2012, 178–179), which she, however, contextualises somewhat differently.

5.2 Narrative and Moral Double Binds in Aphra Behn’s The Rover


period. Combining her framing device with five intertwining stories of distinct women, all layered with additional possibilities, Behn catches her audience in between different stories and stories of difference: the recipients perceive, at the same time, both what actually is true and what could be true, as well as what the characters think is true. With these narrative double binds in her dramatic storytelling, Behn not only points to the inherent dilemmas on the play’s intradiegetic level, but also to the palimpsest-like quality of her time. The Restoration era has been conceptualised in terms of superimposed layers of actualities and latent possibilities (cf. Berensmeyer 2011, 131), in which different, patriarchal ideologies, some of them more favourable to women than others (libertinism allows women at least a small portion of sexual self-determination), determine the value and agency of women and compete to shape social reality. With her dramatic narration in The Rover, Behn lays bare these ideologies and evaluates them, especially with respect to her gender which, with the beginning of the Restoration, had gained an “unprecedented public presence” (Hughes 2006, 29). This public presence not only gives visibility to female fates, but also promises new possibilities to women – not only on stage and as authors but also, with libertinism, in social life. Behn cautions her audiences, however: The cultural dilemmas – just as the narrative double binds of the female characters of her five plots – will not be finally resolved. Quite on the contrary, laying bare her female characters’ latent and actual future possibilities as well as conflicting, but still patriarchal Restoration ideologies, “she reminds her audiences that women have [actually] limited options and limited room to manoeuvre” (Markley 2006, 98). Women of her time and of all classes – even if new politics (such as those of the theatre) give women a new-found visibility, and even if one of the concurring ideologies promises them more freedom (sexual and otherwise) – remain caught in between these different, still largely masculinist ideologies. So, despite self-sufficient, witty heroines like Hellena, or pensive ones like Angellica, who challenge their male-ordered destinies, women are still clearly disadvantaged. Yet, through her experiments in dramatic expression – establishing an authorial framing device or ‘voice,’ presenting narrative simultaneities, possibilities, and double binds, and giving five female characters heightened visibility on stage – she develops an intriguing political, proto-feminist perspective. Not least due to this can she be regarded one of the most important thinkers, as well as a virtuoso dramatist, of her time, one who would inspire many (male and female) playwrights to come. Considering this, one can conclude with Virginia Woolf, who famously said, “[a]ll women together ought to let flowers fall upon the tomb of Aphra Behn [. . .], for it was she who earned them the right to speak their minds” (Woolf 2015 [1929], 49). And one can add, ‘and all men, too,’ for it was she who, with her political drama, paved the


5 The Containment of Narratives of Difference in Drama

way towards the meeting of the sexes on a level playing field and a society which, till today, has tried to reduce gender bias.’

5.3 Analogy and Difference in John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera: Generative Narrators as Playwrights and Actors and their Narrative Resistance to Genre Conventions as well as to the Aberrations of an Emerging Capitalist Culture To analyse and interpret the ways in which the intersection of drama and narrative became manifest in the early-eighteenth century, I will examine an immensely popular play, one which, after its first staging in 1728, “prove[d] the most successful dramatic work not just of the year but of the century” (Gladfelder 2013, vii). This play turned out to be so spectacularly appealing to the masses that it has been, even to this day, continuously restaged and adapted (cf., e.g., Böker et al. 2006): John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera (1728).38 The drama, although penned in a different century than the plays previously discussed and first staged during the reign of a different monarch, King George II, displays – in spite of all its differences – plenty of similarities to its Restoration forerunners. Like them, The Beggar’s Opera attempts a balancing act between self-reference and hetero-reference. By way of narrative modes, which are, in varying proportions, combined with other generic modes, the tremendously popular piece both takes part in the further reinvention and development of drama and offers a reflection and critique of the culture in which it emerged. For this reason, the present chapter takes its cue from John Richardson’s pointed observation that The Beggar’s Opera (1728) articulates dissent through form as much as through content. It resists mercantilism, or the Robinocracy [i.e., the rule of Sir Robert Walpole between 1721 and 1742], or ‘the entire age’ not just by reflecting them in a satiric glass, but by manipulating genre, skewing language, and defying expectations of form. (J. Richardson 2000, 19)

38 As William McIntosh (1974, 415) notes, The Beggar’s Opera was, after 1728, produced – uninterrupted – “no fewer than sixty-two times”, and this “[a]t a time when a dozen consecutive performances of a play were all but unheard of”. Equally remarkable is that the play has been of international relevance until today. Even in the twentieth century, it was transnationally adapted by notable playwrights, such as Bertold Brecht, Václav Havel, and Alan Ayckbourn.

5.3 Analogy and Difference in John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera


Against the backdrop of the above statement, I will examine the play’s content and form by delineating the ways in which Gay puts narrative and drama into dialogue. While the dialogue between the two modes was, in Aphra Behn’s The Rover (cf. Sect. 5.2), moulded by forms of expression also present in the thenrising novel, it was fashioned by Gay in relation to an eighteenth-century, topical form of drama, namely, the English opera. Before surveying the shapes the nexus between narrative and drama takes in The Beggar’s Opera and gauging their text-internal and cultural effects, I will first consider the ways in which Gay and his oeuvre display links to alter-dramatic modes in their wider historical context.

The Beggar’s Opera in Its Inter-Generic Contexts Even more so than the playwrights dealt with before, Gay can be called a ‘poet of generic indistinctness’ or ‘fuzziness.’ And while the others’ oeuvres can be embedded in a context which exhibits strong ties to narrative and narrativity, Gay’s legacy is additionally connected to other, musical and theatrical modes. In this section, then, and in contrast to those on previous authors, Gay and his work are not examined here in a solely narrative context, but in inter-generic ones. Even before writing The Beggar’s Opera, Gay was working in between genres and modes. He was, for instance, a founding and active member of the literary ‘Scriblerus Club,’ whose members engaged in writing across genres. Alexander Pope, Jonathan Swift, Thomas Parnell, and John Arbuthnot all aimed “to ridicule pretentious erudition and scholarly jargon through the person of a fictitious literary hack, Martinus Scriblerus” (Encyclopædia Britannica 1998a). They pursued their generically indistinct project39 from 1713 onwards in London meetings and, when they were travelling, through letters. The Beggar’s Opera was undoubtedly influenced by this context, in which people experimented with genre boundaries,40 transcended them, and, in the process, took part in creating new ones, such as the ‘hybrid’ genre of the novel or the (ballad) opera. The Scriblerian project was not alone in shaping the literary culture of the generically indistinct; Gay’s own work prior to his ‘ballad opera’ also stands

39 The Memoirs of the Extraordinary Life, Works and Discoveries of Martinus Scriblerus (1741) is a fragment and conglomerate of novel, pseudo-memoir, and satirical essay (cf., e.g., Füger 2009). 40 Swift and Pope might have even had a hand in conceptualising The Beggar’s Opera. In a 1716 letter to Pope, Swift asks his colleague what he would think about Gay penning a “Newgate pastoral among the whores and thieves there” (quoted in McIntosh 1974, 416).


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out for its inter-genericity. The playwright produced fables which display a distinct dramatic character in that animals talk “freely”, in a dialogic manner (Winton 1993, 83), as well as hybrid works, which remain generically uncategorised to this very day. His psycho-geographical work Trivia, or The Art of Walking the Streets of London (1795 [1716]), or his most successful farce The What D’Ye Call It (1736 [1715]), tellingly subtitled a “tragic-comi-pastoral farce [sic]”, are cases in point.41 In addition to these works, his collaboration with Handel is significant. Having written the libretto to Acis and Galatea (c. 1718), he “watched Handel put music to the words he himself had written” (Winton 1993, 41) and already came into contact with a hybrid genre, which he would appropriate for The Beggar’s Opera, stretching its inter-genericity in order to subvert and politicise.

The Beggar’s Opera’s Text-Internal Narrativity Like all of the plays studied here, The Beggar’s Opera42 exhibits, in addition to its general generic hybridity, a high degree of narrativity. What is regrettable in general, is fortunate for the specific interest of this study: the play’s connection to narrative aspects has so far been disregarded. Granted, audiences have been always startled by its generic indeterminacy. Gay’s contemporaries were as puzzled by its character as today’s critics are. Charles Douglas, one of Gay’s patrons, stated upon reading the manuscript, “[t]his is a very odd thing, Gay” before expressing his satisfaction at its extreme character (quoted in Gladfelder 2013, vii). Even if later generic concepts have since been applied to The Beggar’s Opera,43 the concepts’ variety and sometimes semantic ambiguity show that time has done little to shed light on the play’s elusive character. This is perhaps the moment to acknowledge that the play resists generic classification, and that this is a virtue: Its generic and formal resistance goes together with a cultural one. The play voices opposition to contemporary circumstances, such as the social selfishness and corruption in professional and personal life that became increasingly

41 Gerd Stratmann (2003, 225) contends that it was this love of the hybrid that was responsible for Gay’s financial difficulties. 42 Within this section, all not otherwise marked act, scene, and line numbers in brackets refer to Gay (2004 [1728]). 43 Gay’s piece has been labelled, for instance, “dramatic work” (Gladfelder 2013), “ballad opera” (Stein and Schäffner 2009; even Gay used this term, cf. Gladfelder 2013, viii), “opera” (J. Richardson 2000, 22), ‘dramatic-musical satire’ (cf. Böker 2006, 40), “comedy” (Samuel Johnson, quoted in Gladfelder 2013, ix), or, simply, “play” (Petzold 2012, 344).

5.3 Analogy and Difference in John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera


rampant in the emerging capitalism of the early-eighteenth century.44 Against this backdrop, one has to pose the question of how the resistance to conventions of dramatic form is brought about. In the discussions about the play’s generic status, The Beggar’s Opera’s narrativity has been often overlooked in favour of its musical character (cf., e.g., Schulz 1975). Yet, much of the work’s hybridity – and its meaning – is result of the author’s skilful exploitation of narrative modes and its combination with others. Owing to a plot design that, similar to Marriage à la Mode (cf. Sect. 5.1) and The Rover (cf. Sect. 5.2), presents more than one story at a time, and by virtue of a narrative framing which pervades the structure of Gay’s drama even more evidently than it does Behn’s comedy, The Beggar’s Opera displays a generic renewal unparalleled by the plays examined before. It furthermore protests against the excrescences of a capitalism that had started to infiltrate every aspect of eighteenth-century life (personal and business relations among all classes). The Beggar’s Opera intradiegetic level provides ample evidence of this. Its narrative’s salience hinges to a large extent on what one can call a ‘threefold story,’ i.e., a double or even triple entendre. Unlike Marriage à la Mode’s combination of two plots (which entail multiple turns) and unlike The Rover’s simultaneity of female life stories and their alternatives, Gay’s three-fold story constantly explores analogies and differences between the people and stories presented on stage and the people and stories actually referred to. It both insinuates these analogies and differences and makes them explicit. In The Beggar’s Opera, three stories and meanings are constantly present at one time (i.e., the play is characterised by a constant double and/or triple entendre): There is, firstly, the actual story or, rather, there are the ‘stories’ on the intradiegetic level, within the system of internal communication, which are conflicting in their meanings (double entendre). There is, secondly, the actual text-external situation referred to, which Gay’s contemporaries were able to decipher within the external communication system; and, consequently, the inferences between internal and external system of communication (triple entendre). Exploiting the incongruences between these stories and levels, Gay, thus, applies his story in an ironical fashion,45 in which truths are reversed: what appears to be fact on the intra-diegetic level (‘story one’) also differs radically from it (‘story two’). What is, extra-diegetically, perceived to be a

44 On the vocabulary of capitalism and its semantics in The Beggar’s Opera, see the elucidating chapter by Kevil Hilliard (2014, esp. 294–97). 45 The ‘three-fold story’ in The Beggar’s Opera works like dramatic irony (cf. Pfister 1993 [1991], 49–51, 55–57), highlighting the difference between two stories similar to the incongruence between internal and external communication system.


5 The Containment of Narratives of Difference in Drama

fact of life is, in analogy to the intra-diegetic insight, radically questioned and revealed as untrue (‘story three’). Gay creates an ironic levelling of contrasts by doubling stories and establishing analogies between them. He does this through explicit and implicit comparisons and through the vocabulary his characters use: Criminals and underworld lowlifes are compared to respectable middle-class people, and even aristocrats. In the first three scenes, a man is doing his accounts, in front of him “a large book of accounts” (I.i.0 SD). The man does no more than take stock and evaluate the work of his ‘employees’ (although his linguistic code, admittedly, seems rather particular; he calls one of them “lazy dog”, I.ii.9, and lauds another, “I don’t know a prettier fellow!”, I.iii.13). In a dialogue with his wife, he expresses worry over his daughter’s probable choice of husband. When his wife enthuses about her future son-in-law, he scolds her: “You would not be so mad to have the wench marry him!” (I.iv.68–69) What one is presented with, however, is not the story of an ordinary businessman and middle-class pater familias concerned for the well-being of his business and his family. This is the story, as the context and his language have already revealed, of a professional traitor, tellingly called Peachum, who administers people to the gallows when they prove more profitable as state prisoners than employees (for impeaching them, he earns a fee of forty pounds; cf., e.g., I.i.9–13). He is an underworld dealer who buys and sells stolen goods, and who, together with his wife, fears that another underworld big shot, Macheath, by marrying their daughter will be either their financial ruin (I.ix.15–19) or death (I.viii.64–65). By the same token, Peachum’s feared son-in-law, a gang leader and thief, is euphemistically called “captain” (I.iv.44, 49) and presented as a nobleman. Usually received according to some protocol, i.e., with “ceremony” (II.ii.3) by his people, Macheath stages himself as ‘honourable’ (cf. II.ii.15) and asks his followers to act, in their robberies, with decorum, i.e., the aristocratic principle of “conduct and discretion” (II.ii.26–27).46 In spite of the established analogies between the underworld and respectable classes (be it a class with a long history, such as the aristocracy, or a newly emerging one, like the middle class), a tension between the two persists. In spite of their language, the thieves and their leader are by no means “gentlemen” (II.ii.26); and a receiver of stolen goods is by no means a respectable middle-class merchant, even if he acts like it on the surface. The analogies implicitly established by way

46 Gerd Stratmann (2003, 226) also identifies these character traits that make Macheath an aristocrat: he advertises an elitist solidarity, bravery, a certain contempt for money, and hedonism.

5.3 Analogy and Difference in John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera


of presentation and explicitly actualised by way of vocabulary do not level the difference between classes, one of which was generally regarded and one of which was commonly disregarded. The underworld characters repeatedly puncture their own sheen of respectability: their utterances and their distinct moral code shatter the illusion that makes them appear respectable. Though Macheath asks his followers to act with decorum, he startles only one sentence later with a reference to weapons, a robbery carried out at gunpoint, and potentially even murder: “A pistol is your last resort” (II.ii.27). Likewise, when Peachum and his wife discuss their daughter’s marriage, a strangely distorted value system is revealed. They call murder not a despicable, but a “fashionable [. . .] crime” (I.iv.38); love is not a commandment to be obeyed or an ideal for relationships to strive for, but a “folly” (I.viii.69); accordingly, one does not marry for love, but for the economic exploitation of the spouse: it is the duty of a wife to “hang” her husband. As Mrs Peachum ecstatically cries out, “What would many a wife give for such an opportunity!” (I.x.52–53) To sum up, on the intradiegetic level, two stories are being presented at once: through story one, the translucent narrative of respectable businessmen and gentlemen, shines, constantly and pointedly, ‘story two,’ the story of criminals who believe themselves to be upright and “honest” (I.i.9; cf. also III.ii.23 or III.vi.140). These respectable people regard murder and manslaughter as ordinary, necessary, and common; they speak of it no differently than they do the weather.47 In The Beggar’s Opera, one story actualises not only a second, but also a third one – at least, if one takes the external communication system into account, which is always co-present with the internal one in theatrical stagings (cf. Pfister 1993 [1991], 49–57). Comparing the contradictory information conveyed in the internal communication system to their knowledge of the external communication system, contemporary audiences are invited to draw yet another analogy. If what is shown on the intra-textual level deviates radically from what is actually true there (i.e., the thieves are no gentlemen, despite their posing and calling each other as such), is then that which is perceived to be a fact of life in the actual, early-eighteenth-century England untrue as well? Can one regard the nobility and the rising middle class as respectable when they display the same demeanour as common criminals and take part in similar practices? References to reality and to the audience’s contemporaries, which are likely to have been recognised as such, invite the actualisation of a third story. Plenty of articles and book chapters have been written on Gay’s allusions

47 Cf. Mrs Peachum’s nonchalant remark on her husband’s treasons: “You know, my dear, I never meddle in matters of death; I always leave those affairs to you” (I.iv.10–11).


5 The Containment of Narratives of Difference in Drama

to public agents in The Beggar’s Opera who were, at the time, well-known and regarded as being enmeshed in questionable capitalist practices, criminal, corrupt, or all of the above.48 Hal Gladfelder, for instance, proves that Peachum is “not only an invented character [. . .] but a recognizable dramatic portrait of one of the most hated and intriguing criminal figures of the period, [. . .] Jonathan Wild” (2013, xviii) and that he, “by extension, [. . .] [is also] a satirical likeness of the then chief Minister of State[,] [. . .] Sir Robert Walpole” (Gladfelder 2013, xx). The dominant politician, who can be regarded as the first prime minister in England’s history, fused politics with economic interests in a manner that caused his opponents to regard his rule as a “kleptocracy, a government of thieves” (Gladfelder 2013, xx–xxi). The abundant allusions to Walpole”, to individual contemporaries, and whole professions that pervade The Beggar’s Opera – some of them vague, some of them rather straightforward49 – serve as triggers for the audience to actualise ‘story three.’ Gay uses his web of allusions, as Gladfelder (2013, xxi) puts it aptly, “as device for jolting, or comically startling, the audience into recognizing unexpected affinities: between thief-takers and ministers of state, highwaymen and courtiers, executioner and businessman.”50 With this comes the realisation that the narratives that frame the middle class as respectable merchants and the nobility as honourable politicians have to be replaced by more complex, even opposing ones. To draw a first conclusion from analysing Gay’s highlighting of narrative through analogies and differences: In a system of emerging capitalism and changing social structures, those who have gained prosperity and power by inheritance or business have come to their advantage not in reputable ways, but by conning, stealing, and impeaching. Understanding Gay’s allusions to this

48 Cf., e.g., Anna-Christina Giovanopoulos (2006, esp. 160–162), who examines how Wild and Walpole are satirised in the present play’s plot. Ian Gallagher (2006, esp. 108–112) is interested in references to contemporary criminal law in general and Wild in particular. And William McIntosh (1974, 429) focuses on Gay’s revision of the businessman and opera composer George Frideric Handel’s work and the playwright’s “substantial” allusions to Walpole. 49 One clear allusion to Robert Walpole appears right at the beginning. Upon taking stock and doing his accounts, Peachum reads out names of the criminals working for him; the last one, “Robin of Bagshot, alias Gorgon, alias Bluff Blob, alias Carbuncle, alias Bob Booty” (I.iii. 32–34), was surely recognised as a series of references to Walpole by Gay’s first audiences. Using ‘Robin’ as diminutive for ‘Robert’ and punning on ‘Robin’ and ‘robbing,’ the opposition called Walpole’s regime a ‘Robinocracy’ or, publicly referring to him as ‘Bob Booty,’ ridiculed him as plundering thief (cf., e.g., Gladfelder 2013, xxi). 50 Uwe Böker, too, states that allusions to contemporary individuals are more than that. They stand metonymically for a whole society in which personal relationships and business matters are subject to financial profit alone (2006, 58).

5.3 Analogy and Difference in John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera


third, text-external narrative even more cynically, one realises that conning, stealing, and betraying – quite similar to the value system of stories one and two – have become ‘the’ respectable ways of action. ‘Story three’ invites, as such, the interpretation that gentlemen are not ‘gentle men,’ but criminals. Making use of narrative for his play by layering three translucent stories on top of each other and across two communication systems so that the features/contours of one regularly peep out from behind those of another, Gay can be said to critically oppose a society revelling in capitalism.51 His plot design itself expresses disapproval of the self-proclaimed respectable classes, questions their codes of behaviour, and charges them with no less than moral corruption. In addition to its plot design, which, stacking stories on top of one another, highlights narrativity, The Beggar’s Opera employs distinct kinds of framings that exploit and combine conventional narrative and theatrical modes. These framings do not just contribute to the generic indeterminacy of the play and its resistance to convention; they also further Gay’s critique of a predatory and venal capitalist society. To illustrate this, I will turn to the play’s structure. In contrast to The Rover, whose action, as I have shown (cf. 4.2), is judged by an inferred narrative instance on an assumed extra-diegetic level I (NL 2; cf. Fig. 13) in song and by way of stage directions realised on NL 1, in The Beggar’s Opera, this instance, this narrative function, is given an unmistakable, concrete shape.52 A frame story on NL 2 both generates and encloses the play’s main story, the intra-diegetic story of Peachum and Macheath, which is set on NL 1. This frame story is a dialogue between the eponymous beggar (called ‘Beggar’), the author of the play within the play, and an actor or producer (called ‘Player’), to whom the beggar is indebted for staging his play (“I cannot too often acknowledge your charity in bringing it now on the stage”, Introduction.31–33). This frame story is a combination of meta-theatre, meta-reflection on genre, and narrative. Meta-theatrically speaking, it thematises on stage the general and economic situation of playwrights working within the constraints of their time (the eighteenth century) and place (the London theatre), and the noted preferences of the city’s audiences. The critique of the cynical capitalist culture, the topic

51 As critics such as Gladfelder state, Gay himself was as much part of the “culture of the marketplace” (2013, xvi) as the classes and professions he criticises. It was a necessity for artists to write for others’ tastes since they depended on patrons’ financial support and audiences’ goodwill. Contemporaries like Handel, himself as much businessman as composer, understood Gay’s dilemma only all too well: “every professional gentleman must do his best to live” (quoted in McIntosh 1974, 423). 52 To illustrate this concreteness and unmistakability: the dotted line in my model of dramatic communication has to be realised as continuous in the case of Gay’s play (cf. Sect. 3.3, Fig. 13).


5 The Containment of Narratives of Difference in Drama

of the play within the play, is thereby forestalled and applied to London’s theatre culture. As a self-reflexive assessment, the meta-theatrical framing allows the audiences to draw an analogy between what is criticised with regard to Peachum and Macheath and the theatre. The latter, too, has become part of the marketplace; it has become as much enmeshed in the customs and practises of a predatory and capitalist society as all of the other aspects of eighteenth-century life that Gay thematises on the intra-diegetic level. Competition among actors53 is compounded by the financial constraints of the artists, who perceive themselves as beggars (cf. Introduction.1–6) because they depend on the goodwill of patrons. The quality of art is not determined by artistic imperatives, but by financial constraints and audience preferences, even ones as “unnatural” (Introduction.26) – and here comes a not-too-subtle a blow to a genre particularly “in vogue” (Introduction.26) at the time – as ‘opera.’ Creating something like an opera himself, or at least a play containing music and song, Gay not only criticises the London theatre business or the predominant tastes of the theatre-going elite; he wittily shows that, he, too, as a playwright, is subject to and part of the self-same system of which his Beggar disapproves.54 While the meta-theatrical quality of The Beggar’s Opera’s introduction stages the drawbacks of the increasing economisation of theatre, its metageneric references discuss the play’s own generic status in contrast to opera, the dominant, especially popular genre among the theatre-consuming elites of the time. Uttering the following words, the beggar-poet explains the generic design of the play within the play: I have introduced the similes that are in all your celebrated operas: the swallow, the moth, the bee, the ship, the flower, etcetera. Besides, I have a prison scene which the ladies always reckon charming. [. . .] I hope I may be forgiven that I have not made my opera throughout unnatural, for I have no recitative. Excepting this, as I have consented to have neither epilogue, it must be allowed an opera in all of its forms. (Introduction.17–29)

The beggar emphasises that he wants his work understood as an opera, which is, to him, as his loose listing of genre features implies, an arbitrary, if not unmotivated application of standard similes, stock scenes, and formal criteria

53 Cf. the beggar-poet’s remark that he composed his opera in a way that puts none of the two leading ladies at a disadvantage (cf. Introduction.21–24) is an allusion to two rivalling opera singers popular on the London stage, who publicly (and physically) fought over parts (cf. Gay 2004 [1728], 806, fn. 15). 54 Cf. also Gladfelder (2013, xv), who observes in another context that “Gay was well provided for, but his very success in securing patronage only underlined his dependency, his slavish obligation to please.”

5.3 Analogy and Difference in John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera


(exclusion of epilogue and prologue; inclusion of recitatives). This renders operas not only highly artificial (‘unnatural’) but also meaningless, even nonsensical. The beggar ridicules both the genre of opera and the genre preferences of the audiences. He does this again in the second part of the frame story, shortly before the play’s end. Macheath is about to be executed when the Player intervenes, objecting to the grim, but logically consistent ending: “[t]he catastrophe is manifestly wrong, for an opera must end happily” (III.xvi.9–10). Hereupon the Beggar changes the ending, conceding: “in this kind of drama ’tis no matter how absurdly things are brought about” (III.xvi.12–14). By deprecating operas in their illogical and inconsequential plot design, but at the same time, signalling in which respects he complies with the “taste of the Town” (III.xvi.17–18), the Beggar simultaneously time adheres to, resists, and undermines the norms of an opera. With the meta-generic frame as well as its witty and amusing contradictions, Gay points, in a satirical and subversive manner, to his play’s generic indeterminacy. He experiments with new generic modes to stage his opposition to genre conventions he perceives as tasteless and ridiculous and, in doing so, he not only theorises his opposition, but also clads it in a performance that directly holds a mirror up to his audiences.55 In addition to its meta-theatrical and meta-generic qualities, which are self-referential, the frame story of The Beggar’s Opera displays a certain degree of narrativity, which has hetero-referential implications. Even if rendered as a dialogue, the “Introduction” fulfils the tasks of a generative narrator. By means of the performative demand “[p]lay away the overture!” (Introduction.35), it brings the play within the play into being. Moreover, the frame story serves as a narrative voice breaking the illusion at the play’s end and changing the course of action. Exposing a society in which there is “such a similitude of manners in high and low life that it is difficult to determine whether (in the fashionable vices) the fine gentleman imitate the gentlemen of the road, or the gentlemen of the road the fine gentlemen” (III.vi.20–24), the frame story addresses the problem of a corrupt society in which criminal behaviour is legitimised or, at least, sanctioned by free enterprise and ‘fashion.’ It combats this capitalist culture and its bad social and moral outgrowths

55 What Gay starts with the frame story, he continues in the play within the play. Instead of the complex, highbrow tunes of the Baroque opera, he uses simple, lowbrow, popular tunes – the songs of the street. In his generic indeterminacy, he stays, in consequence, true to his play’s paradoxical title. The term ‘beggar’s opera’ is as much antithetical as it is hybrid. In Gladfelder’s words (2013, viii), it “suggests the hybrid, contradictory nature of the form, which mixes high and low, opera and ballad, the antithetical social world of the metropolitan elite and the folk.”


5 The Containment of Narratives of Difference in Drama

by championing their punishment: “Macheath is to be hanged” (III.vi.4–5). Yet, by changing his ending and forgoing both poetic justice and the intended moral,56 the Beggar actually succumbs to the tastes of the market and, in doing so, shows that a theatre that resists genre conventions and, with it, startles its audiences into self-recognition may be, on the one hand, a politically oppositional force. Drama which takes no generic risks and fulfils audience expectations will struggle to change the real-life injustices it seeks to expose and critique. Although fulfilling audience expectations, the frame story, as narrative instance, resists a conventional, unmarked handling of genre. Even if, in the end, the cliché of the opera needing a happy ending is condoned and even if, against prior judgement to the contrary, the mechanisms of a real-life society in which the rich go unpunished for their crimes are adhered to, with the narrative framing device, these mechanisms are made explicit. Seeing the play’s master criminal freed at the last moment, the narrative instance, i.e., the dialogue between Beggar and Player, exemplifies the injustices of the time and culture in which it emerges (and to which it refers). In doing so, it takes a stance against the capitalist euphemising of de facto immoral or criminal behaviour. It lays bare the illogic of certain genres or genre automatisms as well as the wrongness of reallife results of these euphemising processes, namely, that criminal practices by people posing as respectable are covered up, tacitly agreed with, and, in consequence, remain unpunished. Narrative and theatrical modes are combined not only in the frame story of the play, but also in the play within the play, on a second intra-diegetic level, which is embedded in DNL 1, in its sixty-nine songs. These songs, too, fulfil the tasks of a narrative instance: they are musical and theatrical ways of characterising some of the dramatis personae, judge the action, or, by way of summary, comment on it. Before illustrating this claim, it is necessary to analyse the songs’ history, the form, and the ways in which they were integrated in the action by Gay. The tunes of the songs were – except for the overture and one song – not specially composed for The Beggar’s Opera. Instead, Gay used previously existing ones, among them well-known folk songs, dinking songs, and ballads. More than half of the songs can be found in Thomas D’Urfey’s Whit and Mirth, or Pills to Purge Melancholy ([1698] 2012), a popular and often reprinted anthology in early-eighteenth-century England. Gay took existent melodies and composed his own lyrics (cf. Schulz 1975, 735; cf. also Newman 2004,

56 The moral would have been this: “the lower sort of people have their vices as well as the rich: And that they are punished for them” (III.xvi.26–28).

5.3 Analogy and Difference in John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera


267–270). The songs are thus, generically speaking, already hybrid, as they “carried the street’s knowingness, energy, and stigma [. . .] [and] moved back and forth between street, court, stage, and songbook” (Newman 2004, 266). They are also hybrid by virtue of being primarily ‘ballads,’ that is, a short, condensed form of fiction that combines music and narrative.57 Moreover, the integrated songs, hybrid in themselves, also make the entire play hybrid because they partake in violating genre expectations. They shape The Beggar’s Opera as a ‘neither – nor.’ Due to them, it is neither a ‘pure’ play nor a ‘genuine’ (sensu highbrow) opera. It is something in between. Though related to the intradiegetic action and the dialogue, the songs stand somewhat apart58 (like The Beggar’s Opera itself from the common theatrical repertoire of the time). The very first song is neither ‘just music,’ like the overture before it, nor ‘just spoken words,’ like Peachum’s ensuing monologue: it is both and, thus, marked as distinct. In consequence, what the receiver of stolen goods sings gains special importance: Through all the employments of life | Each neighbour abuses his brother, | Whore and rogue they call husband and wife: | All professions be-rogue one another. | The priest calls the lawyer a cheat, | The lawyer be-knaves the divine, | And the statesman, because he’s so great, | Thinks his trade as honest as mine. (I.i.1–8)

Even if Peachum, in his brief subsequent monologue, refers to what he has just sung,59 the song is distinct from the sequence of action that follows (when Peachum is seen taking stock and dealing with some private matters). And even if the content of the song, to a certain extent, is related to his character (in that he sings the song), it cannot be regarded as it cannot be regarded as characterising him alone. The song is less an expression of an individual in a concrete

57 Cf., e.g., Alan Bold, who conceptualises the ballad as a “narrative song whose metrical structure conforms to the exigencies of memorability” (1979, 14), or Friedman (2016), who basically defines the ballad as short, narrative folk song. 58 A main reason for the songs’ dissociation from the action is, according to Dieter Schulz (cf. Schulz 1975, 735), based on Gay’s treatment of them. The playwright often establishes links to the original songs, be they formal, thematic, or, even textual. With these inter-textual references, the play is opened up: interpretations that go beyond The Beggar’s Opera are possible, at least to contemporary audiences. Some of these fascinating play-external relationships and their implications for the play’s interpretation are presented both by Schulz (1975, 735–743) and Newman (2004, 267–278). 59 He continues the established analogies by comparing himself to an ‘honest’ lawyer, who, like himself, “acts in a double capacity, both against rogues and for ’em[,] [. . .] since we live by them” (I.i.10–13).


5 The Containment of Narratives of Difference in Drama

situation60 than a general reflection of a superordinate instance. From something like an omniscient narrator’s perspective, from a distanced bird’s-eye view, a general situation or theme is introduced: that of a society in which everybody constantly abuses another (and in all respects of life; cf. I.i.1–4), in which every profession – from priest to lawyer – maligns the others (I.i.5–6), and in which representatives of all classes are likened to underworld gang bosses (I.i.7–8). It is not an individual like Peachum who is characterised with the first song, but a whole society. By means of manifold, unsettling analogies, what can be regarded as a narrative instance’s idea encapsulates the entire play’s subject and gives a pointed, programmatic overview of the upcoming plot. Formally and content-wise, the songs of The Beggar’s Opera are not only used as caesuras that preview the action and implicitly evaluate it; they are sometimes also part of a dialogue and, at the same time, serve as means of characterisation. When Peachum’s daughter, Polly, for instance, sings in “Air 6”: Virgins are like the fair flower in its luster, | Which in the garden enamels the ground; | [. . .] But when once plucked, ’tis no longer alluring; | To Covent Garden ’tis sent (as yet sweet), | There fades and shrinks and grows past all enduring, | Rots, stinks, and dies and is trod under feet. (I.viii.11–18)

she repeats, albeit in other words, what she has already said to her father: that she is not as naïve or “inconsiderate” (I.viii.9) as her parents believe her to be. Unconditionally loving her husband Macheath, whom she secretly married, even despite his various other paramours61 and his repeated denial of her in front of Lucy (II.xiii.67–77), she is, due to songs like these, designed not just as a sentimental counterpart to the cold, calculating world of her parents and husband. She is also a thinking, reasoning character, who knows the ways of the world. The song’s narrative is a general account of the fate of unmarried women in early-eighteenth-century London who, after having had extra-marital sex, end up as Covent Garden prostitutes and who, formerly attractive and healthy, end up like trodden flowers, withered and lined with the deprivations of street life. Singing the song, Polly puts her own fate – which she, in marrying Macheath, has so far successfully avoided – in a wider context. The lyrics reveal

60 Schulz (1975, 724), too, states that Peachum is but a type at this point. He argues that the receiver of stolen goods is presented not only as a representative of a concrete profession but – because he argues that all professions are alike – the epitome of a society in which everybody preys on one another. 61 The notorious lady-killer has made Lucy Lockit pregnant and prefers her to Polly whenever she is of more use to him than his wife (e.g., II.xiii). He loves to surround himself with numerous prostitutes (cf. II.iv); and he uses the term ‘wife’ rather loosely, as the four ladies with children to who come to see him in prison attest (cf. III.xv.24–27).

5.3 Analogy and Difference in John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera


that Polly is more knowing and practical, less bookish and sentimental than someone whose worldview is solely romantic, i.e., shaped by the corny fictions of “cursed playbooks” that will be their “ruin” (I.x.68–69).62 The song, in consequence, has to be seen as an abstraction of the action. As a narrative framing device that, through telling a general story in song, transcends the intra-diegetic level, it partakes in characterising Polly and gives additional information; it puts the singular on a general, more abstract plane. Songs like the ones introduced above regularly disrupt The Beggar’s Opera’s action and dialogue. They are used as a narrative voice or framing device, which is rendered in theatrical and musical ways.63 Indirectly referring to the contents of the dialogue that surround it, characterising individuals or the play as a whole, this narrative framings contribute to the generic hybridity of the play. As William Piper (1988, 336) maintains, “[t]he strict distinction between discourse and song [. . .] forces Gay’s audience to live with two continually interrupted and interruptive literary modes [or, rather, theatrical and musical modes], and thus endure a relentless system of expressive contiguities.” These expressive contiguities stand side by side and are in contact, in negotiation with each other. They are thus formal realisations of contained differences, and they echo the multi-layered palimpsest of the different stories that are superimposed on top of each other. As a play that makes use of the “the ballad method of narration” (Friedman 2016), The Beggar’s Opera, like the ballad itself, “is directed toward achieving a bold, sensational, dramatic effect with purposeful starkness and abruptness” (Friedman 2016). With these overly theatrical (sensu hyperbolic) and dramatic (sensu spectacular) effects, the play further distances itself from both the sentimental, “cursed playbooks” (I.x.68) it ironically undermines and a generically unmarked, allegedly ‘absurd’ (III.vi.13) opera it lampoons. It defines itself as political by being as critical of these genres for the consuming masses,64 as well as of the unsettling, sometimes even atrocious results of capitalism in early-eighteenth-century theatre and culture. To sum up, with its analogising different, seemingly opposing stories – i.e., those of beggars and poets, criminals, merchants, and gentlemen – The Beggar’s Opera can be regarded as a subversive piece that displays a “complex resistance to seeing things as they are normally seen” (J. Richardson 2000, 19). It “consistently

62 This is a worldview Polly’s mother accuses her of having. 63 The song is paradoxically both narrative and theatrical-musical because it is, in the Baroque period, usually actualised in opera performance and is informed by ballad history (a ballad being a narrative traditionally performed in song). 64 I fully agree with Stephan Schmidt (cf. 2002, esp. 26–27), who asserts that The Beggar’s Opera is a thoroughly politically engaged, even an oppositional play in that it follows the dictates of Gay’s audiences’ tastes only to critically comment upon them.


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[uses] [. . .] form [i.e., genre] [politically] to defy existent language, perception, and attitude” (J. Richardson 2000, 19). With its various displays of theatrical and generic self- and meta-reference in combination with narrative framing devices, Gay makes use of generic hybridisation. In doing so, he offers not only resists an allegedly ‘simplistic’ and conventional kind of theatrical art that stoops so low as to entertain the consuming elites, but also to consumerist, preying, and criminal societal practices in general, in which his audiences are supposedly complicit. To be fair, the success of this resistance and opposition has to be questioned. Not with regard to the generic uniqueness of the play, with which Gay successfully ironises traditional theatrical form and finds a new, heterogeneous, and hybrid one, but with regard to his critique of capitalism. After all, as Newman (2004, 265) diagnoses, “the market [in poaching Gay’s characters and songs for merchandise] sapped the force of the play’s critique.” And, what is more, the English middle class and aristocracy that Gay criticises have delighted to this very day in consuming The Beggar’s Opera. The popular tunes of the songs have made seemingly trivial “what is not trivial at all” (Canfield 1997, 321), while the “fun of form” has glossed over the seriousness of its depiction of “human bestiality and corruption in general and capitalism’s evil potential in particular” (Canfield 1997, 321). While Canfield speculates that this is due to the alleged “absence of controlling narrative voice” in dramatic satire (1997, 321),65 I would like to argue completely differently. If audiences and criticism have been led away from the play’s serious subject, it is not because there is no narrative framing device, but rather because Gay so cleverly deployed it that, where he seems to be following his audiences’ tastes, he is in reality – elegantly and understatedly – passing judgment upon them. His narrative voice is easily overlooked or doubted – a doubt which I hope to have dispelled.

5.4 Dominant Forms and Potential Functions of Narrative in Restoration and Early-Eighteenth-Century Plays: The Exploration of Contained Difference in Dramatic Narration as a Means of Genre-Definition and Political Engagement All of the plays discussed in this chapter not only reinvigorate English drama, a genre that had been put to sleep by state authorities between 1642 and 1660,

65 With this, he follows an argument by Deborah Payne (1997, 14), who contends that playwrights “determined to use the theatre as a satiric medium must [. . .] compensate for drama’s lack of narration”.

5.4 Dominant Forms and Potential Functions of Narrative in Restoration Plays


but also critically and politically deal with some particularities of the time and culture in which they emerged (cf. Fig. 15). They respond to and engage with the Restoration and the early-eighteenth century in England, turbulent periods of rapid political, social, and cultural change, which have often been described as times of ‘concurring latencies’ or ‘differences contained’ (cf. Section 5). Against this backdrop, the merits of John Dryden, Aphra Behn, and John Gay’s plays are, at least, twofold: They formally explore and exploit generic difference (narrative, theatrical, dramatic, musical, hybrid, and transmedial modes) to define and re-invent drama and dramatic narration after the Interregnum. Additionally, they engage politically in Restoration and early-eighteenth-century culture. In Dryden’s tragicomedy Marriage à la Mode (Sect. 5.1), the intersection of drama and narration becomes predominantly manifest in his application of the double plot, the heroic plotline being epically informed. With this, the poet laureate establishes unlikely but entertaining thematic analogies between marriage, sexual conduct, and the state, thus designing a quite ‘unconventional’ philosophy of state, with which he challenges the ‘sincerity’ and ‘legitimacy’ of contemporary state authorities. Besides this, Dryden also proposes a ‘philosophy of writing a new kind of drama’ or a ‘drama à la mode’ by enriching his dramatic storytelling with traditional features of narrative, such as the ‘diegetic storyteller,’ and adding a self-referential perspective by re-exploring conventional dramatic and theatrical modes. Aphra Behn, too, revives English drama by experimenting with narrative modes. With her comedy The Rover (Sect. 5.2), she artfully combines multiple plotlines and enriches them by simultaneously indicating latent possibilities for each of them. In addition, she enriches her play’s structure with transmedial aesthetics, which she, independently from drama, experiments with in another genre as well: the newly emerging novel. By dramatic means, she establishes something very much like an ‘authorial voice,’ something that, so far, has been regarded as an exclusive device of ‘narratives’ in the traditional sense. In doing so, Behn not only bends and stretches the forms of dramatic expression, but also assesses female life options and ideologies in the Restoration period, which are not as diverse as hegemonic, patriarchal ideologies would have them appear. With The Beggar’s Opera (Sect. 5.3), whose plot design presents more than one story at a time, both analogising and differentiating those stories, as well as with a distinct narrative commentary in the form of a frame story and a narrative intervention in the form of songs, John Gay undertakes self-referential and hetero-referential acts of resistance. The playwright not only resist genre conventions, creating a work that defies generic definition, but also opposes an emerging capitalist culture, critically assessing the early-eighteenth-century theatre market and accusing elites, both from the rising middle class as well as the gentry, of criminal practices and an egotistical, predatory mentality.


5 The Containment of Narratives of Difference in Drama

Looking especially at the instances of dramatic narration that boldly experiment with alter-generic modes, one realises that the plays examined here, in their use of these modes, especially narrative ones, are not only means of poetological, dramatic self-definition, but also sites of political conflict. They – unconventionally and cheekily – challenge the state (Dryden), patriarchal order (Behn), and the alltoo-‘respectable,’ capitalist elites (Gay). Whether their form of intervention was successful remains, of course, open to debate (cf. esp. Sect 4.3). The offense they built up, and with this, the cultural thrust they developed, is, however, undisputed.66 In posing questions like ‘which stories can be told by whom upon the stage?’ and ‘how can those stories be told?,’67 the three playwrights did not only become part of poetological, critical, and ideological negotiations; they also precipitated a power game between different cultural and political agents that arguably culminates in the Theatre Licensing Act of 1737. Having endured a series of critical allusions in The Beggar’s Opera, Walpole and, by extension, the Lord Chamberlain proved to be less tolerant when Polly (1777), its sequel, and other plays by authors like Fielding that satirised Walpole (cf., e.g., Sect. 5.3) were to be staged.68 As a last resort to prevent an authorial and theatrical rebellion and political intervention, censorship was called for. Plays that transgressed not only genre boundaries by implementing narrative modes, but also their assigned cultural space of ‘entertainment only’ in that they challenged problematic political practices and cultural hierarchies, were, after 1660, silenced. Analysing them, interpreting them, however, even today, reveals the blasting potential they still contain and the critical power they exert.

66 Cf., e.g., Ansgar Nünning (1998, 110), who emphasises theatre’s potential to influence people’s perception and/or politics. 67 One case in point is, for instance, Jeremy Collier’s well-known anti-theatrical pamphlet, A Short View of the Immorality and Profaneness of the English Stage (1698), in which he attacks John Dryden, among others, and criticises current comedies, which due to their ‘profanity,’ ‘blasphemy,’ and ‘indecency,’ he thinks are corrupting public morality. 68 For details on the connection between Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera and Polly as well as Fielding’s Pasquin and The Historical Register, on the one hand, and the Theatre Licensing Act, on the other hand, see Jeremy Barlow’s circumstantial elaborations on the plays’ early stage histories (2011, esp. 176–177).

5.4 Dominant Forms and Potential Functions of Narrative in Restoration Plays


Central contextual intersections of drama and narrative (i.e., the ‘narrative contexts’ of plays) –

Transgeneric authors, consciously exploiting inferences between the genres in poetics (e.g., Dryden’s critical essay with high dramatic quality) and plays (plays with heightened degrees of narrativity) Playwrights who partook in developing a new narrative genre, the novel, which, in turn and at the same time, informed their dramatic writing (and vice versa; e.g., Behn, Fielding) and who fostered parallel, transgeneric developments (authorial voice and perspective = transgeneric rather than defining for novels) Authors working in inter-generic contexts (Gay as member of Scriblerus Club, which produced generically indistinct art), dedicated to genre experimentation and transgression of genre boundaries (both in narrative and dramatic art); collaborations with musicians (e.g., Handel)

Prevailing kinds of intra-textual intersections of drama and narrative Dominant semantic dimensions of narrative Dominant forms of narrative on story level

Narrative sensu acts of storytelling, diegesis, frame stories, embedded stories, epic style, generative narrating instances, heroic style, storytellers, and/or plot –

– – Dominant intersections of dramatic and narrative modes on discourse level (récit)

– – –

– – – – – –

Dominant narrative modes and features of narration (‘narration as an abstraction’) placed and qualified within the communication model of

isochronous existence of conflicting possibilities; containment of these latent possibilities and actual facts in the form of different stories, stories of difference, latent stories, and possible stories (and outcomes); analogies and differences highlighted in the presentation of parallel stories characters as storytellers, well-meaning liars, tellers of truths and half-truths performed acts of storytelling inter-textual dialogue with early modern playwrights epic construal of play; one of two plotlines informed by epic/heroic narratives (put in dialogue with each other) combination and containment of oppositional stylistic modes, narrative, dramatic, and theatrical ones (on DNL 1); in various proportions balancing of genre difference accumulations and juxtapositions of narratives (sensu plots) presentation narrative double binds (in potential plot outcomes) narrative double and/or triple entendre (brings about dramatic irony) frame story clad in dialogue authorial voice in songs embedded on DNL 1 and DNL 2 diegetic storytellers on DNL 1 in combination with dramatic modes and theatrical qualities (both of the latter are accumulated and exaggerated) ‘authorial voice’ through songs (on DNL 2) and (female) ‘perspective’ (on DNL 3), which frame events on DNL 1

Fig. 15: Dominant forms and potential functions of narrative in Restoration and earlyeighteenth-century plays.


5 The Containment of Narratives of Difference in Drama

dramatic narration Cultural dynamics and performative power of the above-mentioned dominant forms

Fig. 15 (continued)

transgeneric editorial fictions (Herausgeberfiktionen) on DNL 4

Heightened degree of narrativity and its forms engender self-reference and self-definition (genre system): – play as epitome and history of younger theatre history; as archive of former modes of theatrical entertainment; and as ‘philosophy of a new drama à la mode’; argument for decidedly ‘national drama’ – play as answer to change in system of genres: development of transgeneric modes for both novel and drama – conscious negation of fulfilling expectations of dramatic form; genre experiment and renewal – generic self- and meta-reference and hetero-reference as well as political engagement (culture): – ‘philosophy of state;’ dramatic contribution to nationbuilding after 1660; advertising sincerity and fidelity as bases for successful marriage and government – assessing female life options in the Restoration period; criticism of prevailing patriarchal Restoration ideologies – opposition to contemporary circumstances: criticism of spreading social selfishness in certain classes, corruption in professional and personal life, and capitalism – criticism of theatrical practise, of the commodification of the London theatre, and of contemporary audiences’ taste

6 From Stage to Page, from the Publicly Politic to the Metaphysically Private: Late Eighteenth-Century and Romantic Drama as a Genre in Transformation, Dramatising Diegetic Storytelling and Narrativising (Revolutionary) Change in Society and Conflict in Selves If drama after 1660 is characterised by the containment of different narratives and of narratives of difference that reinvigorate and redefine a genre largely put to sleep by historical and political constraints, the different kinds of drama that were developed from the mid-eighteenth century onwards in the spirit of the Enlightenment and, afterwards, Romanticism are characterised by a thematic and structural narrativisation of drama. This narrativisation of drama is, from a literary historical point of view, one that transforms the genre in avantgardist and innovative ways. At the same time, this narrativisation has often made it difficult for criticism to describe and classify new dramatic genres. In cultural historical terms, the narrative innovations in drama offered pathbreaking generic affordances: drama further developed as an instrument to help consolidate the newly founded nation, rebel against systems of perceived discrimination (against, for instance, Creoles or women), and express Romantic individuals’ melancholy disorientation in a post-revolutionary society. Notable in all of the plays considered in this chapter is the fact that they, in spite of their literary historical popularity, have been largely ostracised by literary criticism – to the extent that they have been marginalised in the canon and, if one looks at Joanna Baillie, even excluded from it. The literary quality of sentimental dramas like Richard Cumberland’s The West Indian (1771) and Romantic closet plays like Joanna Baillie’s collection Plays on the Passions (1798–1812) was – not until too long ago – questioned, if not denied.1 And the plays written by the ‘great Romantic poets,’ such as George Gordon Byron’s Manfred (1817), have been arguably relegated to the margins of the canon in favour of an in-

1 Critics like Ian Donaldson (1971, 161) stated regarding the eighteenth century that “[t]he age is one which may well seem remarkable less for the distinction of its dramatic writing than for the oddity of its dramatic taste”, while Joanna Baillie’s plays have been directly attacked as ‘undramatic,’ ‘boring,’ or even “embarrassingly simple” (Watkins 1993, 39). With my analyses of generic transgressions at the nexus of drama and narrative, I hope to make a contribution to the confutation of these theses and attacks. https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110724110-006


6 From Stage to Page, from the Publicly Politic to the Metaphysically Private

depth consideration of Romantic poetry, or because the plays by literary giants were regarded as ‘antitheatrical.’2 The critical disregard for those plays, however, belies their literary and cultural merits. Luckily for the ensuing ages, two insights have gained traction: firstly, that even a less-than-artistically-perfect drama is worthy of study. After all, it may reveal unspoken norms, hegemonic values, and dominant patterns of thought and feeling among the people of the era, as well as their primary concerns (cf. A. Nünning 1998, 110). Secondly, it has dawned on literary criticism that its own rigid (and outdated) categories may have prevented it from assessing the literary and generic value of a heterogeneous and multi-modal late-eighteenth-century and early-nineteenth-century drama as justly as it deserves – without any generic or critical bias. In this line of reasoning, it is arguably not drama which fails to live up to the standards of literary criticism. Rather, it is criticism that fails to bring a highly narrative drama as well as “the verse drama of the Romantic poets [and, one might add, the ‘drama of the culture of sensibility’] comfortably within the standard categories of literary history” (A. Richardson 2006, 133). With this chapter, I want to leave this comfort zone of literary history and assess a drama that evades the standard categories of drama theory. Lateeighteenth and early-nineteenth-century plays are highly unconventional in that many of them seem to abandon prototypically dramatic and theatrical elements. Instead, they feature heightened degrees of narrativity. In contrast to previous literary criticism, I would like to help reframe these ‘narrativised plays.’ Having been, so far, primarily regarded as failed attempts at being genuinely dramatic or theatrical, late-eighteenth- and early-nineteenth-century plays with a heightened degree of narrativity must be, as recent research suggests, reframed as “innovative and iconoclastic poetic forms” (A. Richardson 2006, 133). They revolutionise their genre, if not the generic system at large. With Richard Cumberland’s The West Indian (1771, cf. Sect. 6.1), Joanna Baillie’s Orra (1812, cf. Sect. 6.2), and George Gordon Byron’s Manfred (1817, cf. Sect. 6.3), I would like to prove my thesis. Having chosen one play that is influenced by Enlightenment culture (the former) and two dramas that are different realisations Romantic poetic thought (the latter two), I enquire into the manifold ways in which narrative informs drama within the period. I explore the ‘unusual’ forms these dramas

2 Cf., e.g., Marjean Purinton’s sketch of Romantic drama’s critical history (1994, 17–18). With my focus on the intersection between drama and narrative, I, like Purinton, aim at exposing how erroneous this belief is.

6.1 Educating the Nation, Domesticating the Colony


take and give them the space within genre theory they deserve. I examine the (narrative) topics these dramas foreground and the structures they display to find out which insights they offer to literary history regarding collective values and norms. In the spirit of leading narratologists who are, without doubt, right when they say that drama does not just mirror extra-textual realities but, rather constitutes its own realities (thereby responding to economic, social, and cultural problems; cf. A. Nünning 1998, 111), I ask to what extent these three plays try to mould and change their era’s values, norms, and realities.

6.1 Educating the Nation, Domesticating the Colony, and Moralising (Old and New) Money: The Dramatisation of Diegetic Storytelling and of Elocutionary Didactics in Richard Cumberland’s Sentimental Comedy The West Indian When interested in the intersection of dramatic and narrative modes in lateeighteenth-century drama, one cannot but investigate the ‘sentimental comedy,’ whose narrative qualities and moralising, speech-like character have often been highlighted (cf., e.g., A. Nünning 1998, 144; V. Nünning and BauderBegerow 2011, 147). Wherein exactly the sentimental comedy’s narrativity lies, which forms it takes besides its moralistic monologising, and how this narrativity is dramatically instrumentalised have arguably yet to be sufficiently answered. These matters thus form the subject of the present section, in which I focus on a play very popular in its time:3 Richard Cumberland’s The West Indian (1771). Although first staged after the peak of the genre’s popularity, it is said to

3 The West Indian’s status in the canon is, however, disputed. In Germany, it has become a classic: it is even included in the 2009 edition of Kindlers Neues Literaturlexikon (cf. Schäffner 2009). In Great Britain, there have not been any recent (annotated) editions, while fellow sentimentalists’ comedies, like Oliver Goldsmith’s, have been re-edited in and for up-to-date research (cf. Goldsmith 2015 [1773]). In Britain and even across the Atlantic, there are neither any leading anthologies, e.g., the Norton Anthology of English Literature (cf. Noggle and Lipking 2012) or the Broadview Anthology of Restoration and Early Eighteenth-Century Drama (cf. Canfield and Sneidern 2004 [2001]), nor any pertinent literary histories, e.g., English Literature in Context (cf. Poplawski 2014a), which mention the play (and sometimes not even its author); they rather canonise the plays of Richard Steele, Oliver Goldsmith, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, and/or Hannah Cowley, and thus, unfairly, rate Cumberland and his sentimental comedy as less relevant.


6 From Stage to Page, from the Publicly Politic to the Metaphysically Private

be a paradigmatic example and late highlight of the sentimental comedy,4 a genre shaped by earlier dramatists, especially Richard Steele and his play The Conscious Lovers (1722; cf., e.g., V. Nünning and Bauder-Begerow 2011, 143). The West Indian, however, arrived – even more than Steele’s play – at a time heavily infused with the spirit of sensibility, a spirit that, from the 1740s onwards, first preoccupied the minds of the middling ranks and, later, in the early-nineteenth century, served as a ubiquitous means of self-fashioning of both the other classes and the ‘English’ in general.5 Notwithstanding the play’s success among late-eighteenth-century audiences (cf., e.g., Zach 1976, 133; Richards 1998, 277–278), The West Indian’s literary merits have been judged critically. This has arguably caused not only a disregard for its remarkable dramatic storytelling – which features, as will be seen, narrative in various forms – but also an indifference among literary historians to its cultural importance as a dramatic piece, well-liked and widely received until the early-nineteenth century,6 and one which is notable for partaking in the discourses of sensibility at its height and for revealing as well as shaping, not least due to its exploitation of narrative modes, many of its concerns.7 To fill the lacunae just mentioned, this section analyses the forms of narrative within the play and gauges their potential intra- as well as extra-textual, i.e., cultural functions, which arguably become most manifest in the areas of ‘education,’ ‘nation-building,’ ‘colonialism,’ and ‘economic ethics.’ Before coming to

4 Cf., e.g., Raimund Schäffner (2009) or Simone Roggendorf (2003, 140), both of whom maintain the significance of The West Indian for the genre. Cf. also Robert Dietsch, who puts it less favourably when he, reiterating the collected opinions of literary history, refers to The West Indian as “‘the culmination’ of the ‘sentimental epoch’” or “the extreme example of English sentimental comedy” (1970, 291). 5 Cf., for instance, Vera Nünning’s portrayal of the spreading culture of sensibility (cf. 2005, 83) or Peter J. Kitson’s brief sketch of this very culture (2014, 329), both of which historicise it as a late-eighteenth-century phenomenon. 6 The comedy also happened to be regarded favourably abroad. In Germany, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe himself played the eponymous West Indian on the Weimar stage in 1772 in Johann Joachim Christoph’s translation of the play (cf. Zach 1976, 133), and in 1815, August von Kotzebue still thought it worthwhile to adapt the play for his contemporary German audiences (cf. Tautz 2010, esp. 107–110). In addition, there is evidence of numerous stagings and adaptations of Cumberland’s play in the USA and even the colonies, i.e., Jamaica (cf. Richards 1998, 278). 7 Even as the popularity of the sentimental comedy was already decreasing in the second half of the eighteenth century, the culture of sensibility was becoming ever more fashionable. Accordingly, for the purposes of this study, Cumberland’s play has been favoured over Steele’s work. Certainly, sensibility’s values, norms, and mind-sets can be traced best when approached with the help of a sentimental play that is as narrative as its predecessors, but, in contrast to them, was written and received at this culture’s peak.

6.1 Educating the Nation, Domesticating the Colony


this, I trace how Cumberland as a dramatist and his oeuvre can be said to share concerns that are dealt with in works traditionally held to be narrative. These concerns are transgeneric and genre-independent, and therefore constitute a peculiar late-eighteenth-century cultural intersection.

The West Indian in Its Narrative Contexts Like all of the playwrights introduced before (cf. Ch. 4 and Ch. 5), Richard Cumberland did not exist in a culture solely informed by plays and dramatic modes and conventions. In his environment, too, the dramatic and the narrative met in various literary and everyday contexts, and his own drama emerged from these intersections. This is the case in at least three ways: firstly, Cumberland’s oeuvre moved between genre boundaries and transcended them. Even if his plays outnumber his (three) novels, the two genres arguably infused each other. In addition, Cumberland went beyond traditional genre- and mediaboundaries with some of his dramatic works (cf. Roggendorf 2003, 140). One of The Brothers’ predominant traits is, for instance, its blurring of genre boundaries (cf. Roggendorf 2003, 140), while The Summer’s Tale (cf. Cumberland 1771 [1765]) shows the playwright working intermedially – after all, it is a libretto that was to be turned into a musical drama.8 Secondly, Cumberland was also familiar with non-dramatic literary works, especially with the new, fashionable genre of the novel; and he engaged in a heated discussion on generic poetics with other contemporary writers. His plays’ inter-textual references to popular novels of the age, such as Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy, bear witness to his interest in narrative (cf., e.g., Cumberland 1771, 14), and some of his dramatic production was even inspired by the plots of contemporary novels. His play The Brothers (1769), for instance, bears a strong resemblance to Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones ([1749] 1992; cf. The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica 2007). Moreover, he partook in a lively debate on the poetics of contemporary genres with some of the most successful writers of his time, like dramatist Richard Brinsley Sheridan and novelist Oliver Goldsmith. The discussion reveals dissent about the writers’ respective implementation of the aesthetics of sentimentalism in drama, especially comedy:9 in their opinion, Cumberland’s plays did not

8 Johann Christian Bach, the youngest son of Johann Sebastian, is, incidentally, likely to have composed some of its music (cf. F. H. Ellis 1991, 89). 9 As it is put in the Encyclopædia Britannica (The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica 2007), “Cumberland [. . .] quarreled with many famous contemporaries, notably Sheridan and Oliver


6 From Stage to Page, from the Publicly Politic to the Metaphysically Private

stylistically distance himself as much from the sentimental novel as these writers deemed they should. Goldsmith unfavourably frames Cumberland as a humourless, idealising, downright pathetic harmony-addict, as “[t]he Terence of England,[10] the mender of hearts; | A flattering painter who made it his care | To draw men as they ought to be, not as they are.” (quoted in in Zach 1976, 144) Thirdly, and most importantly, although some of his colleagues disliked his commitment to sentimentality, Richard Cumberland was committed to the literary and artistic processing and construction of the culture of sensibility. A product of both fictional and non-fictional discourses, sensibility was a category and historical mentality formed across disciplines and genres. With her comprehensive analyses of eighteenth-century educational literature, political speeches and pamphlets, as well as historiographical works, Vera Nünning shows that sensibility is not only an aesthetic category, but also a philosophical, political, and even scientific issue (cf. V. Nünning 1994a, esp. 216–218). Sensibility was constituted both between different sectors (as well as institutions) and across genres. It is arguably transgeneric, not only because it was conceptualised in the numerous non-fictional genres examined by Nünning, but also because it was developed in variegated fictional genres, which responded to the culture of sensibility and partook in its further establishment and popularisation. What Ildiko Csengei states in regard to the novel also holds true for eighteenth-century drama: Scholars have often emphasised the involvement of the discourses on sensibility and sentimental philanthropy with the realm of the political. [. . .] [T]he sentimental novel was a means of moulding the emotions of the reader, as well as addressing urgent political issues of the time, such as social injustice and slavery. (Csengei 2012, 29)

As Cumberland’s play shows, drama, too, substantially contributed to forming “the emotions of the reader”, while at the same time “addressing urgent political issues of the time” (Csengei 2012, 29). To sum up, and most interestingly for a study concerned with the nexus between drama and narrative, the culture of sensibility is in fictional discourses, too, a transgeneric phenomenon. In it, the concerns of the novel and those of the Goldsmith, both of whom were opposed to sentimentalism in drama.” This ‘quarrel,’ however, was not just restricted to these figures. As Lisa Freeman (2007) shows, the second half of the eighteenth century, in general, saw a larger, often heated critical debate that she describes as “fierce battles over the relative merits of laughing comedy [. . .] as opposed to sentimental comedy” (Freeman 2007, 73). 10 Terence was reportedly criticised by Gaius Julius Caesar for his lack of vis comica, i.e., the talent for comic writing (Goldsmith 2013 [1773], 580).

6.1 Educating the Nation, Domesticating the Colony


drama as well as their aesthetics meet. Despite the argument that “the drama had proved to be the genre most sensitive to the changes in the mental climate, [while] the novel turned out to be better equipped to ‘teach’ the values of sensibility” (V. Nünning and Bauder-Begerow 2011, 155), a drama like Cumberland’s must be regarded as a fictional work that, together with the novel and employing similar aesthetics, had its undeniable share in the “popularisation of culture of sentiment” (V. Nünning 1995, 20–21) and the ‘education of the nation.’

The West Indian’s Text-Internal Narrativity Studies in the sentimental comedy have often stated that those plays’ dramatic action has been significantly reduced in favour of an increased degree of narrativity and explicit moralising, especially in comparison to the fast-paced, action- and plot-driven Restoration comedy of manners (cf., e.g., Brown 1981, esp. 145–184; A. Nünning 1998; V. Nünning and Bauder-Begerow 2011). This perceived narrativity is so dominant that the Encyclopædia Britannica even defines the ‘sentimental comedy,’ in the subtitle of its entry on the subject, not as a dramatic but a “narrative genre” (Encyclopædia Britannica 1998b). While the aforementioned studies in the sentimental comedy understand a variety of stylistic devices as narrative,11 the encyclopaedia entry, although attributing a ‘narrative’ status to the genre, fails to define what exactly is ‘narrative’ about sentimental drama in the first place. Against the backdrop of the surveys that offer praiseworthy but heterogeneous insights into the narrativity of sentimental comedy and those that omit the striking but ephemeral characteristic of the genre, this analysis, with its new theory of dramatic narration, seeks to reconsider the genre’s narrativity to describe and define its various forms as specifically and comprehensively as possible. By way of a case study in Richard Cumberland’s The West Indian, the present section intends to consolidate and build upon the varying aspects on whose basis previous studies have framed the sentimental comedy as narrative. In addition and in contrast to literary historians who state that The West Indian’s foregrounded narrativity is thematically “relatively unimportant”

11 Among them are references to the genre’s ‘choric self-portrayals,’ its instances of ‘preaching’ (cf. A. Nünning 1998, 121), its ‘dominance of diegetic transmission’ (A. Nünning 1998, 144), “integration of many moral speeches” (V. Nünning and Bauder-Begerow 2011, 147), its “overt moralizing” (F. H. Ellis 1991, 20–21), and its “unbearable elocution exercises in selfreproach” (Dietsch 1970, 294).


6 From Stage to Page, from the Publicly Politic to the Metaphysically Private

(F. H. Ellis 1991, 96),12 I argue that the manifold forms of narrative within this particular, paradigmatic sentimental comedy are both thematically and culturally significant in at least three ways. They serve to educate the nation in polite, sentimentally refined manners, domesticate prevalent ideas of colonial alterity, and partake in establishing an ethical code for the new economic realities that had emerged in the early-eighteenth century and that had already been critically dealt with in earlier comedies (cf. Sect. 5.3). Examining the intersection between narrative and drama in The West Indian, one quickly realises that its narrative quality is primarily established by its diverse and salient ways of diegesis, i.e., ‘verbal transmission’ (cf. the ‘semantic dimensions of narrative,’ Sect. 3.2). In contrast to mimetic storytelling, which has traditionally been held to be the default case of dramatic and theatrical narration and which “foregrounds ‘the story frame’ [of a play] rather than ‘the telling frame’” (A. Nünning and Sommer 2008, 339), The West Indian, in addition to its dramatic modes, features a host of diegetic ones. These modes, in their quantity and quality, highlight throughout the whole play “the act of narration [or, in The West Indian’s case, more to the point, ‘the act of speaking’] rather than the narrated storyworld” (A. Nünning and Sommer 2008, 339). In the following, I pursue the question of the salience of diegetic narration in Cumberland’s play – a play which is introductorily even framed as a ‘tale’ told by the characters themselves: “[B]ut may we not prevail | To let the gentry tell their own plain tale?” (Cumberland 1771, Prologue). This introduction indicates that narrative will be prevalent in the sense of diegesis in The West Indian. At the same time and in contrast to the most prominent definition of ‘diegetic narration,’ which emphasises the importance of both a narrator and his or her story (cf., e.g., A. Nünning and Sommer 2008, 339), there are few ‘genuine’ stories13 told in The West Indian, i.e., stories that are comparable to, for example, the memories and past histories of Henry IV (cf. Sect. 4.1) or the fables and parables of Flamineo (cf. Sect. 4.2). Cumberland’s speakers are neither akin to storytellers such as Gower (cf. Sect. 4.3) or Amalthea (cf. Sect. 5.1), nor are their acts of storytelling marked in any noticeably theatrical or atmospherically flamboyant manner, in contrast to the Beggar’s extra-diegetic, generative way of presenting a story (cf. Sect. 5.3) or Hermo-genes’ intra-diegetic storytelling (cf. Sect. 5.1). Rather, in The West Indian, the importance of narration sensu ‘verbal transmission by a

12 To be fair, I have to differentiate: Considering acts of excessive verbal self-characterisation, which, measured against the present study’s theory, have to be framed as aspects of sentimental comedy’s narrativity, Frank Ellis does acknowledge that these acts may still have their use “to show how the play is constructed” (1991, 96). 13 ‘Story’ is here applied in its minimal definition as a ‘series of events.’

6.1 Educating the Nation, Domesticating the Colony


speaker,’ hinges, firstly, on the appraisal of verbal speech, secondly, on the celebration of elocution, and, thirdly, on a kind of de-dramatisation in favour of increasing monologisation. That the act of speaking is highlighted by way of the play’s récit, and thus given significance on DNL 1, can be seen when one looks at a certain category of verbs. These verbs establish a relationship of contrasts that judges acts of speaking as better than acts of doing. Throughout his entire play, Cumberland accumulates performative verbs within the story world, on DNL 1: “‘twill be a [. . .] relief to unbosom myself to you” (1), “I tell you”, “I have told you” (2),14 “[the] fellow says”, “I have [. . .] conversed” (5), “[we] enter on a course of lectures directly” (7), “I’m told” (8), “tell me”, “I conjure you” (12), “I must beg” (26), or “[you] preach and you pray” (30). This random selection from the first two acts shows that Cumberland foregrounds acts of narration: He linguistically draws attention to them. The abundance of performative verbs, which explicitly convey the kind of speech act that is made upon their application, also testifies to the importance of diegetic transmission regarding both the play’s structure (i.e., its dramatic narration sensu récit) and its content. The comedy’s characters not only talk a lot in the play, but also recurrently thematise the topic of ‘speaking’ itself by repeatedly emphasise that they are talking. Both the repetition and thematisation endow the verbal speech act (be it the relatively understated ‘telling’ or a more emphatic ‘conjuring’) with significance. Atypically for a drama, the speech act is arguably framed as so important that speaking is, in a presumed catalogue of virtues on the story level (DNL 1), rated higher than acting. People’s speech is valued over their deeds within The West Indian’s story world. Not just the performative verbs attest to it, but also the eponymous hero of the play, the ‘West Indian.’ Belcour, a young man of English descent, was born and raised in the colonies and, in consequence, is othered by the Englishmen in the mother country, one of whom calls him a “Creolian” (4).15 Upon his

14 Within this section, all not otherwise marked page numbers in brackets refer to Cumberland (1771). 15 While readers today are likely to wonder why someone of English ancestry should be, even if he has lived abroad, distinguished in terms of race, i.e., defined as ‘West Indian’ by other Englishmen, Jennifer Donahue, historicising the concepts of ‘race’ and ‘creole,’ explains that, in eighteenth-century discourses, ‘West Indian creoles’ were othered in that they were regarded as “‘white’ but not ‘European’ person[s]” (2011, 41). Since the seventeenth century, these creoles had come to be regarded with anxiety as they ‘destabilised’ concepts like the ‘British character’ – especially upon their return from the colonies (cf. Donahue 2011, 44). Belcour, even though of English ancestry, seems to have been, accordingly, regarded as radically different from the ‘English in England.’ His popularity as character is thus part of a general popularity of “black characters, topic or settings” on London stages between the 1770s and 1830s (J. A. Carlson 2007, 175).


6 From Stage to Page, from the Publicly Politic to the Metaphysically Private

first visit to England, he is not only challenged by his father, whom he does not know and who seeks to “discover much more of his [Belcour’s] real character under the title of his merchant, than [. . .] under that of his father” (3), but also by London life and manners, to which he is unaccustomed. In consequence, he behaves, despite his reportedly “favourable [. . .] character” (5), awkwardly inept, or, as one Englishman puts it, “outlandish” (5). Arriving at London, the principally good-willed and good-natured young man unintentionally starts a row among the dock people (cf. 6). He puts his trust into the wrong people (booksellers and hostel owners turned panderers, the Fulmers; cf. 13–14, 65–67), falls in love at first sight and approaches his chosen lady, the innocent and worthy Louisa Dudley, inappropriately (cf. 16–17, 50–52), and nearly engages in a duel, rashly and ‘impetuously’ decided upon (cf. 68). All of these deeds are negatively evaluated – by the erring hero himself and by characters depicted as especially virtuous, like Belcour’s father, Stockwell, and Louisa’s brother, Charles. They call Belcour’s actions “rough” (6), “offending” (50), “mean”, “unmanly wrong” (52), and “licentious” (62).16 Moreover, the extra-diegetic voice, in the Prologue, frames Belcour’s actions as too rash and heated, too like the “soil, the clime, which gave him birth” (Prologue). While the hero’s deeds are not approved by his family and friends-to-be, his considerate speeches and explanations are met with favour. In his speeches, the eponymous hero shows that he is aware and sorry of his faults – “‘twas all my own fault” (6) –, which pleases his interlocutors (cf., e.g., Stockwell’s ‘aside,’ in which he expresses his content (6)). The significance of insightful speech (in contrast to rash, unreflected, and unrefined action) is not just displayed by Belcour’s voiced insights. It is also made explicit by others: Louisa, for instance, emphasises the importance of “explanations” (68) to avoid dangerous and out-dated, objectionable situations, in this case, duelling. And her father, the worthy Captain Dudley, trusts that “all things will be set to rights in very few words when we have the pleasure of seeing Mr. Belcour” (68) It can be concluded that, within the system of values thus advertised on the intra-diegetic level, wrongdoings can be excused and possibly undone by appropriate words and excuses.17 The play even implies that

16 Belcour is thus a stock character of eighteenth-century literature, which presents alien people as hopefully inept and inferior to the English. As Birgit Neumann (2009) shows, this is part of a national rhetoric that serves to shape public opinion. 17 In Belcour’s case, the collected reasons that explain his deeds and free him from guilt, incidentally, concern his character. His naivety and rashness, which trigger his actions, are explained by his status as innocent, inexperienced, and uneducated “Creolian” (4), i.e., the colonial ‘other,’ who is unfamiliar with the ways of London, “this intriguing town” (cf. 62) and

6.1 Educating the Nation, Domesticating the Colony


socially disagreeable behaviour can be avoided through verbally transmitted narratives. The imminent duel is averted because Charles and the offender, Belcour, talk to each other.18 In addition, the hero enrols in a “course of lectures” (7) held by Stockwell, which are intended to educate him. And his future wife, Louisa, is asked to civilise and cultivate him by relating to him, in the future, memories of the night in which his previous wrong-doings were explained and, thus, forgiven once and for all (cf. 77). The West Indian arguably partakes in a larger mission to educate the nation.19 On its story level, the act of speaking becomes the basis of becoming socially acceptable, behaving appropriately, and, with regard to the Jamaican-born and raised protagonist, even becoming ‘properly English.’ The middling ranks, from whom this mission sprang and for whom it was intended, distinguished themselves from the higher and lower classes (cf. also V. Nünning 1995, 24) as well as from the ‘colonial other,’ here the ‘Creole.’ And what holds true for the middle classes in particular also holds true for the English nation as a whole. As Francesca Saggini (Saggini 2003, 3–4) remarks in her examination of The West Indian and other plays,

by the then valid humoral and climate theories (cf. also Donahue 2011, 44). These make him, in line with Greek drama’s concept of ‘harmatia’ (cf. also (Zach 1976, 139), innocently and through no fault of his own, err: “passions are [. . .] [Belcour’s] masters” (7). Not he himself, but his “curst tropical constitution” (60) and the sun “that was vertical at [. . .] [his] birth, and [. . .] swaddled [. . .] [him] in the broadest, hottest glare” (33) is to blame for his faults. 18 The aristocratic category of ‘honour’ is, in the open discussion between the opponents, revealed as outdated. It is replaced by the category of ‘honesty.’ As Stockwell remarks, “I blush to think such wretches [i.e., the Fulmers] should have the power to set two honest men [Belcour and Charles] at variance” (66–67; emphasis mine). The avoided duel is an indication of a larger cultural process that Vera Nünning (1995, 21) explains: “By replacing upper class values such as honour [which a duel would restore] with the allegedly middle class attribute of honesty, they [the middling ranks] developed a favourable image of themselves which made it possible for them to insist on their own moral worth and social status.” 19 Vera Nünning (1994a, 214) makes clear that, during the eighteenth century, “the propagation of sensibility and a changed concept of humanity modified the way Englishmen looked upon themselves.” At the beginning of the eighteenth century, acts of violence were still very much part of private and public everyday life (e.g., in the form of husbands hitting their wives, animals being tortured, the indifference towards public executions and exhibition of bowels; cf. V. Nünning 1994a, 214–215). During the eighteenth century, however, a change in mentality incited a shift away from these atrocious practices; striving for ‘humanity’ came into fashion, which was propagated and popularised by way of comprehensive educational efforts (also in non-fictional discourses with, e.g. conduct books and histories; cf. V. Nünning 1994a, 217, 223, 1994b, 41–42).


6 From Stage to Page, from the Publicly Politic to the Metaphysically Private

the difficulties of cultural appropriation and incorporation of the Other are complicated by the contemporary attempts at enlisting the various regional identities of the peoples in George III’s reign under the service of the fast growing empire – seen as a unifying force towards national homogeneity – an embryonic political entity for which ‘a strong sense of dissimilarity from those without proved to be the essential cement’.

Through proper acts of speaking, individuals who are part or are to become part of the “embryonic political entity” are taught to act in morally and socially acceptable ways. With the story of the reformed Belcour and The West Indian’s appraisal of speech, English people, firstly, learn to abandon aristocratic practices that have become obsolete (and potentially threatening to the middle class): e.g., duelling, or the seduction of young, unmarried women. They, secondly, learn to differentiate themselves from the lower classes – who are poor and therefore, allegedly, prone to lying and deceiving – and to speak and act contrarily, with honesty and refinement.20 Thirdly, they learn to lose their fear of a colony that might ‘strike back’ by behaving irrationally and incalculably on English soil. The educated ones, like Stockwell and Captain Dudley, and the morally good, like the affable Major O’Flaherty, have the ‘weapon of speech.’ Correctly applied, this weapon can combat uncivilised behaviour. The inexperienced and unrefined nouveau riche can be cultivated, and the creole, the ‘noble’ savage, like Belcour, can be tamed. In consequence, the power of speech can integrate potentially threatening others into the newly forming and every increasing middling ranks. To conclude, with Cumberland’s appraisal of speech by means of performative verbs and the contrasting of the more highly rated speech to the more lowly rated deed (at least the uncultured deed, the one that precedes the instructive speech), The West Indian, as play and as character, instructs the English middle class to act as socially acceptable and accepted peers. Above these narrative techniques, Cumberland also employs diegetic storytelling in the form of multiple exercises in elocution. He incorporates a wide array of traditionally oral genres (such as philosophical or academic lectures, sermons, and even prayers) and has them voiced by the individual characters on DNL 1. With the concrete examples and ideal realisations of different oral genres in his monologues, the dramatist highlights not only the importance of the speech act itself, but also the necessity of being ‘fluent’ in different genres

20 This seems to be part of a common effort of the middle class, which crystallised in a “tendency to look down on the so-called ‘lower sort’” (V. Nünning 1995, 24). In the process, the act of ‘speaking’ seems to have also played an important role, even if the effect of ‘education’ had little or no influence: “to set themselves apart from them, the middling ranks took up the habit of verbally abusing the lower orders.” (V. Nünning 1995, 24–25).

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of speech so that language can be used ‘properly’ – an idea popularised with the Enlightenment.21 The wide-spread eighteenth-century (patriotic) interest in defining and teaching polite, sensible delivery and in elocutionist, oratory standards, especially in style and tone, are exemplified in some of The West Indian’s monologues. With these, Cumberland provides a variety of examples of the ‘ideal speech,’ the ‘ideal rhetoric,’ in short, the ‘art of speaking.’22 In a dialogue with his servant Stukely, Stockwell explains why he has never revealed himself as Belcour’s father. In a longer speech (3), which in earlier and later plays would arguably have been seen as unfit for dialogue, he lists the reasons in a formal, rather stylised manner, introducing each reason with enumerative adverbs – “[p]rincipally”, “in part”, “lastly” (3). In its analytical style and careful construction, his speech resembles less an impromptu, informal utterance than a formal argument or an academic lecture. Displaying prior thorough and honest deliberation, it is a speech quite in tune with the times, in which ‘candid reflection’ was favoured over impulse and ‘first emotion.’23 This kind of ‘candid reflection’ is also advertised with other characters, for instance, Major O’Flaherty.24 Even the Irishman, who is otherwise subjected to ridicule and exposed as simpleminded when he, for instance, proudly relates that he has been married five times and now hopes to marry Lady Rusport (who has no interest in him and is, economically and socially, quite above his station, 24), is ennobled by his speeches. Even if less refined than Stockwell’s, O’Flaherty’s deliberations sometimes still follow a similar formal composition (O’Flaherty, too, introduces his reasons with “firstly”, “secondly”, “and thirdly”, 24) and argumentative logic. With his speech, the Irishman is raised – just like Belcour – above his faults and his previous, philandering deeds. He is shown to have a “heart of gold” (Bevis 2014 [1988], 225) and to be an example of moral superiority.

21 Authors, like Henry Fielding in his “An Essay on Conversation” (1743), discuss the ‘adequate’ manner of speaking and conversing with the primary aim of ‘pleasing’ others (cf. V. Nünning 1994a, 223–224). Actor and elocutionist Thomas Sheridan, father of Richard Brinsley Sheridan, in his highly successful British Education (1756), argues that “an improvement in standards of oratory – including a reform of the manner in which public bodies should perform – would significantly contribute to the strength and stability of the nation” (, 91). 22 Already in the subtitle of Thomas Sheridan’s British Education “a revival of the art of speaking” is promoted (cf. Goring 2009, 92). 23 Cf. one of Catherine Macaulay’s works in which the historiographer, albeit in another context (she is discussing kinds of contemporary death penalty), ranks ‘candid reflection’ over the ‘first emotion’ (cf. V. Nünning 1994a, 229). 24 Other instances of the careful deliberation and argumentative explication of reasons can be found in others of Stockwell’s (e.g., 63–64) and Belcour’s (e.g., 70) speeches.


6 From Stage to Page, from the Publicly Politic to the Metaphysically Private

To further narrativise his drama, Cumberland integrates formalised speeches in the shape of prayers and sermons. In a dialogue with Charlotte Rusport, for instance, in which the young, aristocratic Lady forgives Belcour one of his unreflected deeds, the hero, all of a sudden, continues the dialogue or, rather, starts a monologue with a prayer: [M]ay every blessing that can crown your virtues [. . .] be showered upon you; may you meet admiration without envy, love without jealousy and old age without malady; may the man of your heart be ever constant, and you never meet a less penitent, or less grateful offender, than myself! (43)

In this rhetoric manoeuvre, Belcour uses the conventionalised form of a blessing, a particular form of a prayer in which one asks God to look kindly upon the people addressed, in an appraisal and estimation of Charlotte’s absolution. By means of a repeated application of the modal verb ‘may’ in subsequent sentences of a similar – sometimes even parallel – structure, the hero shows himself to be excessively grateful. He is accumulating good-willed wishes towards a ‘charmed’ Charlotte (cf. 43). In addition, he is presented as a model interlocutor and exemplary representative of sentimental values. His wishes characterise him as ‘benevolent’ towards Charlotte, as someone who understands Fielding’s maxim that one should always be an agreeable, pleasant converser, and as someone who is well-versed in the very standards of oratory that Sheridan promotes. Belcour is proficient in correctly and charismatically applying one of the most important Christian speech genres – one that encapsulates and enacts like no other liturgical speech form – benevolence, maybe ‘the’ utmost achievement of humanity, according to Enlightenment philosophers like Adam Smith (cf. V. Nünning 1994a, 220–222). In fact, giving expression to a model blessing, the protagonist is not only characterised as pre-eminently worthy and tender, deserving of forgiveness because of his ‘well-bred manners’ and his ‘civilised’ speech acts.25 Belcour also becomes the instrument for an implicitly didactic exercise that makes the right kind of speech “immediately accessible” (Brown 198, 145) for imitation to the audience, whom the playwright wishes to instruct. To further highlight ‘narrativity’ in his play, Cumberland adds exemplary speeches that recall smaller (public) sermons and the odd sententia,26 which, like a sermon, thematises a religious or moral subject. These religious, moralising

25 These qualities are, according to the value catalogue of sensibility, also to be striven for (cf., e.g., V. Nünning 1995, 20). 26 Ansgar Nünning even contends that the sententia in sentimental comedies, even if put forth by characters, can in principle be regarded as an implicit comment by an assumed omniscient narrator (cf. 1998, 115).

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speeches are interspersed, on DNL 1, within otherwise private and informal meetings. Charles Dudley, for instance, muses like a preacher on a pulpit on the topic of ‘moderation:’ “but have a care there is a selfishness even in gratitude, when it is too profuse; to be overthankful for any one favour, is in effect to lay out for another” (49–50). What he relates in a concrete situation to his sister becomes, because of its generalising style, which imitates the character of sermonic speech and makes the utterance universally applicable, ‘catholic,’ an address to the members of the audience, who, in consequence, become a ‘quasi-parish’ of the preaching Charles. Sermon-like utterances, in which the concrete is given general status, the individual universal character, and the private public qualities, abound in the play (cf. also Stockwell’s “‘[t]is thus religion writes and speaks the word”, 64, or Charles’ “[c]ome, let us not oppress the fallen”). These utterances not only exemplify the values of a sentimental behavioural codex and the moralising, preaching tone of the sentimental comedy identified by today’s critics, but also serve as model examples of polite conversation with an educative content for their contemporary recipients. To conclude, Richard Cumberland’s diegetisations of drama – his examples of culturally sanctioned verbal speech genres of the philosophical and academic kind, on the one hand, and of the Christian and liturgical kind, on the other, as well as his presenting them as part of every-day and refined bourgeois conversation –, partook in realising “[Thomas] Sheridan’s hope that the theatre might become ‘an admirable Assistant to the School of Oratory’” (Goring 2009, 117). Interpreting the examples of diegetic storytelling sensu the didactic display of ideally realised speech genres in The West Indian, one can expand Paul Goring’s assumption that it is merely “the actors’ performance [that] would influence the conduct of those who witnessed them” (Goring 2009, 117). In addition to this, it is certainly the concrete examples of civilised, standardised oratory and elocution frequently and in great generic variety embedded in Cumberland’s play that promoted ways of ideal and polite conversation as well as moulded a theatre that is especially didactic. The West Indian realises not only Sheridan’s ideal of theatre as a ‘school of elocution,’ but also the idea that the – in Restoration times, roguish and entertaining – institution can become a paradigmatic ‘school of conduct.’27

27 On theatre as a ‘school of conduct,’ see also Goring (2009, 116), who explains that “[t]he first half of the eighteenth century saw the solidification of an idea of the theatre as a ‘school of conduct’ [. . .], and as part of this process, the spectacle of acting became invested with huge didactic potential as a fountainhead from which polite principles could be dispersed throughout the viewing public.”


6 From Stage to Page, from the Publicly Politic to the Metaphysically Private

In addition to the appraisal of speech in general and the didactic implementation of assorted speeches that are worthy of imitation according to the contemporary elocutionist standards on DNL 1 (cf. Sect. 3.3), The West Indian’s prevalent narrativity and highlighting of verbal transmission is attributable to a special strategy of de-dramatisation on the level of non-verbal perspectivisation, DNL 3 (cf. Sect. 3.3). If dialogue is one of the default characteristics of drama, in Cumberland’s comedy, it is reduced in favour of an increased monologisation, in which one speaker and his or her act of speaking are foregrounded. And if feelings shown in gesture and facial expression – in short, in mimetic storytelling – are other salient markers of plays, this kind of mimetic exhibition is altered, too: Feelings and the gestures, as well as the facial expressions they cause, are verbally emphasised in The West Indian. To illustrate the latter: Feelings are not just mimetically shown, but diegetically highlighted. Cumberland thereby sets out to illustrate ideas rooted in the Scottish Enlightenment. He, for example, substantiates Henry Home’s, Lord of Kame’s, view that “[m]an is distinguished from the brute creation, not more remarkably by the superiority of his rational faculties, than by the greater delicacy of his perceptions and feelings” (Home 1970 [1762], Ch. X, p. 3). He does so by externalising these highly interior, ‘delicate perceptions and feelings’ and the noble, mindful behaviour caused by them. Stockwell, for instance, verbally displays his compassion towards the erring Belcour – “[a] las! my heart bleeds for him” (60) – as does Charlotte her sympathy for her ‘wicked’ stepmother, Lady Rusport: “I suffer for her, and blush to see her thus exposed.” (76) In addition, what is shown is doubled by being verbally expressed, too. Belcour, for instance, not only ‘blushes’ upon hearing that Stockwell is his father, but also puts the quality of his facial expression (and the reason for it) into words – “[i]t is too much; my happiness o’erpowers me; to gain a friend and find a father is too much; I blush to think how little I deserve you” (76) –, while Charlotte describes the otherwise mimetically rendered paralysis and speechlessness of Belcour and Louisa when the two lovers happen to meet at her current place of residence: “How you both stand! tongue-tied, and fix’d as statues” (45) As these examples show, ‘narrative’ in the semantic dimension of diegesis (or ‘verbal expression’) is used to display inner feelings and to parallel, and thus, highlight decent behaviour and gesture. Belcour verbalises his blushing so as to emphasise his final submission to the sentimental value system so fashionable in the mother country (he is ashamed of and sorry for his previous, rash, ‘colonial’ behaviour in the face of a morally flawless father). And the morally impeccable Charlotte, in stating the obvious, commends the (non-)movement of the lovers-to-be as – literally – ‘remarkable’ (and, with it, disqualifies Belcour’s previous and later transgressions). Yet, as indicated before, the author of The West Indian does not restrict himself to ‘telling’ what is usually just

6.1 Educating the Nation, Domesticating the Colony


‘shown’ and conveying what is considered the ‘proper’ sentimental code of feeling and conduct. Richard Cumberland increases the ‘narrativity’ of his play not just by way of narrative modes, but also by strategies of de-dramatisation. Lending The West Indian’s dialogues the qualities of monologues (even in ensemble situations, in which the default is normally dialogue),28 he foregrounds narrative frames even further. With these, he tackles the problem of (morally good) economic behaviour, a problem which had become especially topical in a cultural climate in which new means of engaging in commerce, of gaining and spending money had emerged for the ever-growing middling ranks. In his sentimental comedy, the playwright’s predominant way of ‘moralising money’ is to enlarge otherwise shorter verbal exchanges with longer, monologic passages, or to stage dialogues, which consist of long verbal utterances in the first place. In an exchange between the aristocratic Charlotte Rusport and her penniless admirer, Charles Dudley, a longer, emphatic plea in between some shorter utterances starts to monologise what is technically a dialogue: A beggar, do you call yourself! O, Charles, Charles, rich in merit and accomplishment, whom may you not aspire to? And why think you so unworthily of our sex, as to conclude there is not one to be found with sense to discern your virtue, and generosity to reward it? (26)

De-dramatising the play, increasing its narrative character by the expansion of monological speech (and therefore highlighting the telling frame instead of the story frame), Richard Cumberland enables Charlotte to put forth the rather complicated appeal that the language of economics has to be re-defined. It is not those of economic means who are rich, but those of sentimental virtue. This thought is further explicated within a later dialogue between the two that is, from the outset, made up of very long, monologue-like verbal utterances and that further explicate the morals of money. After Charlotte has considered herself unworthy of her beloved Charles, he replies: Charles: My unworthy Charlotte! So judge me Heaven, there is not a circumstance on earth as valuable as your happiness, so dear to me as your person; but to bring poverty, disgrace, reproach from friends, ridicule from all the world, upon a generous benefactress; thievishly to steal into an open, unreserved, ingenious heart, O Charlotte! dear, unhappy girl, it is not to be done. Charlotte: Nay, now you rate too highly the poor advantages fortune alone has given me over you: how otherwise could we bring our merits to any balance? Come, my dear

28 Manfred Pfister also observed ‘monological tendencies in dialogue’ (cf. 1993 [1991], 129–130). He, however, fails to acknowledge the narrative nature of this technique.


6 From Stage to Page, from the Publicly Politic to the Metaphysically Private

Charles, I have enough; make that enough still more by sharing it with me: sole heiress of my father’s fortune, a short time will it put it in my disposal [i.e., when she comes of age] [. . .]. (57; emphases mine)

Monologic dialogues like these, together with the dialogues that sporadically entail elongated, monological utterances, are used to establish a circumstantial philosophy of ‘new money.’ In this verbose exchange, vocabulary from the realms of money and finance abounds; in this abundance, value is not only defined in terms of virtuous behaviour, but also as the selfless capacity to wish others happy. In other words, narrativisation by way of de-dramatisation helps to rate the value of humanity and a benevolent behaviour higher than the value of money, which is regarded as secondary, even as “vile” (56).29 Money counts only as a means of generosity to be shared with the economically less privileged. This philosophy of a morally sanctioned commerce, a ‘charitable’ commerce, is advertised and explained by way of the dialogues that are de-dramatised and enhanced in their diegetic character.30 This verbally uttered theory is directly put into practice in The West Indian: repeated acts of giving money to those in need, or voiced intentions to do so (by morally good characters like Belcour, Stockwell, and Charlotte) demonstrate the characters’ commitment to realising their charitable philosophies in everyday life.31 Accordingly and in contrast to John Gay, who

29 Despite this, it has to be stressed that what Markman Ellis (1996, 129; emphasis in original) explains for the politics of the sentimental novel also holds true for the present sentimental comedy: “[S]entimental novels often present a critique of the vices associated with wealth, such as avarice, luxury and corruption, but it is not immediately apparent that they champion poverty over wealth per se.” 30 What Irina Bauder-Begerow and Vera Nünning, with recourse to Virginia Woolf, state for narrative and the depiction of the complexities and subtleties of inner worlds can be applied to drama and the complexities and subtleties of capitalism (2011, 155): “the dramatic mode lends itself to abstraction and the presentation of intense passions, while the epic, narrative mode is geared towards dealing with details, with the development of nuances, and more subtle emotions [and facts].” This is perhaps also why Cumberland and other sentimental playwrights incorporate narrative modes in their plays: to be able to tackle more complex, subtle issues, while still maintaining an emotional thrust. 31 This theory and practice is contrasted to allegedly old, aristocratic ways of handling money, to “satirical portraits of [a traditional] aristocracy” (Donahue 2011, 42) epitomised in the selfish, close-fisted, and deceitful Lady Rusport. With the progressive, verbally expressed views of Charlotte and other ethically good characters, Cumberland, indeed, makes central ‘new world characters’ (i.e., modern aristocrats like Charlotte, people from the colonies, like Belcour, and people who have only recently become rich, like Stockwell and Belcour) who “negotiate Old World ways” (Richards 1998, 278) in a successful, ethically correct, and ‘trendsetting’ manner.

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years earlier did not move beyond criticising the practices of middle-class capitalism (cf. Sect. 5.3),32 Richard Cumberland develops and exhibits a moral and behavioural code of ‘new money.’ This code befits the culture of sensibility’s ideas of benevolence, kindness, tenderness, politeness, empathy, pity, and compassion, and instructs the old aristocratic elites and the new middling ranks how to handle money morally correctly both in theory and practice. In line with Sneer, a character in Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s The Critic (Sheridan 1781 [1779]), one can conclude that, with a play like The West Indian, didactic to its core, theatre is in “proper hands” (Sheridan 1781 [1779], 9). In Cumberland’s hands, drama becomes not only a school of oratory and conduct, but, in his ‘moralising money,’ a paradigmatic “school of morality” (Sheridan 1781 [1779], 9), too. To sum up, with his dramatisation of diegetic storytelling in The West Indian, with his praising verbal speech, celebrating and exemplifying elocution, and with his de-dramatising dialogue in favour of an increasing monologisation, Cumberland not only attests to a culture “in which delivered speech is an issue” (Goring 2009, 95). He also takes part in a larger educational project. His diegetic strategies are to meant teach and instruct the middling ranks, newly in power and money, on how to behave according to the sanctioned and dominant ‘culture of sensibility.’ They display the values of this culture33 and, as a matter “of particular importance to the middling ranks’ claim to superiority” (V. Nünning 1995, 21), popularise them. The diegetic strategies in this paradigmatic sentimental comedy furthermore help the middling ranks and the ‘mother country’ to cope with the colony, domesticate it, and dispose of its potential threat. Being a ‘school of elocution,’ a ‘school of conduct,’ and a ‘school of morality,’ or ‘a school of moralising money,’ a play like The West Indian, thus, can be considered to educate and, in so doing, form not only the ‘middling ranks,’ but also an entire nation. After the political union of England, Wales, and Scotland in 1707, ‘Great Britain’ was, by the end of the eighteenth century, still a relatively new, heterogeneous

32 Just like John Gay, with his narrative double entendres (cf. 4.3), Cumberland, with his specific kind of diegetic storytelling, denounces corruption. While The Beggar’s Opera is, however, characterised by a grim outlook on humans’ character, in line with the maxim ‘homo homini lupus,’ The West Indian is characterised by didactic optimism. Like Shaftesbury in his Characteristicks of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times ([1711] 1900), Cumberland seems convinced of humankind’s ‘moral sense.’ Educating this moral sense and refining it, the late-eighteenthcentury playwright, in contrast to the early-eighteenth-century one, gives instructions in and examples of ‘how to act according to the laws of sentiment and humanity’. On the changing philosophies and worldviews regarding the morality of humans from Hobbes to Shaftesbury, cf. also Csengei (2012, esp. 32–39). 33 On this, cf. also Simone Roggendorf (2003, 140).


6 From Stage to Page, from the Publicly Politic to the Metaphysically Private

entity. It was “by no means a naturally cohesive or coherent unit” (Goring 2009, 91). Its individual parts and colonies had still to be defined and mentally united. The stratification of English society into ever more ranks and classes contributed to this heterogeneity from within, too. In the spirit of Enlightenment and the culture of sensibility, the didactic drama, therefore, partakes in the unification of difference. Sentimental comedy, in general, and The West Indian, in particular, aim, predominantly with diegetic strategies, at helping to realise the idea of a future unity. Even though this idea and genre, in the eighteenth century, were first targeted to the middling ranks, during the nineteenth century and with an increasingly positive self-image of the middle classes, they were expanded to include other social classes as well (cf., e.g., V. Nünning 2005b, 83). Not least due to this, the patriotic hope of unity – which, in The West Indian, is not only diegetically and indirectly expressed, but also explicitly encapsulated in a dream of one of its characters – proved, with the popularisation and imitation of sentimental qualities, to be highly influential and ‘world-making.’ At the play’s end, the Irishman O’Flaherty states, both confidentially and sentimentally, “I think we shall be all related by and bye” (77),34 thus foreseeing a people united by their common commitment to refinement, decorum, and politeness.

6.2 The Transgressive and Transformative Power of the Gothic Tale: The Increasing Narrative Infiltration of Dramatic Discourse in Joanna Baillie’s Romantic Tragedy Orra as a Revolt against Genre Boundaries and Patriarchal Subjugation Tracking down the range of dramatic works in which narrative modes feature particularly strongly, literary historians must necessarily pay heed to the ‘Romantic drama’ – although (or maybe even because) this generic concept has been, until recently, regarded as either a marginal phenomenon or, still worse, a non-existent contradiction in terms. For a long time, literary critics who compared plays of earlier periods with those written in the early-nineteenth century tended to speak of a “genre in decline” (Watkins 1993, 40), a genre in “retreat” from both the theatre and the public sphere (A. Richardson 1988, 3), and

34 In this thought, The West Indian is related to a German Enlightenment drama by Lessing, namely, Nathan the Wise (1781 [1779]); especially its ‘ring parable.’

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shunned by Romantic poets because of the alleged ‘antitheatricality’ of the age (cf. Burroughs 1995, 125). This picture of a practically non-existent or eschewed genre has been gradually revised since the mid-1990s. Not only has the theatricality of the age been recognised (cf. Burroughs 1995, esp. 125; A. Richardson 2006, 133)35 and traced even in non-dramatic genres (cf. Merten 2014), but also awareness has increased that the anti-dramatic bias was not created by the Romantic poets themselves but, rather, by post-Romantic literary historians. Regardless of whether the marginalisation of Romantic drama has been conscious or subconscious, the political decision to avoid the canonisation of Romantic plays has resulted both in a disregard for substantially avant-gardist plays, which transgress genre boundaries by featuring non-dramatic modes, among them narrative ones, and a neglect of their literary historical and cultural repercussions. Stuart Curran aptly points to both of these unfortunate omissions, regretting that “the theatre of the last two decades of the eighteenth century has until recent years been virtually ignored [. . .], and with that disregard has gone its central office as a social index to the culture.” (Curran 2006, 174)36 Focusing on Joanna Baillie’s Orra, this chapter tackles the aforementioned problem by centring Romantic drama in literary history in at least in three respects. It examines a text of early nineteenth-century literary production that, until not so long ago, had been generally excluded from the canon (since, undeniably, forms such as the fragment, the poem, and the novel quantitatively dominated the literary landscape of the early-nineteenth century). It introduces, in particular, a drama that used to be disregarded because it was written by someone of the ‘wrong sex’ – i.e., a woman – even if one so skilled that her work has invited comparisons to ‘the Bard’s’; Baillie has in fact been called the

35 The age has been reframed as a theatrical one in numerous ways. It has been recognised that people of the early-nineteenth century, despite criticism’s preoccupation with poetry and the novella, still liked the theatre. The early-nineteenth-century British theatre scene was lively (cf. J. A. Carlson 1994, esp. 1–29, 2004, 207) and public performances (T. C. Davis and Holland 2010 [2007]; Burroughs 2015, esp. 32) as well as private ones abounded, in which people even did their own stagings (Burroughs 1995, esp. 125, 127–128). People delighted in phenomena that went with theatricality – e.g., the love of exaggerated spectacles (cf. Baillie 1821b, xix; cf. also J. A. Carlson 2004, 217), practices of ‘self-dramatisation’ by authors like Byron (cf. Burroughs 1995, 130), and an ensuing ‘star-cult’ – so much that the era has been even framed as a “performing century” (T. C. Davis and Holland 2010, 7). 36 What Curran regrets with regard to the early Romantic period is arguably a symptom indicative of the whole era.


6 From Stage to Page, from the Publicly Politic to the Metaphysically Private

“‘female Shakespeare’ of the [Romantic] age” (Burroughs 2015, 40).37 This section, finally, considers a drama not prioritised because it proves particularly difficult for literary historians and genre theorists to pinpoint since it transcends conventional genre boundaries. With her closet play, Baillie draws on a genre especially hard to define. She not only makes use of the transgeneric aesthetics of ‘the Gothic,’ but also features high degrees of non-dramatic narrativity in both the plays’ structure and content. Moving beyond the sporadic inclusion of narrative spots (sensu Brandstetter 1999; cf. also Sect. 3.2), she increasingly structures her dramatic discourse in narrative modes – and this, as will be shown, in a variety of forms. Before analysing the forms of the play’s text-internal narrativity, as well as determining their text-internal functions and their wider generic and cultural effects, I will isolate both the playwright’s and her works’ connections to transgeneric concerns and narrative practices of the Romantic era.

Orra in Its Generically Transgressive and Progressive Contexts The intersections between drama and narrativity in Baillie’s Orra are by no means confined to the intra-textual levels. On the contrary, the play itself is embedded in a context in which generic renewal was the proclaimed ideal; that is, it was penned at a time in which genre transgressions and generic amalgams were the rule rather than exception (cf. also Merten 2014). In Baillie and her work’s case, the general and abundant transgeneric and narrative literary practices of the Romantic period are especially pertinent. With her work’s transgeneric versatility, Baillie helped to shape this genre-transcending literary epoch, its aesthetics, and its system of genres (with her poetics and literary practice). Before discussing the Romantic poetics of universality in general, I will introduce Joanna Baillie as a playwright working at generic intersections. Like many of the dramatists introduced before (cf. Ch. 4 and 5), Baillie was preoccupied with different genres. A true Romantic “universal Poetic Genius” (Blake 2012 [ca. 1788], 180), she was familiar with the modes in which traditional genres had so far found expression, she was proficient in the handling of

37 Joanna Baillie, as Romantic playwright and woman, was, from a literary historical point of view, doubly marginalised. “That the dramas produced by women between 1780 and 1830 are relatively unfamiliar to students of British literature says less about their quality and more about the ways in which performance history (and the anthologies that become carriers of that history) keeps alive the drama created – or fails to do so.” (Burroughs 2015, 32) For more ground-breaking work on women’s Romantic drama, see Lilla Crisafulli and Keir Elam’s brilliant essay collection (2016).

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these genres, she looked beyond the confines of drama’s generic status quo, and she attempted to transcend it. A prolific dramatist who penned more than twenty-six plays (cf. Cox 2000, 25), she was also versatile in the writing of poetry, tracts, and genre theory (Cox 2000, 27). While it hardly needs mentioning that her work in one genre was able if not likely to infuse her work in another (even if this infusion was not deliberately administered), Baillie’s progressive dramatic work and her theories on it deserve to be foregrounded. With both, she promoted the necessity of drama’s renewal and a transgeneric emotional verisimilitude (‘naturalness,’ cf., e.g., Baillie 1821b, xiii, xvi). Stuart Curran (quoted in Watkins 1993, 39) puts it in a nutshell: Even “two years before Wordsworth’s celebrated preface, [Joanna Baillie] had published her own seventy-two-page argument for naturalness of language and situation across all literary genres”. The extensive introductory para-texts of her three volumes of Plays on the Passions (1798–1812) exemplify that Baillie was not only in practice, but also in theory concerned with designing a new kind of drama and theatre, one that transcended the formalistic neo-classical plays staged at her time and that were better fitted to Romantic theatrical needs and wishes. Baillie’s drama and theory paradigmatically illustrate the fact that the “Romantics were not merely opposing a set of rules [i.e., neoclassical ones]. They were protesting against the idea that formal features define a genre.” (Cox 1994, 155) The renunciation of the dictate of form, or rather, of a ‘formulaic’ application of generic conventions went hand in hand with an increasing psychologisation of characters and an internalisation of their displayed emotions (cf. Baillie 1821b, xix) to render the stories psychologically more plausible. The generic modifications Baillie suggests are, firstly, to decrease drama’s theatricality and, secondly, increase an emotional intimacy, which is brought about – arguably – by strategies normally associated with books, novels, and narrativity. Baillie opposes the prevalent practice of a theatrical sensu spectacular staging of plays, criticising the large contemporary stages of London (Baillie 1821b, xviii), which apparently strove for “striking scenic effect” (Baillie 1821b, xvi). According to her, her plays, with their subtlety and their “fine[,] fleeting emotion [s]” (Baillie 1821b, xix), cannot be staged in such “over-sized” theatres (Baillie 1821b xxii–xxiii). In their quality, Baillie’s plays thus resemble genres traditionally perceived to be narrative. Like the novel, they are detailed in their psychological observation of character and depict emotions not as ‘exaggeratedly,’ but allegedly more finely and subtly than contemporary theatrical stagings. Her Plays on the Passions were, in addition, even though originally designed for small, closet-like theatres spaces (which regrettably failed to proliferate during her lifetime), published and received like novels: they were predominantly read (cf. Baillie 1821b, xv–xvi).


6 From Stage to Page, from the Publicly Politic to the Metaphysically Private

Against this backdrop, one can conclude that Baillie’s dramatic oeuvre is symptomatic of the time in which it was created. The playwright revives the tradition of the closet play,38 a genre that was written and read in the privacy of closets, and, in addition, fashions them as dramas that witness people in their most private moments,39 when they show their emotions as freely as if they were in the safe confines of their ‘closets.’ Like many of the plays penned between 1780 and 1830, her ‘works on the passions’ have presented a challenge to literary historians and genre theorists.40 For contemporary reception, they became – half by fate’s historic particularities (i.e., large London stages as well as the contemporary prevalence of exaggerated acting styles and roomy choreographies) and half by intention (their design for small, hardly existent stages) – de facto Lesedramen, i.e., plays read rather than performed (they are printed, distributed, and received like novels and verse stories and, like novels, they feature prefatory addresses “to the reader”, Baillie 1821b, iii, cf. also xv).41 Baillie’s Plays on the Passions therefore both erode drama’s genre conventions and transcend them. She fuses drama theory with dramatic practice, thematises and problematises the default case of dramatic distribution and reception (plays can be printed and staged, read and seen), and opts for making them less theatrical, as well as having them composed, distributed, and received in ways that are, at her time, predominantly those of the novel and verse narratives.42 In all of these respects, Joanna Baillie works between and combines genres – drama theory and practice as well as dramatic and narrative modes. Mixing and fusing “inspiration and theory [. . .] [and] the poetry of art and the poetry of nature” (A. Richardson 1988, 1), she realises the Romantics’ aim of “bringing [. . .]

38 Plays read in private closets rather than performed have a long history. Cf. Marta Straznicky’s illuminating study, which not only analyses early modern closet plays, but also tackles the genre’s problems (cf. 2004, esp., 1–6). 39 According to Baillie’s preface to the first volume of Plays on the Passions, only in this way can a certain level of real psychological depth and effect been achieved: “For who hath followed the great man into his secret closet, or stood by the side of his nightly couch, and hear those exclamations of the soul which heaven alone may hear, that the historian should be able to inform us” ([1851] 1976, 8). 40 Ute Berns (2011, 193) comments on this problem when she explains that “[a]s far as drama is concerned, our genre descriptions for texts written between 1780 and 1830 appear singularly unstable. On the one hand, this instability is due to a shift in modern scholarly perception of the period’s drama [. . .]. On the other hand, this instability is due to changes in the period’s theatrical and literary culture, which gave rise to an exciting mixture of old and new forms.” 41 On the practice of ‘preface writing’ in female Romantic drama history, see the illuminating chapter in Catherine B. Burroughs’ Closet Stages (cf. 1997, 74–109). 42 If the alternative is having them staged on London’s sizeable stages.

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‘separate species’ together” (A. Richardson 1988, 1). She is, thus, exemplary for the context in which she conceptualised her theory: penning her plays in the iconoclastic, genre-transcending and experimenting context of Romanticism, she takes part in the Romantics’ revolutionary, avant-gardist attempts to form new, universal genres, which incorporate a variety of progressive, alter-generic styles and modes.

Orra’s Text-Internal Narrativity Situated in a context that recalls an experimental laboratory of genre transgression, Orra (1812) uses the power of Gothic narratives to bring about the transformation of drama that its author advocates in her prefatory theory. Thematising the cultural practice of oral storytelling and turning to narrative to characterise her protagonist, on the one hand, and using the transgeneric phenomenon of ‘the Gothic’ in general as well as a specific Gothic tale to structurally infiltrate her dramatic narration, on the other hand, Joanna Baillie partakes in a literary and cultural rebellion. Examining (Gothic) storytelling in Orra, one will realise that the dominant interpretation of the play as a warning against “literature’s ability to [. . .] awaken the imagination, and distance readers from reality” (Colón 2014, 115) must be revised,43 since the reverse is in fact true. As will be shown below, with her tragedy, Baillie not only revolts against solidified genre boundaries of the contemporary London theatre productions, but also objects to the very real congealed structures of contemporary patriarchy and female subjugation. Orra displays narrativity especially saliently, both on the story level and in its dramatic narration. Consider the tragedy’s diegetic level, on which stories are both a topic and a means of characterisation: Set in mountainous Switzerland in the Middle Ages, the play revolves around a noble, free-spirited, and orphaned heroine, the eponymous Orra, who is a ward of Hughobert, Count of Aldenberg. Due to economic reasons, he wants his land-owning dependant to marry his son, Glottenbal, who competes with two other suitors (Rudigere, an illegitimate son of another branch of the family of Aldenberg, and the kind nobleman Theobald of Falkenstein) for the heroine’s affection. Yet Orra, lamenting the fate of noblewomen in a proto-feminist speech, remains unwilling to

43 In her comparison between Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey ([1818] 2006) and Orra, Christine Colón (cf. 2014) shows that this reframing of the effects of Gothic literature is needed for all of those works in which the heroines seem all too easily impressed and perhaps even mislead by their love of the Gothic. On the intricate relationship between Gothic literature, especially drama, and the ‘real’ (political) culture in which it emerges, see David Worrall (2012).


6 From Stage to Page, from the Publicly Politic to the Metaphysically Private

submit to the marriage plot: “That poor and good-for-nothing, helpless being, | Woman yclept, I must consign myself | With all my lands and rights into the hands | Of some proud man, and say, ‘Take all, I pray, | And do me in return the grace and favour | To be my master.’” (22)44 Stressing that marriage would strip her of her financial, legal, and spiritual freedom, Orra declares that there is no equal “share of power” (22) between spouses and that she, on these grounds, prefers to stay her own master. Since her decision is unacceptable to (the majority of) the play’s men,45 these very men decide to force her into marriage by exploiting one of Orra’s defining character traits: her attraction to ghost stories. The heroine’s predominant characteristic, her interest in and consumption of narratives that frighten her, turns out to be just as fatal as the actual threat of the men surrounding her. Orra’s inclination to have her attendants “tell her stories of the restless dead” (11) is introduced as early as in act I, scene 2, and, from thence, is repeatedly highlighted by the protagonist herself and other characters. Act II, scene 1 even dedicates a whole conversation to the heroine’s proclivity for tales of the (un-)dead and its physical and mental effects upon her. Alice, one of her attendants, for instance, describes Orra’s change of inner and outer disposition upon the reception of these tales, which she views critically: “Such stories ever change her cheerful spirits | To gloomy pensiveness; her rosy bloom | To the wan colour of a shrouded corse.” (29) The fact that the otherwise rosy-cheeked and cheerful main character gains, upon hearing ghost stories, a low-spirited, corpse-like disposition not only describes the general effect that ghost stories have upon the young lady, but also emphasise her weakness for the Gothic tale. The knowledge of Orra’s weakness is, in the inner communication system, i.e., the intra-diegetic level of characters, exploited by other, predominantly male figures later in the play; within the outer communication system, it foreshadows the main character’s end. In Act V, she will appear just as lifeless as Alice’s description: “[S]hrinking back” (91 SD) from others and shrinking in herself, the protagonist will become stripped of her personality and reason because the nightmarish stories she revels in will turn out to have been true all along (cf. below). Yet the meta-narrative scene does not just characterise Orra as a lover of ghost tales, describe her exploitable weakness, or prefigure her ‘mental death’; it also thematises the qualities and effects of the ‘Gothic tale’ explicitly and, 44 Within this section, all not otherwise marked page numbers in brackets refer to Baillie (1821a). 45 Theobald, at least at first, understands and accepts her decision (cf. 24) with signs of “great respect” (25 SD).

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thus, self-referentially. At one point in the conversation between the heroine and her attendants, Alice’s warnings are dismissed by Orra herself, who highlights the stories’ fascination instead, claiming that “there is a pleasure” (29) in hearing tales of the undead: “Yea, when the cold blood shoots through every vein: | When every hair’s-pit on my shrunken skin | A knotted knoll becomes, and to mine ears | Strange inwards sounds awake, and to mine eyes | Rush stranger tears, there is a joy in fear.” (29) With her description of the tales’ physical and emotional effects upon her, she makes notions of the transgeneric phenomena of the ‘Gothic’ in general and the potentially resulting ‘terror’ explicit. The joyful, blood-chilling excitement of the former46 is as much emphasised as the latter’s ability to awake and sharpen the senses to, in Ann Radcliffe’s terms, a “high degree of life” (Radcliffe 2000 [1826], 315). The ‘inward sounds’ Orra refers to can be interpreted as sharpened hearing faculties, which make even the circulation of blood audible, and the ‘rush of tears’ can be regarded as the expression of a lively, animated eye. These physical and emotional responses to the terror of the Gothic tale are the source of the pleasurable, transcending, and overwhelming experiences of some sublime grandeur.47 With these descriptions, Joanna Baillie uses drama to self-referentially situate Orra in the then-popular, transgeneric context of ‘the Gothic.’ She furthermore establishes inter-textual references to similar stories, such as Horace Walpole’s novel The Castle of Otranto ([1764] 2014), Matthew Lewis’ drama The Castle Spectre ([1797] 2004), or his novel The Monk ([1796] 2010; cf. also Long Hoeveler 2001, 121). In doing so, she exploits the nexus of ‘drama and narrative’ from a transgeneric angle, guiding her readers’ reception by offering them a frame against which they can measure and interpret her play, and giving them an idea of what to expect (and maybe how to react) during the remainder of the play.48 In addition, the Gothic’s semantic transgressions are complemented by generic ones. Baillie’s drama reaches beyond the confines of

46 Other descriptions of the ‘Gothic’ resonate with Baillie’s depiction of Orra as well: “Through its presentations of supernatural, sensational and terrifying incidents, imagined or not, Gothic produced emotional effects on its readers rather than developing a rational or properly cultivated response. Exciting rather than informing, it chilled their blood, delighted their superstitious fancies and fed uncultivated appetites for marvellous and strange events, instead of instructing readers with moral lessons that inculcated decent and tasteful attitudes to literature and life.” (Botting 1996, 3). 47 Cf. Ann Radcliffe’s famous definition of ‘terror’ and her contrasting it to ‘horror’ (2000 [1826], 315): “Terror and Horror are so far opposite, that the first expands the soul and awakens the faculties to a high degree of life; the other contracts, freezes and nearly annihilates them.” 48 I would not go so far as Daniel Bergen (2014, 191), however, who calls Baillie’s metareflexivity a “proto-cognitive” one, one that “establishes the brain’s creative center as the initial component in literary mediation”.


6 From Stage to Page, from the Publicly Politic to the Metaphysically Private

the genre’s conventional boundaries not only by including implicit inter-textual references to novels, but also by commending the genre-independent, transgeneric mode of the ‘Gothic.’ The Gothic tale, which is both explicitly referred to on the story level and used to characterise the protagonist and mark the play’s transgressive genericity, also serves to clarify the power relations among characters on the intra-diegetic level. The way Orra’s characters use stories is highly gendered: Women, like the protagonist, receive stories (cf. 29–31); men like Rudigere tell them (cf. 50) or make people to tell them (cf. 11) in order to subjugate women or maintain their power. With this, Baillie not only indirectly alludes to a text-external imbalance in literary and theatrical production, which is dominated by male authors and playwrights, but also illustrates the structures of power abuse and maintenance within the textinternal story world. There are (male) outlaws, for instance, who secure their territory by keeping the memory of a legend alive that says their woods are haunted – i.e., the “ghostly legend of this dreaded place” (46, cf. also 67). When strangers happen to stumble into their realm, Franko, their leader, reminds his outlaws of the vitality of the legend for them (46): “Not for a night must trav’llers quietly rest, | Or few or many. Would we live securely, | We must uphold the terrors of the place: Therefore, let us prepare our midnight rouse.” To remain undiscovered, uncaptured, be able to continue robbing passers-by, and thus secure their livelihood, the legend of the haunted woods is essential for the community. It is even so vital that the thieves engage in a laborious game of make-believe to uphold the fiction of the haunted woods and, thus, their power within this territory. Rudigere’s storytelling and his tales of “spectres rising at the midnight watch” which he “command[s]” Orra’s attendant Cathrina to tell the eponymous heroine (11) are also about power.49 Aware of the heroine’s susceptibility to ghost stories, the manipulating knave aims at instrumentalising the legend of the “hunter-knight” (29), which is twice told in the play (29–31, 50), to frighten Orra into consenting to marry him. “[A]s the story goes” (30), a hunterknight, a guest in a Black Forest castle on Michaelmas Eve, was killed in his sleep for unknown reasons (“[f]rom hatred or from envy”, 29) by an ancestor of the Aldenbergh’s and, thus, also of Orra’s. Buried “unbless’d” (30), the restless

49 These are by no means the only stories that Rudigere uses as instruments of gaining and maintaining power. There is his past with Orra’s attendant, whom he has in his hands because he, in principle, can tell people about their sexual pre-history: “Heron rests my power: | I [Rudigere] might expose, and therefore I command thee [Cathrina]” (11). And there is the past story between Hughobert und Orra’s dying father, which “dearly wicked Rudigere” (20) is quick in distorting, making it fit his own interests and strip Hughobert of his power over Orra by absenting her from under his auspices (cf. 20).

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spirit of the hunter-knight returns once a year on the anniversary of his murder to the chamber in which the crime was committed to call “on his murd’rer, or in his default | Some true descendant of his house” (30), to avenge himself, and finally rest in peace. Rudigere now spins a plot, blackmailing the otherwise noble Cathrina (whom he has apparently sexually abused and, if this was known to others, dishonoured (cf. 11), into telling Orra this story and manipulating Hughobert into sending Orra, accompanied by Rudigere himself, to the Black Forest castle from the legend (cf. 19). Thus, when Orra, once more, declines to marry Hughobert’s son, the Count, as a last resort, sends her away close to Michaelmas Eve, of all days, when the ghost of the hunter-knight is supposed to make his return and haunt the place. At the castle and especially on Michaelmas, Rudigere can, undisturbed and unhurried, exploit the protagonist’s anxiety, make physical advances (cf. 51 SD, 58 SD, 69 SD), and repeatedly threaten her into accepting him as “Orra’s Lord” (52): “Thou know’st my fix’d resolve: | Give me the solemn promise to be mine. | This is the price, thou haughty, scornful maid, | That will redeem thee from the hour of terrour [sic]! This is the price –” (69). Very much in the same vein and in nearly all of their meetings at the ‘Suabian castle,’ Rudigere thus tries to intimidate Orra into marrying him – with references to the ‘hunter-knight legend.’ After examining the way narratives are put to use for the character constellation in Orra, one can conclude that Baillie exposes structures of power abuse and power maintenance on her tragedy’s diegetic level by illustrating the intersection between gender, stories in general, and Gothic tales in particular. Characters, especially male ones, frequently use tales as tools of power exertion, manipulation, and intimidation. In being exploited, these fictions become world-making in the factual story world, i.e., on DNL 1. They not only invert hierarchies between the socially empowered and handicapped (the bastard, impoverished Rudigere, gains power over the Count; the outlaw over the legitimate ‘burgher’), but also, and this is even more foregrounded in Orra, they cement those power imbalances between men and women that the protagonist criticises in her above-mentioned proto-feminist monologue. What is more, the ghost tales are presented as having a forceful life of their own because they gloss over and even conceal true threats. Frightening and dreadful, the legend of the hunter-knight actually almost drives even the otherwise steadfast Orra into the arms of Rudigere, the true threat, who, against the backdrop of the tale, nearly looks like shelter.50

50 Upon hearing the sounds of the outlaws, interpreting them as the sounds of the hunterknight, Orra reasons (56): “Tho’ sleeping, and most hateful when awake, | Still he [Rudigere] is natural life and may be ’waked.”


6 From Stage to Page, from the Publicly Politic to the Metaphysically Private

Just how effective the stories recounted on the intra-diegetic level DNL 1 are becomes perceptible not only to the characters, but also to the play’s recipients. In at least two instances, in Act II, scene 1, and Act IV, scene 3, there are foregrounded narrative spots (sensu Brandstetter 1999) in the play. Here, oral storytelling is not just thematised but performed. These impersonated stagings render oral storytelling as a social practice that puts both tellers and their audiences under a spell and generates an uncanny atmosphere that arguably expands beyond the text-internal to the text-external system of communication. In both performances, ghost stories are told by Cathrina in private situations, with only one or two listeners, Orra and Alice. They are stories told amongst intimate acquaintances in what resembles the ‘closet situations’ which Baillie, in her prefaces, wishes to feature more prominently in theatre. These performed instances of storytelling, characterised by the privacy of close acquaintances and ideally presented within theatrical spaces just as intimate, invite the recipients – readers and potential theatre audiences alike – to perceive themselves as part of this private circle. The practice of storytelling, in this confidential closet situation, exerts its allure in the visible impatience of the on-stage recipients, which might expand even beyond ontological levels. Even in the text-external world of the audience, the tension arguably rises, too, when the heroine is repeatedly presented as very “eager” to hear the suggested ghost tales (28 SD, 73 SD) and, in an anticipatory urgency, implores the storyteller again and again, “[o] tell it! tell [sic] it me!” (73). Orra’s pleading and desire for the stories are even intensified in that they are, additionally, expressed by physical means: the listener, in one instance, is “[c]atching hold” of the storyteller (29 SD) and, in another, “drawing [. . .] close” to her (73 SD). The atmosphere of these situations is, however, not just intimate and full of suspense, it is also characterised by an unsettling and haunting aura of oral storytelling. The situations in which the ghost tales are told mirror the situations in which the narrated stories themselves are set. In Act IV, scene III, for instance, the story of a ghost apparition in a “deserted tower” in the “dead of night” (73) is told in a mise en abyme-like fashion by Cathrina, who herself sits in a “gloomy Apartment” (68 SD) of the castle at night, even at the witching hour, during “midnight watch” (72). With her theatralisation of narrative – by means of the suspenseful, atmospheric performances of oral storytelling and its reception, by the performance’s spatial and temporal setting, and the tale’s enhancement through mise en abyme-like echoes –, Baillie makes the terrors of the story told not only observable, but also impressively experienceable for her recipients, who may even be lured into thinking themselves as quasi-present in Orra’s haunting closet. While Baillie with her meta-reflections, which synthesise her literary theory and practice, addresses the audience’s reason or genre knowledge (cf. above),

6.2 The Transgressive and Transformative Power of the Gothic Tale


the performed stories, which simultaneously highlight the “telling frame” and the “story frame” (A. Nünning and Sommer 2008, 339), appeal to her audience’s emotions. They are designed in a way which seems to create an uncanny atmosphere, intended to enhance the eerie effect of the storytelling, move audiences emotionally and aesthetically, and render Orra’s feelings upon her reception of the Gothic tale comprehensible and even experienceable. Through the performative foregrounding of storytelling as a cultural practice within the story world of Baillie’s tragedy, narrativity is used in theatrical ways: not only a haunting atmosphere is created, but narrative’s effectiveness is made experienceable by dramatic means and the setting. The such established atmosphere potentially has a doubly unsettling effect: It insinuates that not only are the ghost stories to be dreaded, but also the discomfiting world in which these stories are put into circulation – and in which they are instrumentalised to effectuate not only terror, but the actual horror of female disempowerment, subjugation, and objectification. When investigating the nexus of narrative and drama in Orra, one must not fail to examine the tragedy’s structure. Turning from the play’s story level to its dramatic narration, one realises that narrative and drama meet in at least two ways. Firstly, Baillie exploits a transgeneric phenomenon, one that has genreindependently flourished in Romanticism,51 namely ‘the Gothic,’ and, secondly, she uses a specific Gothic tale, the ‘legend of the hunter-knight,’ to structurally infiltrate her dramatic narration so that the Gothic fiction becomes real, capturing the actual story world. There is an abundance of conventional Gothic markers in Baillie’s tragedy, many of which were established with Horace Walpole’s medieval romance The Castle of Otranto (1764; cf. Tönnies 2009b, Kitson 2014). Orra, too, is set in the Middle Ages, which is made clear from the start in the stage directions, in which the costumes, medieval practices, and setting are described. Men in suits of armour enter the stage, evidently coming from a tournament, “from the Lists” (3 SD); the surrounding landscape is “full of menace” (Botting 1996, 2), displaying “wild Mountains beyond” the gloomy stock locus of the Gothic, a “Castle” (3 SD). This conventional feature is even doubled: from Act III onwards, the scenes are set in another castle, even more gloomy than the first, amid the Black Forest, “half-ruined” (44 SD), full of “darkened” “Gothic Room[s]” (47) and hidden passageways (cf. 67). The heroine represents the standard character of the pursued, victimised woman, while Rudigere, her antagonist, is the typical Gothic villain with his strong sexual appetites and

51 On the general transgenericity of the Gothic despite its traditional association with the novel, see, for instance, Peter Kitson (2014, 331).


6 From Stage to Page, from the Publicly Politic to the Metaphysically Private

transgressive morals. ‘Supernatural’ and ‘terrifying’ Gothic features (cf., e.g., Botting 1996, 3) are clearly detectable in the stories that circulate on Orra’s intradiegetic level (and beyond, as will be argued below). In short, with the play at hand, especially with its spatio-temporal setting, its medievalism in costume, custom, and intended stage design, with its characters and its paranormal features, one can virtually tick off every box in an imagined checklist of the literary Gothic. The play is consequently one in which the universality theory of Romantic literature is realised in that it, with its topic, setting, and characters, reaches beyond the confines of the mono-generic, prescriptively designed neoclassical drama. Whereas the novel, drama, and potentially even other genres meet in the transgeneric phenomenon of the Gothic on a supra-segmental pane of Orra’s dramatic narration, narrative in the form of a concrete Gothic tale directly and increasingly infiltrates the play’s structure. This is not to say that the transgenerically indistinct Gothic devours the play’s dramatic features, or that the dominance of dramatic modes is increasingly given up in favour of narrative ones; rather, the markers of the fictional world of the ‘legend of the hunterknight’ successively invade the actual story world of the play, Orra’s world, and finally seize, even annihilate it. The metaleptic transfusion of ontological levels takes place very subtly; first by a spatial, then a temporal approximation of fiction and reality; and then by an actual materialisation of the fiction in Orra’s reality. In Act II, scene 1, where the legend of the hunter-knight is first told, it is marked as distant from the main character’s life: the alleged incidents happened in the past, at a remote and far-off castle (cf. 28–29), and it is a fictitious “story” (28, 30). It is furthermore made clear that even if the story of the returning undead was not just a story, as some who claim to have seen the spectre of the huntsman say (30), the ghost’s visitation is, as Alice reassures Orra (cf. 31), confined to “that chamber, on that night alone” (30). The story-lover thus seems safe to enjoy the tale, even if she is a descendant of the alleged murderer and, thus, a possible victim of the hunter-knight: the location of the murder, the chamber, are far away; and even though Michaelmas approaches, Orra will not be there – or so she and the recipients think. Through Rudigere’s plotting and the heroine’s journeying to the legend’s setting, however, the spatial distance between Orra and the imagined threat shrinks, and with it, her perceived security. When the protagonist finally arrives at the setting, fictitious time and space and actual time and space have started to collide and produce inferences. The Gothic castle’s alleged past becomes graspable and invades Orra’s presence – at first only in her fancy (47; emphasis mine): “Methinks I hear the sound of long time past | Still murm’ring o’er us in the lofty void | Of those dark arches, like the ling’ring

6.2 The Transgressive and Transformative Power of the Gothic Tale


voices | Of those who long within their graves have slept. | It was their gloomy home; now it is mine.” With the additional acceleration of narrated time,52 Baillie not only builds up tension, but also temporally closes in on Michaelmas Eve and even on the witching hour, when the huntsman is said to annually reappear. The approaching threat is, in addition, spatio-acoustically indicated. The sounds of spectre-hounds and a horn, which are said to always precede the huntsman’s appearance and are actually made by the forest’s outlaws (cf. 30) are, with elapsing time, heard ever more clearly and, thus, closely (cf. 56 SD, 57 SD, 76 SD). While time and space bring Orra to the setting of the fiction, the sounds of the fiction materialise in reality through the outlaws’ make-believe. When the time and space of Orra’s reality have become so akin to fiction in Act IV, scene iii (i.e., at midnight on St. Michael’s Eve) that a transgression of fact and fiction becomes, in theory, possible, the action is halted, and time is not only expanded, but even almost frozen. Cathrina and Orra, at midnight, tell stories and watch a sand glass to pass the time and be safe. Yet, the sand of the hourglass runs slowly (cf. 73) and, at the end of the hour, just when the threat seems to have passed (cf. 75) and the characters’ factual time seems about to start deviating once again from the fictional time at which the huntsman is said to appear, the fiction suddenly takes actual, tangible shape. It invades the protagonist’s reality no longer just with disembodied, acoustic signals, but, even more shockingly, in visible, embodied form. The protagonist looks “round, as if by irresistible impulse, to a great door at the bottom of the stage, which bursts open, and the form of a huntsman, cloathed [sic] in black, with a horn in his hand, enters and advances towards her. She utters a loud shriek, and falls senseless on the ground.” (77 SD) With this appearance, the soul-expanding, sublime, anticipatory pleasure of the ghost story, which the protagonist revels in, has turned into a soul- and mind-consuming horror, when the tale seems to have come true. The consummation of soul and mind, which is made visible by Orra’s loss of sense, culminates in a physical collapse. This indicates the heroine’s metaphorical downfall, which is displayed in the reminder of the play, in which Orra is shown not only to have lost her wit and liveliness, but also her reason and sanity (cf. 90–100). Just as the tale, i.e., the Gothic narrative, captures the drama with its spatio-temporal approximation and material invasion, so does the fiction of the huntsman seize the protagonist’s reality. Looking at the play’s final scenes, one

52 While the elapsing time remains undefined in the whole of Acts I and II, the succession of time is thematised and gains speed from Act III onwards, when Orra has arrived at her murdering ancestor’s castle. III.ii is set at night, two days before Michael’s Eve, III.iv on the day before (cf. 63), IV.i–ii on Michael’s Eve, at evening, and IV.iii at the very night’s witching hour.


6 From Stage to Page, from the Publicly Politic to the Metaphysically Private

might go even one step further: Are the horrors, which become manifest in the metalepsis of the huntsman (in which he transgresses the ontological level of the fictional story to the actual story world), only a symptom of the fact that the threats of the Gothic tale have always already been present in Orra’s actual world? Knowing as a recipient what the falling heroine does not know, one can say: yes. The huntsman appearing before the main character’s and also the audiences’ eyes (or the readers’ inner eye), is no spectre. It is a man of flesh and blood, Theobald. It is, as such, a real, living being, who frightens the lively story-lover out of her wits. Despite having promised her that he will only ever come close to her when her “state | Such service needeth” (25) (i.e., when she asks him to do so) and despite having accepted that Orra is not interested in him as a husband but just as an equal co-burgher (cf. 25), even a man like respectful Theobald nevertheless ignores the woman’s wishes, and convinces himself that he needs to rescue her: “To-morrow is St. Michael’s Eve: ’twere well | To be the spectre-huntsman for a night, | And bear her off, without pursuit or hindrance.” (63) Even though Orra refuses to become involved in any marriage plot, Theobald construes her as a ‘damsel in distress’ who requires a male hero to rescue her.53 With the story pervading reality until it becomes reality in her dramatic storytelling, Baillie shows that is male dominance, men’s disregard for the limits that women set, and the unwanted invasion of the self-proclaimed saviour54 that are the true spectres that haunt and threaten the lives that women wish to lead. What Julie A. Carlson acknowledges for socially marginalised, exploited, or otherwise subdued groups, such as slaves, seems to also hold true for the subjugated women of the society in which the freedom-loving Orra lives: Today’s ghosts are sociologized [. . .] and they are deeply politicized. Spectres of Marx, the enslaved, apparitional lesbians – they haunt this world in its other-ing dimensions. They mourn the loss of justice, the power of power to render others invisible, and thus they manifest the processes that have made them what they are: repressed marginalized, liminal, carrying out the death drive within culture. (J. A. Carlson 2004, 206)

Theobald, a representative of the male species (and even a kinder one!), is a ghost that points to social and political power imbalance between the genders.

53 Even more ironically for Theobald and unluckily for Orra, the knight’s rescue is not even needed, as the Count of Aldenberg and his state are underway to rescue the protagonist themselves, since Rudigere’s plot and lies have meanwhile been discovered (cf. 80–83). 54 Even when Orra has physically shown her revulsion at Theobald’s presence by way of her collapse, the knight, no matter how well-meaning, still insists on staging himself as her hero, “[t]hy knight, they champion, the devoted Theobald” (77).

6.2 The Transgressive and Transformative Power of the Gothic Tale


This imbalance haunts, terrorises, and horrifies the female species. Just as the audience or readers realise with hindsight that Orra’s spectres are not fictional but real, namely, the social crassness of gender imbalance, Orra, in her state of her alleged ‘mental derangement,’ appears to have actually arrived at a mindexpanding level of consciousness. In the seeming non-recognition of her fellows, she actually recognises their true nature: as good and well-meaning they may be, they are part of a horrific society whose workings and power rest upon the subjugation and sexual as well as financial exploitation of women. When the perceived madwoman,55 in Act V, scene ii (the final scene), sees kind Eleanora, wife to Hughobert and friend to Orra, who comes to her rescue, she “shrinks from her with horror” (94 SD). And when Urston, Orra’s confessor and old friend, approaches her (after having earlier tried to convince her to betray herself by at least feigning to submit to the Count’s wish to marry Glottenbal, cf. 32–33), a “terrible smile of recognition” (97) turns up on her face. This ‘smile’ is likely to be the expression of the terrifying insight that these people, too, are part of the establishment to keep her oppressed. Ironically and paradoxically, the one character in Orra who grasps reality as it really is, with all its gender-based injustice, is the one who revels most in fictions: the eponymous heroine. As early as in Act II, scene ii, the main character contends: “Dreams I fear not: | it is the dreadful waking” (31). And, after Theobald’s apparition, Orra has awoken to a reality in which the living are the true spectres haunting her, a fact that her final monologue captures (99): A hideous burst hath been [her realisation]: [. . .] | The living and the dead, together are | In horrid neighbourship [. . .]. | See! from all points they come; earth casts them up! | In grave-clothes swath’d are those but new in death; | [. . .] and there be some | With wicker’d ribs, thro’ which the darkness scowls. | Back, back! – They close upon us.

The raising up of the dead Orra describes either takes place in her mind or is the metaphorical framing of an actual fact. If one takes the heroine’s visions seriously (after all, she is directly addressing the Count, cf. 99 SD), she is more likely referring to the character of the people she is looking at: They are like zombies who have arisen to close in upon her, to transgress beyond the boundaries she had set and ignore her wishes not to marry and to stay independent. Describing the Aldenbergs, her former attendants, and suitor as undead, as

55 For a rewarding comparison of Ophelia and Orra as ‘madwomen,’ weakened by patriarchal views and “subdued femininity,” see Melissa Wehler (2010, 112), who, too, understands that Orra “open[s] up a marginalized perspective [. . .] to subvert the patriarchal construction of [. . .] [her] world” (Wehler 2010, 115).


6 From Stage to Page, from the Publicly Politic to the Metaphysically Private

living reminders of death, decay, and powerlessness, is as much a rebellion against an oppressive society as is possible for a medieval woman; after all, her vision deviates from the others’, who (want to) interpret the situation differently. It is only Orra, othered as a ‘madwoman’ by a society to whose norms she does not wish to conform, who externalises the perceived threat of a patriarchal system of female financial and legal exploitation, as well as mental and spiritual oppression. Joanna Baillie thus uses the transgressive power of the Gothic56 to transform the genre of drama to a universal one, which includes as much genre theory as fiction (cf. her meta-narrative scene, in which the author lists the qualities and effects of the ‘Gothic tale’ explicitly), and which features a multi-modal parataxis of dramatic, theatrical, and narrative modes. In doing so, she rebels not only against genre boundaries, gut also against a patriarchal system of female subjugation and repression. Misty Anderson’s remarks with regard to the anti-marriage play De Montfort prove equally pertinent for Orra: “we are more likely to see genre bending than gender bending” (M. G. Anderson 2007, 156). The eponymous heroine, who does not bend to society’s expectations, is presented in a play that instrumentalises genre-bending in the form of Gothic transgression to make a point in her favour. Transgression becomes, firstly, manifest on DNL 1, the story level, on which – besides the merging of theory and practice – instances of storytelling are theatrically and alluringly staged to emotionally impress the recipients and make them understand and sympathise with the ghost-tale-loving and sublime-seeking protagonist. Transgression occurs also on the story level to the extent that stories are presented as power instruments, which trespass upon the private realms of others to keep them in check and subjugate them. Transgression finally characterises the level of dramatic narration, which is informed by the transgeneric phenomenon of the Gothic and which is metaleptically permeated by a concrete Gothic tale, the ‘legend of the hunter-knight.’ The diegetic level increasingly turns into this very Gothic tale, which, as the end suggests, has perhaps always already been reality. With Diane Long Hoeveler (2001, 122), one can thus conclude that, with her generically rebellious drama,57 which is narrative in so many and such fascinating respects, and the emotionally horrifying fate of Orra, Baillie manages “to transport the Gothic universe of female victimization into the realm of public discourse, or least into the ‘mental theatre’, the closet dramas, that were so prevalent and popular during this period.”

56 To what extent the Gothic has to be regarded as a phenomenon in which ‘transgression’ plays an important role is delineated, e.g., in Fred Botting’s concise overview (cf. 1996, 4–8). 57 With her ‘generic rebellion,’ Baillie’s example shows that “Romantic drama is inextricably linked and peculiarly entangled in the radical disruptive changes of the period, displaying at various levels extreme anxiety that is most fully explained in historical terms” (Watkins 1993, 8).

6.3 From the Theatre to the Mind


6.3 From the Theatre to the Mind, from ‘Drama as Was’ to the Romantic Gesamtkunstwerk: Lord Byron’s Closet Drama Manfred as a Dramatic Focalisation on and of a Self in Conflict While Richard Cumberland partakes in forging the new nation and educating emerging social orders (cf. Sect. 6.1) and Joanna Baillie thematises the stillexisting problem of patriarchal subjugation of women in an otherwise radically changed society (cf. Sect. 6.2), Lord Byron, with his Manfred (1817), tackles questions at once broader and more private, concerning both the individual and humankind at large. The closet drama, which, too, displays a high degree of narrativity, is characterised by diametrically opposed movements: thematically speaking, by a withdrawal into private realms, because it focuses on a self in an existential crisis (and uses this self as focaliser) and, at the same time, by a reach beyond the concrete political situation towards metaphysical, existential issues. This dichotomy also plays out in the generic form: Manfred is even more extreme than either Cumberland or Baillie’s plays in its structural acts of psychological internalisation, on the one hand, and generic multi-modality as well as universality, on the other. Against the backdrop of these thematic and generic balancing acts and in comparison to the aforementioned plays, Byron’s closet drama comes perhaps as close as it gets to the ideal of a Romantic Gesamtkunstwerk, which, like his poetry, features [a] sweeping range of [. . .] topics, subjects, and models (classical and European alike, ancient and modern, English and Continental); [. . .] [a] deliberate embrace of the most traditional and the most experimental poetic forms; and finally [. . .] [a] range of styles [. . .] – from the most ephemeral types of street songs, ballads, and vers de société to the heroic manner of the tales [. . .]. (McGann 2008, xi; italics in original)

Before examining Manfred’s unconventional combination of structures deeply rooted in different traditional genres and transgeneric features, and determining their text-internal effects as well as their cultural echoes, I will need to contextualise Byron’s work. Most interestingly for this study and as outlined below, the play emerged (just as Baillie’s does; cf. Sect. 6.2) in an especially iconoclastic literary period which strove for originality by combining seeming contradictions, e.g., modes seen as dramatic with those seen as narrative, by transgressing conventional genre boundaries, and by remodelling dramatic narration beyond established generic categories.


6 From Stage to Page, from the Publicly Politic to the Metaphysically Private

Manfred in Its Context of Generic Universality Having thematised the genre-transgressing character of Romanticism in the section on Baillie (cf. Sect. 6.2), I will, to contextualise the genre-devouring character of ß’s oeuvre, turn to another essential aspect of the period’s poetics: its definition as a ‘progressive universal poetry.’ The German philosopher, critic, and writer Friedrich Karl Wilhelm von Schlegel, in his Athenaeum Fragments (1798), put forth the demand that Romantische Poesie,58 i.e., ‘Romantic poetry,’ be ‘a progressive universal poetry’ (cf. Schlegel 1958, 37–38): Its destiny is not merely to reunite all of the different genres and to put poetry in touch with philosophy and rhetoric. Romantic poetry wants to and should combine and fuse poetry and prose, genius and criticism, art poetry and nature poetry. It should make poetry lively and sociable, and make life and society poetic.59

Schlegel’s fundamental demand to bring together all possible genres to form a Gesamtkunstwerk of a universal, absolute kind to enliven literature and poeticise everyday life played a central role in the formation of Romantic poetics and aesthetics. In this very spirit, Romantic authors in England and on the Continent worked in “modes which resist classification – from the fragment [. . .] to the gesamtkunstwerk – and [. . .] [fused] conventionally distinct genres into new composite forms” (A. Richardson 1988, 1; italics in original). Dramatists in particular engaged in creating composite works of art that defy generic categorisation by way of “stylistic experimentation [. . .] that led [. . .] [them] to attempt virtually every dramatic style” (Cox 1994, 155). Like Byron, they even included non-dramatic modes, such as poetry and prose, in their plays and invented new forms of drama that challenged conventional staging and reception. In addition to his call for universal genres, Schlegel’s theory at the intersection of drama and narrative also played an important role in England. In A Course of Lectures on Dramatic Art and Literature ([1815] 2018), Schlegel not only proposes a literary history on drama in narrative form, as Michael Simpson (Simpson 1998, esp. 27) argues, but also conceptualises drama as a “macronarrative form” (Simpson 1998, 28). With the publication of its translation in 1815, drama came to be understood in England as a cultural means of providing narratives for nationbuilding. This nation-building exercise is arguably less predominant in metaphysical dramas like Manfred; at the same time, Schlegel’s conceptualisations of drama

58 Note that Poesie, in Schlegel’s theory, does not solely denote ‘poetry,’ as the translation above suggests. Its meaning includes the ‘poetic quality’ of literature and art in general; even a ‘poetic quality’ of life is referred to (cf. Schlegel 1958 37–38s). 59 Translation from http://germanhistorydocs.ghi-dc.org/sub_document.cfm?document_id=368.

6.3 From the Theatre to the Mind


as part of cultural narratives certainly provided an additional motivation for writers to envision drama and narration together when composing and revolutionising drama. The generic revolution in drama, the system of genres at large, and the ensuing, newly variegated intersections between the genres – i.e., genres that were combined within individual works of art to create a universal Gesamtkunstwerk, like Manfred – are certainly not solely based on the ideas of influential Romantic poetics like Schlegel’s. They also seem to be rooted in the actual cultural revolutions and upheavals defining the period. As Jeffrey N. Cox (1994, 153) puts it, [the Romantic] vision was shaped in particular in the fires of the French Revolution, perceived as enacting the previous century’s attacks upon the hierarchies, immutable laws, and mythic repetitions that had defined both traditional society and the literary forms like tragedy it had supported. Born in this era, Romanticism celebrates the liberated individual. It embraces new lands, remote times, and strange experiences. It delights in new and open literary forms that seek to reflect a world of endless possibilities.

Byron’s dramatic oeuvre, too, responded to the dynamic and unstable historical circumstances (cf., e.g., McGann 2008, xi), arguably in the two ways indicated in Cox’s quote: firstly, the Romantic author pondered over the repercussions not only of the Revolution in France, but also of social upheavals in England upon the individual. All of his plays thematise the inability of the protagonist to come to terms with the (new) world (cf. Schmid 2009b), relate to other human beings, and be a member of society, which is despised and fought against (cf. Schmid 2009a). Accordingly, “[r]unning through [. . .] [Byron’s plays] are the post-Revolutionary awareness that the world had irrevocably changed and the post-Waterloo anxiety over the narrowing possibilities of human freedom that seemed increasingly to accompany that change” (Watkins 1993, 134), as well as the consequential depiction of the ‘individual in crisis.’60 In addition, Byron’s drama is informed by the revolutionary cultural and social changes in that it is, as a genre, itself revolutionised.61 When it comes to Byron, this change of ‘form,’ as Cox calls it, is, in fact, an explosion of the conventional boundaries of drama. Most interestingly for this

60 For more details on the political thoughts of Bryron, who, in several journal entries of 1814, appears personally disillusioned and angry with both the development in post-revolutionary France and the current Whig politics at home in England, see Malcom Kelsall (2006, esp. 50–51) and Marjean Purinton (1994, esp. 151–162). 61 Accordingly, what Jeffrey N. Cox (1994, 153) contends with regard to Byron’s poetry also holds true for his drama: Byron “reinvented, for a changing Western culture, a new high style in poetry that answered to the variegated and dynamic (not to say chaotic and unstable) social circumstances of what we now call the Modern World.”


6 From Stage to Page, from the Publicly Politic to the Metaphysically Private

study, the generic revolution in which Byron partakes can be placed at the intersection between the dramatic and the narrative. The Romantic poet reduces the conventional and defining ways of dramatic reception (cf. Sect. 1.2) to one, exclusively: it favours reading over theatrical production (and even defies the latter).62 Byron’s drama is intended to be received like a novel, a book: it has to be read. In contrast to Baillie’s drama, which was designed for the stage but, in her time, did not make it there, Byron’s closet plays are made, from the outset, for the mind. He conceptualises a “mental theatre” (quoted in Purinton 1994, 19), which, for one thing, realises Schlegel’s wish to transcend the vulgarity of life (and, with it, the ‘vulgarity of theatre audiences,’ cf. Purinton 1994, 17) as well as the “physical grossness of the stage” (Purinton 1994, 18) by ‘romanticising’ and ‘poeticising’ drama, and, accordingly, ennobling its reception and its status; it has become literary drama or ‘highbrow literature.’ At the same time, the reduction of reception possibilities enables the production of a total, titanic drama, a drama that would blow up both the possibilities and limits of theatrical production. Not just the excess of Manfred’s scenery makes the play unfit for even the grandest of London stages – the massive and majestic “Mountain of the Jungfrau” (I.ii SD),63 for instance, is arguably less hard to imagine in a reader’s mind than to be reproduced in an equally breath-taking manner with a set design. The personified elements in Manfred – e.g., the “[a]valanche” (I.i.65), the “earthquake” (I.i.88), or, the “hurricane” (I.i.102) – might also, if represented within the confines of a theatre, even with the most creative of costumes, nonetheless fall short of their grandeur on the page. To conclude, George Byron’s closet plays (as well as his works of other genres), emerged within a revolutionary context that was iconoclastic on several levels: historically, critically, and generically. This context infiltrated the author’s work: Byron’s drama is both a renunciation of (dramatic and theatrical) convention and an excessive integration of a multiplicity of (alter-dramatic generic and aesthetic) conventions. The consequences are, at least, two-fold: firstly, Byron’s works have to be regarded “not as a retreat into the closet but as a foray into the minds of both dramatic character and reader” (A. Richardson 1988, 3). This foray is, secondly, marked, as will be shown presently, by an excessive exploitation of not only the nexus between narrative and drama, but also of many intersections between the genres. Byron’s drama, therefore, was indicative of

62 Apparently, most Romantic dramatists held with their contemporary Charles Lamb, essayist and poet, who not only published Shakespeare’s plays as tales, but also argued that drama could be most intensely savoured if it was read (cf. A. Richardson 1988, 2). 63 Within this section, all not otherwise marked act, scene, and line numbers in brackets refer to Byron (2008 [1817]).

6.3 From the Theatre to the Mind


Romantic attempts at generic, social, and ontological transcendence and universality. It was “[a] theatre for the imagination”, a “verse drama [that] exposed the rich diversities and complexities of the self” (Purinton 1994, 20) and that, in its unconventionality and avant-gardism, displayed an abundance of generic wealth. Brought together in one play, the multiplicity of genres could not but make a piece like the ‘dramatic poem’ Manfred,64 both formally and generically, as revolutionary, progressive, and absolute as the times in which it was written.

Manfred’s Text-Internal Narrativity The generic bravery and universality that Romantic criticism demands and the revolutionary tearing down of age-old social structures during the French Revolution, which was met with favour by the youthful English Romantics, contextualise the newly established and changed genres of the early-nineteenth century. They provide also the backdrop to Manfred, which, when looked at text-internally, proves to be a composite of separated genres and aesthetic modes, especially narrative ones. Like other Romantic works, such as the ‘fragment,’ it defies convention, breaks with tradition, and is probably one of the boldest realisations of a universal Gesamtkunstwerk. It plays down (no pun intended) the traditionally dramatic as well as the conventionally theatrical, on the one hand, and highlights the narrative and poetic, on the other. Moreover, it endows the latter modes with theatrical sensu spectacular, vivid qualities. In effect, Manfred is both the result of revolutionary thought (in history and criticism) and a trigger for it (in literary history, particularly, in generic reality). To explain how Manfred’s universal character is brought about, I, firstly, investigate in what respects narrative modes were drawn on for the play’s story and its structure. Secondly, I inquire how the ‘narrative mode’ came to dominate the play and examine how it is additionally dedramatised and de-theatricalised by means of a specific kind of focalisation. Manfred is unconventional; built on paradoxes, it plays with recipients’ expectations. It gestures towards but defies the usual teleology of the genres it makes use of. Unlike the default drama, which is written to be staged, Manfred is written not to be staged. Likewise, one central story introduced on Manfred’s diegetic level is not, as in a default case of storytelling, told, but remains untold. This untold story is closely tied to the main character. Even before the

64 N.b. Manfred’s subtitle, a neologism that unifies two distinct genres and frames the drama more as poem than a drama (i.e., ‘dramatic’ is reduced to an attribute describing the quality of the poem).


6 From Stage to Page, from the Publicly Politic to the Metaphysically Private

play opens, in the inter-textual epigraph that precedes the list of dramatis personae, a deeply troubled mind is conjured up: “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, | Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” (“Dramatis Personae”, SD) The famous words uttered by Hamlet, who has just seen a ghost, prefigure the main character’s situation in the play about to begin. Like Hamlet, the present hero is involved with and upset by spirits. The epigraph foreshadows that Manfred is similarly caught in between the ontological levels of earth (i.e., the actual, material world) and heaven (i.e., the spiritual world), belonging to neither. The opening soliloquy confirms the expectation the epigraph raises: Manfred characterises himself as a restless soul – “My slumbers – if I slumber – are not sleep, | [. . .] in my heart | There is a vigil” (I.i.3–6) –, as someone who is socially isolated, feeling alienated from his fellow beings (cf. I.i.7–8, 17–21), and someone who seeks the company of spirits and, in a Faustian manner, conjures them (cf. I.i.28–49). Above all, the protagonist feels ‘cursed’ (cf. I.i.25, I.i.47). The source of the suicidal character’s troubles, however, is largely veiled, if not deliberately obscured. The stories of the murder of the old king Hamlet and the possible betrayal of Gertrude are as central to Shakespeare’s play as central the story that causes Manfred’s troubles is to Byron’s drama.65 Yet, while we learn the story that precedes Hamlet and that explains the protagonist’s despair – even in manifold ways (diegetically and mimetically, as a play within the play) –, the source of Manfred’s depression is constantly hinted at, but never fully revealed. Yet, suggestions of its centrality to Manfred’s biography and state of mind abound: The protagonist has had a feeling of vanitas “[s]ince that all-nameless hour” (I.i.24); he wishes to forget biographical facts that he cannot “utter” (I.i.138). Even though the features of the story untold, its characters, its events become clearer with each act, the story remains an enigma. In “strange words”, a “half-maddening sin” (II.i.31) is remembered and alluded to by Manfred: “When we were in our youth, and had one heart, | And loved each other as we should not love, | And this [blood] was shed: but still it rises up, | Colouring the clouds, that shut me out from heaven, | Where thou art not – and I shall never will be.” (II.i.26–30) Manfred’s obscure – and by

65 With my examples of inter-textual references to Hamlet and Macbeth, I do not wish to give the impression that Byron merely draws on dramatic hypotexts. Even if he does do this extensively – besides the aforementioned Shakespearean texts, he also refers to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Faust (or, at least, to the Faust material in general) and to the system of Greek drama with its choric passages –, Byron’s inter-textuality in Manfred also happens at the intersection of drama and narrative. His connections especially to John Milton’s Satan in the epic poem Paradise Lost (1667) and Montesquieu’s Persian Letters (1721), a story of incestuous siblings, have already been examined (A. Richardson 2006, esp. 138–139).

6.3 From the Theatre to the Mind


him further obscured – story seems to involve blood(-shed) and guilt66 as well as a morally or legally forbidden love affair, likely to be an incestuous one. After all, the “thou” (II.i.30) he addressed shares the protagonist’s blood, a blood “[w]hich ran in the veins of my [Manfred’s] fathers, and in ours” (II.i.25). The guilt and/or bloodshed that the protagonist refers to appears, in addition, related to a person who is now dead; someone who, in consequence of the crimes indicated, i.e., incestuous relations, is as excluded (“shut out”, II.ii.29) from the Christian community as the hero and just as condemned. The knowledge of the story, or, at least parts of it, is central to understanding the protagonist’s crisis, his motivation to seek oblivion and death, his visions of his dead sister Astarte, his asking for her forgiveness (cf. II.iii.97 SD–155 SD), and Manfred’s own end, his death (cf. III.iv.151 SD). Yet, the suspected incest with the deceased is only ever alluded to; total access to the main character’s biographical history is denied; the recipient, like the protagonist, remains in limbo. Whereas Manfred is caught between heaven and earth, the recipient oscillates between insight and ignorance.67 While the vital character of Manfred’s untold story – vital for himself as well as the recipient’s understanding of his present state and motivations – is highlighted by implications and omissions, its centrality is further enhanced in a dialogue in which the dynamics of a story that needs to be told, but whose narrator is reluctant to tell it, are staged. Act II, scene ii, in which Manfred converses with the Witch of the Alps, abounds with the Witch’s encouragement and entreaties to tell his story, on the one hand – “let thy lips utter it” (II.ii.48), “proceed” (II.ii.97), “[s]pare not thyself – proceed” (II.ii.104) –, and, on the other hand with the main character’s struggle to find the words to do so. He not only seeks to “find a voice” (II.ii.50), but also deviates from the facts of his story before coming concrete – “there [was] but one who – but of her anon” (II.ii.59) or repeatedly stops mid-sentence, thus breaking off the story (II.ii.96; II.ii.104). What is more, Manfred speaks in riddles and never fully elucidates the exact nature of Astarte’s end and his role in it: “I loved her, and destroy’d her! [. . .] | Not

66 Like Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, Manfred, too, sees blood where there is actually none (cf. II.i.21) and, with it, is reminded of a crime committed. 67 Granted, when the Phantom of Astarte appears, Manfred is explicitly describing their relationship: “Thou lovedst me | Too much, as I loved thee: we were not made | To torture thus each other, though it were | The deadliest sin to love as we have loved” (II.iv.121–124). This is quite explicit; at the same time, the exact quality of their familial relation (is she a sister, a twin sister, as Alan Richardson argues [cf. 2006, 138], or a soulmate?), the actual form of their relationship, its end, and Astarte’s death, as well as Manfred’s involvement in it, remain open, vague, even opaque. Richardson, albeit briefly, also touches on the argument that the hero’s past is “deliberately obscur[ed]” (2006, 137).


6 From Stage to Page, from the Publicly Politic to the Metaphysically Private

with my hand, but heart. [. . .] I have shed | Blood, but not hers – and yet her blood was shed” (II.ii.117–20) With this dramatisation of Manfred’s resistance and even inability to tell his story, the centrality of the story not told as well as the centrality of the hero’s inability – the fact that he “cannot utter it” (I.i.138) – is even further stressed. With the integration of an untold story on DNL 1 and the dramatisation of the struggles (and failure) to tell a story, matters of storytelling and stories are foregrounded in Byron’s drama. In other words, the relevance of stories in Manfred lies, paradoxically, in the fact that they are presented in contrast to their default purpose: their relevance lies in them not or hardly being told. The story that has triggered Manfred’s crisis and caused his wish for either oblivion or death, is, in Byron’s play, presented as caught in a state between illumination and obscuration. The play’s above mentioned epigraph, which evokes forms of existence between the worlds known or speculated about, thus no longer just refers to the state of the protagonist. It also captures the generic status of Manfred as a play constantly ‘in between’ two opposite ontological levels; and this in three respects. Firstly, as a closet play, it hovers between its possible, but negated existence on stage and its possible and actualised existence in readers’ minds. Secondly, Byron makes a story central to the plot, but presents it in a limbo between its potential telling and its actual censuring. Thirdly and finally, the drama transcends its boundaries by floating between dramatic and narrative conventions. It even decreases the former in favour of the latter, as will be shown in the following analysis of Manfred’s dramatic narration. The emphasis on the “psychic conflict in the mind of the protagonist” (Melaney 2005, 461), which is so often remarked upon in criticism of Manfred,68 is not only established by way of the plot, but also by way of Byron’s specific dramatic narration, which employs the narrative strategy of focalisation. Accordingly, when one examines the play’s structure, it becomes obvious that the thematic focus on Manfred’s self in conflict is paralleled by a focalisation through this very self. In other words, the protagonist can be conceptualised as the focalising instance of Byron’s play. In relation to this instance, which can be situated on DNL 3,69 the dramatic information is transmitted. That the events of the play are largely filtered through the experience and perspective of the main character70 is verbally and nonverbally established. Manfred’s utterances – for example, “these eyes but close |

68 Cf., e.g., Alan Richardson (1988, 43–44) or Fred Parker (2006, 2). 69 This is a second-order extra-diegetic level which I frame as the level of implicit perspectivisation (cf. Sect. 3.3). 70 Cf. Burkhard Niederhoff’s summary of Genette’s 1972 definition of ‘focalisation’ as “a selection or restriction of narrative information in relation to the experience and knowledge of the narrator, the characters or other, more hypothetical entities in the storyworld” (2013a [2011]).

6.3 From the Theatre to the Mind


To look within” (I.i.6–7) or “This do I see – and then I look within” (II.i.72) – explicitly stress the fact that he is the one to ‘look’ and ‘see’ in the play. In addition, they show that his focalisation is largely characterised by introspection. Nonverbally and, therefore, implicitly, the play’s focalisation and, with it repeated acts of (self-centred) introspection are brought about by a reduction of conventionally theatrical and dramatic elements. To filter everything through Manfred’s experience, Byron strips the drama of its potential theatrical elements. The aforementioned reduction of reception possibilities is one means of de-theatricalisation; but what it comes to Byron’s focalisation strategy, other strategies of making the drama less theatrical come to the fore. There is not just the ‘minus stage’ element in Manfred (as the play is supposed to be read rather than performed on a stage), but also a certain corollary: something which one may call, admittedly somewhat circuitously, the ‘minus body’ quality. If embodiment (“leibliche [. . .] Präsenz”, Fischer-Lichte 2005a,16) is one of the primary characteristics of the drama as potential theatrical performance, it is striking that even a drama intended to be read – and which does not show bodies in the first place – makes a point of the fact that most of its dramatis personae are ethereal, insubstantial beings, either in body or in character. That is, they have to be conceptualised, upon reception, without any distinct physical shape or characteristic mind-set. Manfred is, firstly, presented as one of the few characters, among all dramatis personae, with a human body (even if he feels alienated from it; cf. I.i.6–8). Stage directions and dialogue emphasise that the spirits Manfred conjures up are bodiless; they are nothing but ‘voices,’ “heard” (I.i.49 SD, I.i.191 SD) but unseen. Sometimes they are only heard in the distance; they are described as voices “without” (II.iii.15 SD, 25 SD), thus wavering in between the stage and ‘the off,’ between their situation on DNL 2 and their being heard on DNL 1. Only when Manfred wills them does one of the spirits, which explain that they generally have “no forms” (I.i.181), appear as a fleeting, insubstantial form (that of a beautiful female figure, likely to be Astarte; cf. I.i.188). Secondly, the focaliser is, among those characters with a body, the only one who can be considered a ‘round character.’ The Chamois Hunter, who saves the suicidal protagonist’s life, Manfred’s servants Herman and Manuel, as well as the Abbot who tries to save his soul, are reduced to props; they but give cues for Manfred, signalling him to speak, giving him the opportunity to reflect and lay bare his thoughts and feelings to the recipients. That all but one character in Manfred are deprived of either body or a distinct character has – at least – two effects: on the one hand, it suggests that the play can be read as a monodrama, a dramatic piece for a single performer or character. All other dramatis personae, those stripped of bodies and/or character, can be interpreted as emanations of his mind: they seem less part of the


6 From Stage to Page, from the Publicly Politic to the Metaphysically Private

actual story world than externalisations of mental and psychic processes. They are elements of a troubled mind, which imagines but does not speak with its fellow creatures. Not without reason does Manfred repeatedly stress that he has actually shunned other people since his youth – as he makes clear to the Chamois Hunter, establishing a border between his “lot” and “living being[s]” (II.i.76) –71 and seek his end in isolation.72 On the other hand, and more likely, the events of the play are to be understood as presented through the protagonist’s eyes. Manfred converses with some spirits without seeing them (cf., e.g., I.i or II.iii) or evokes and imagines them before his inner eye (cf. the “celestial aspect” of the Witch of the Alps, II.ii.23, or the Phantom of Astarte, II.iv). Manfred also converses with real people in the story world without really seeing them. He focuses only on them as bothersome interlocutors and disregards their individual (possibly even likeable) characteristics. Corresponding to the value catalogue of the focaliser, these other characters are represented as unimportant, inconvenient, and disliked fellow creatures; creatures to be ignored and dismissed, which makes them, instead of equally round characters, the indistinct, “slightly developed” (A. Richardson 1988, 44) types that they are.73 Using Manfred as a focaliser in this manner, Byron adds to the explicit verbal self-characterisations of his character. He draws the readers into Manfred’s mind, helping them to become part of his ‘introspections.’ Writing the play from the protagonist’s perspective, the author makes the ethereal experiences of his hero’s troubled mind accessible to his readers and helps them to envision and even directly experience the mind-set, self-centredness, desolation, alienation, and isolation of Manfred. Byron’s strategies of de-theatricalisation (i.e., his shunning of conventional constituents of drama in his play’s ‘minus stage’ element and ‘minus body’ quality) are met by processes of narrativisation. That is, the Romantic author

71 Manfred’s perceived exceptionalism is the realisation of a diachronically reappearing, transgeneric trope of the “[outlaw] from conventional society, alienated by a combination of [. . .] superior nobility of mind and some obscure act of crime in [. . .] [the] past” (Parker 2006, 1), as this self-description shows: “From my youth upwards | My spirit walk’d not with the souls of men, | Nor look’d upon the earth with human eyes; | The thirst of their ambition was not mine, | [. . .] my powers, | made me a stranger; though I wore the form, | I had no sympathy with breathing flesh” (II.ii.50–57). 72 After all, he is constantly asking people – no matter if actual or imagined ones – to not follow him and to leave him alone (cf. II.i.93–95, III.iv.55). 73 As Michael G. Sundell (1969, 587) shows, the strategy of changing “figures of independent interest into reflections of symbolic extensions of the protagonist” is one to be already found in Byron’s earlier plays and that was perfected in his later works, such as Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage (1812–1818) and Manfred.

6.3 From the Theatre to the Mind


endows his drama with a ‘plus narrative’ characteristic and equips this very characteristic with theatrical sensu spectacular qualities. The ‘plus narrative’ elements, which counter the aspects of de-theatricalisation, come in the form of the predominance of disembodied ‘voices,’ who diegetically transmit descriptions of overwhelming landscapes, untamed nature, or ontological conditions. These voices speak in verse, a poetic, compelling, sensual language (an avalanche is quasi heard “thundering”, I.i.66, the plague quasi seen wiping out a whole city in one night, cf. II.iii.34–53), making that which is diegetically rendered highly theatrical, spectacular. These diegetic descriptions, clad in a ‘firework of language,’ help to render Manfred’s spatial sights and metaphysical insights, which he himself finds “o’erwhelming” (I.ii.76), equally tremendous and, as Alan Richardson puts it, “titanic” (A. Richardson 2006, 139) in the readers’ minds. They possibly even enable the recipients to better imagine or even coperceive what an overwhelmed, hag-ridded mind hears, sees, and feels in its heightened state of sensitivity as well as ever-expanding anxiety and desolation. Considering Byron’s dramatic narration in Manfred, one recognises that the strategies of de-theatricalisation and narrativisation are accompanied by strategies of ‘de-dramatisation.’ Defining markers of conventional drama are reduced in their importance, while narrative ones are, again, increased. That Byron is less interested in the presentation of dramatic events than in the exploration of mental states is made clear, firstly, by his reduction of plot and action (to stay within the system of accounting metaphors, a ‘minus plot-minus action’ quality);74 secondly, by his minimisation of dialogue in favour of monologues; and thirdly by his highlighting of the ‘telling frame’ and explicit ‘acts of diegesis.’ The poverty of action is best illustrated when one looks at Manfred’s deeds: he repeatedly aims at doing things, but fails in his attempts (for instance, forgetting in I.i., killing himself in I.ii, waking the dead in II.2, or receiving forgiveness by Astarte in II.iv). This lack of action hinges not only on the plays lack of events but also Byron’s hero conceptualisation. He designs a static, paralysed hero: at the end of Act I, scene i, “Manfred falls senseless” to the ground, not moving anymore (I.i.190 SD). And almost all of Act I, scene ii (i.e., 109 of 125 verses), depicts the immobile hero on some mountain cliffs. Time is stretched out and nearly comes to a halt as Manfred stares into an abyss, thinking eloquently about his death wish, being about to commit suicide, attempting to do it but, finally, prevented from it by the curse of the spirits (cf. I.i.253–254), some inner barrier (cf. I.ii.20–24), and the Chamois Hunter (cf. I.ii.109 SD). The lack of

74 This quality of Manfred was already regarded as remarkable in one of its first reviews, in which a critic found: “It has no action; no plot – and no characters; Manfred merely muses and suffers from beginning to end.” (Jeffrey 2010, 116).


6 From Stage to Page, from the Publicly Politic to the Metaphysically Private

plot,75 i.e., of causal and temporal patterns that link events and explain them, as well as character motivation, is perfectly epitomised in Act II, scene iii, when the Destinies meet. Their “singing” (II.iii.15 SD) certainly creates a beautiful, haunting atmosphere; yet, it remains unclear how their existence and their meeting is linked to Manfred; what motivates them to sing of general events, how they spend their time, and how the unspecified, impersonalised fates they sing about (cf. II.iii. 26–33) are causally and temporally linked to the present hero’s fate. With his acts of de-dramatisation, Byron less muddies the fact that his drama is a drama than opens it up to other generic modes. The Romantic author defies his recipients’ genre expectations, first, by reducing dialogue, which is generally held constitutive of drama, in favour of one person (Manfred) speaking. Act III, scene ii, is for instance (if one disregards the one and a half lines spoken by the protagonist’s attendant Herman) nothing but a soliloquy by the hero, who comments and reflects upon the sunset, the last sunset that he will see. With Byron’s reductions of action and plot as well as soliloquies like the one just mentioned, that which throughout literary history has been regarded as the default case of dramatic storytelling, the predominance of the action frame, is obliterated, whereas a telling frame, linked in literary criticism and history with narrative, is foregrounded. In other words, secondly, narrative is not just included, but also highlighted. This becomes all the more obvious when one realises that the protagonist’s extensive diegetic acts are marked as such. Performative verbs such as “I do compel ye” (I.i.49), “I call upon ye” (I.i.35), “I call upon thee!” (I.i.250), or “I will call her” (II.ii12) stress the power of diegetic acts (after all, they enable Manfred to make the super-natural powers, even the elements his subjects; cf. I.i.35–36) and characterise words and language as Romanticised poetic magic.76 In opposition to all philosophy and the sciences, which the intellectual Manfred has studied and with which he has become exasperated (cf., e.g., I.i.13–17), diegetic acts in verse form are the only ones which can transcend troubled minds and give them at least some power to do something about their despair. In Byron’s emphasis on words, language, and poetic diegetic acts, the author stages these very things as the better, albeit not ultimate, means of using one’s knowledge, of understanding the world, and getting into touch with it.77

75 For a concise overview of the meanings of ‘plot’ in narratological history and everyday language use, see, for example, Karin Kukkonen (2014 [2011]). 76 Byron, in this, prefigures the German writer Joseph von Eichendorff’s 1835 programmatic, poetological poem “Wünschelrute”, in which the lyrical I, a Romantic poet, seeks to find the magic word that is to awaken the sublime assumed hidden, ‘sleeping’ in all things. 77 Incidentally, as Kai Merten (2005, esp. 148–149) intriguingly illustrates, with the Scottish Enlightenment, the theatre had also come to play an important role in the sciences, like

6.3 From the Theatre to the Mind


To sum up, the emphasis on narrative in Manfred and its centredness on its eponymous hero is brought about by the author’s denial of genre expectations, by thematising the importance of (telling and understanding) stories, by his acts of focalisation, and by his de-dramatisation and de-theatricalisation. These strategies of his play’s content and dramatic storytelling serve, text-internally, not only to underline the protagonist’s verbal self-fashioning as a self-absorbed loner (so much that he becomes destined to be his own, “proper Hell”, I.i.251) and in existential crisis. They also provide the opportunity to dive into the protagonist’s troubled mind and extensively lay bare all of its aspects in his monologues. In addition, both text-internally and -externally, they implicitly serve as a meta-poetological comment on the play – as a verse drama and a closet play. With his verse drama or ‘dramatic poem,’ as he himself calls it, Byron advances a generic renewal along the lines of Romantic poetics and demands like those Schlegel’s. Byron’s narrativisation and poetisation of the genre foreground diegetic acts of poetic language, which serve to bring together all genres within one work of art – poetry and narration within one drama – and to argue for poetry as the ultimate ‘science’ and source of (metaphysical) power. As a closet play, Manfred makes drama less dramatic and theatrical in one sense (for audiences and directors), but in another sense makes it, with specific narrativisations, far more theatrical than a staged drama (for the readers, who, upon reading, can stage a ‘grandeur’ in their minds impossible to witness on stage). With the dramatist’s iconoclastic, contradictory allusion to genre conventions while simultaneously defying them, with his innovative incorporation of a multitude of generic modes, and even the bold integration of generic paradoxes (e.g., strategies of de-theatricalising the drama, but enhancing its theatricality by diegetic descriptions of the spectacular), Byron is, indeed, creating a bold, unprecedented Romantic Gesamtkunstwerk. The change from the theatre to the mind and from ‘drama as was’ to the generically multi-modal, universal play at hand, happens, however, not silently, but with a ‘theatrical’ sensu extravagant and magnificent ‘bang.’ Byron, ‘author of contradictions,’ “clash[es] [. . .] opposites rather than [presenting] a coherent unity” (Melaney 2005, 462) – not only in his presentation of a troubled character who defies society and despairs of it (cf. also Watkins 1993, 149–151), but also in the way in which he designs his avant-gardist Gesamtkunstwerk.

medicine, as a medium that helped to make sense of the world. Against this backdrop, Byron, with his shunning of the theatre in composing Manfred, takes not only a generic stance, but also a science-critical one that complements Manfred’s own scepticism.


6 From Stage to Page, from the Publicly Politic to the Metaphysically Private

6.4 Dominant Forms and Potential Functions of Narrative in Late-Eighteenth-Century and Romantic Plays: The Dramatisation of Storytelling and the Narrativisation of Drama as Way of Forging a Nation, Revolting against Society, and Tearing Down (Genre) Borders Considering genre transgressions in late-eighteenth and early-nineteenthcentury drama, like thematisations and dramatisations of stories and storytelling as well as narrative qualities of dramatic storytelling, and taking them seriously rather than shunning them, this study partakes in the changing politics and ideologies of genre theory and literary history. Analysing and interpreting Richard Cumberland’s The West Indian, Joanna Baillie’s Orra, and George Gordon Byron’s Manfred at the multiple text-internal and text external points where dramatic and alter-dramatic modes – particularly the narrative mode, but also modes of poetry and transmedial matters – meet, I participate in a reframed evaluation of these plays and a revision of their merits. Genre-theoretically and -historically, these plays can be reframed as testaments to a transforming genre (see Fig. 16). Due to their progressive transgressions, these plays are highly innovative, even revolutionary. They are part of a development in which inner situations (emotions, motivations, thoughts) are first – extensively and excessively – verbally externalised (cf. Sect. 6.1); in which external situations are embodied and psychologised (cf. Sect. 6.2); and, finally, which deals with psychological concerns and universal ontological questions – in the detached mental spaces of imagination in both characters and recipients (cf. Sect. 6.3). The observable ‘from stage to page’ movement is characterised by unusual dramatic choices that include a highlighting of diegetic framings, a decrease of conventional dramatic modes, and a reduction of theatrical moments. This movement takes shape in extraordinary dramatic forms, too: for instance, the closet play or the Romantic Gesamtkunstwerk, both of which are notoriously difficult to define but unbelievably rich in their poetic styles and effects. Culturally historically, these narrative plays fulfil a range of potential goals: they educate the nation (cf. Sect. 6.1); they psychologise and criticise social imbalances (cf. Sect. 6.2); and they help process revolutionary times by internalisation and metaphysical introspection (cf. Sect 6.3). When one examines the shifts from stage to page and from external truths to internal realities, the plays become even more valuable to literary and cultural history than before: At the nexus of drama and narrative, they reveal cultural concerns and problems of the time in which they emerged. With a theatre of education and according to Horace’s motto ‘prodesse et delectare,’ Richard Cumberland’s The West Indian (cf. Sect. 6.1) attempts to

6.4 Dominant Forms and Potential Functions of Narrative in Romantic Plays


instruct and unify a relatively newly founded nation. He aims at combatting stereotypes of the colonies and at domesticating these perceived perils (even if he, from today’s perspective, reinforces stereotypes he would not have considered as such). A further objective of his drama is the establishment and teaching of a new mode of conduct, which had become necessary in a society changing from aristocratic to bourgeois hegemony. Stressing the importance of narration sensu ‘verbal transmission by a speaker’ by dramatising and appraising verbal speech, by celebrating elocution, and de-dramatisating drama in favour of an increasing monologisation, Cumberland, with The West Indian, writes for a body of plays that can be regarded a school of conduct, morals, and elocution. This comprehensive school both promotes and teaches by way of example a moderate, honest, and still honourable behaviour to the newly forming society – in private matters and money transaction – and thus contributes both to this society’s stability and to the English project of nation-building. Turning to the transgeneric phenomenon of ‘the Gothic’ and exploiting it in manifold ways for her drama, Joanna Baillie, with her Orra (cf. Sect. 6.2), designs in contrast to Cumberland a drama that is “[e]xciting rather than informing” (Botting 1996, 3). “It chilled [. . .] [audiences’] blood, delighted their superstitious fancies and fed uncultivated appetites for marvellous and strange events, instead of instructing [. . .] [recipients] with moral lessons that inculcated decent and tasteful attitudes to literature and life” (Botting 1996, 3). Using the power of Gothic narratives, Baillie actively brings about the transformation of drama that she thinks necessary in her circumstantial prefatory poetics. Thematising the cultural practice of oral storytelling and turning to narrative to characterise her protagonist, Baillie uses ‘the Gothic’ in general and a specific Gothic tale in particular to structurally infiltrate her own dramatic narration. In doing so, she engages in a literary and cultural rebellion: She reinvigorates drama, making it psychologically differentiated and plausible again and visualising as well as rebelling against cultural, patriarchal practices of female subjugation. With Manfred, George Byron explodes all genre boundaries and recipients’ expectations for drama, creating what can be called a true Romantic Gesamtkunstwerk (cf. Sect. 6.3). The play, built on contradictions, acknowledges but defies the usual teleology of the genres it exploits. Byron’s ‘mental theatre,’ unlike the default drama, which is written to be staged, is written not to be staged. Likewise, the central narrative at the core of Manfred’s story level is not, as in a default case of storytelling, told, but rather remains untold. At the same time, the play’s dramatic narration is dominated by ‘narrative modes,’ and is furthermore de-dramatised and de-theatricalised by Manfred’s position as the sole and introspective focaliser. With these techniques, and in contrast to Baillie and Cumberland, who focus on a society in conflict, Byron examines a self in conflict, who cannot reconcile himself


6 From Stage to Page, from the Publicly Politic to the Metaphysically Private

to a (post-revolutionary) society, establishment, and its bourgeois values. “[T]he primarily subjective or internal action in [. . .] [a play like Manfred] forced [. . .] him to experiment with new structural forms or drastically to modify orthodox dramatic forms” (Purinton 1994, 19), which he arguably did, even in comparison with the fascinating dramas by Cumberland and Baillie, on an unprecedented, universal scale. Yet all of the plays considered, with their transgeneric modes and their textinternal and -external engagement with narrative modes beyond what has been considered ‘drama proper,’ not only renew a critically underestimated and complex genre; they react and respond to topical historical – social, cultural, and political – questions. They interact with their contemporary realities and participate in a lively dialogue on how contemporary politics, colonial matters, economics, gender relations, and ontological questions are to be addressed. As has been shown in the sections above, they are not merely the products of the concerns of their times, but also produce and shape those concerns. Cumberland does this on a large scale, publicly, on the great London stages; Baillie and Byron, however, have their drama seemingly ‘retreat’ to small, private theatrical spaces and to individuals’ minds. With this, they not only direct their “works of drama toward a cultural space where certain important dimensions of society at this historical moment become visible” (Watkins 1993, 7); they also direct their generically and thematically revolutionary plays, which deal with their politically or morally sensitive topics – female subjugation, and anti-establishment sexual realities in the form of an incestuous relationship – to realms in which they can be discussed at all. The allegedly private and unpolitical does become public and political in private reading sessions and private theatricals. These spaces provide a platform in which revolutionary genres and thoughts are arguably better discussed than on the grand, crowded, and censored London stages. Byron’s and Baillie’s exasperation with hegemonic marriage plots, bourgeois sexual politics, and rigid moral codes is, against this backdrop, arguably best expressed in a drama that is “not [to be considered a] retreat into the closet but as a foray into the minds of both dramatic character and reader” (A. Richardson 1988, 3). This drama, which is, generically and culturally speaking, a form of ‘dissident writing’ (cf. Simpson 1998, 5) and which thus invites a dissident reading, is an instrument of generic and cultural renewal, if not revolution, which begins with an infiltration of the private, but, at the time, rapidly increasing reading public.

6.4 Dominant Forms and Potential Functions of Narrative in Romantic Plays


Central contextual intersections of drama and narrative (i.e., the ‘narrative contexts’ of plays) –

Transgeneric writers (familiar with narrative and dramatic genres, inferences possible and even consciously sought in, e.g., dramatic works transcended traditional genre boundaries and/or were inspired by contemporary novels’ plots) – Aesthetics/styles of sensibility and ‘the Gothic’ as transgeneric meeting point of novel, drama, and other genres Romanticism as a genre-transcending and -renewing period – Transgeneric key words: “universal Poetic Genius” (Blake 2012 [ca. 1788], 180; emphasis mine), “progressive universal poetry” (cf. Schlegel 1958), and ‘Romantic ‘Gesamtkunstwerk’ – Drama theory in favour of decreasing theatricality and increasing narrative strategies, which arguably establish a greater emotional intimacy – Rise of the – predominantly read – closet play; strategies of eroding and transcending drama’s genre conventions and of making ‘literary plays’ – Explosion of the conventional boundaries of drama, enhanced multi-modality/drama as composite of dramatic and alter-dramatic modes: development of a ‘total, titanic drama’ (for the mind, where anything is possible, and not for the confined theatre space) Prevailing kinds of intra-textual intersections of drama and narrative Dominant semantic dimensions of narrative

Dominant forms of narrative on story level

Narrative sensu acts of diegetic storytelling, dominance of reading reception, elocution, fiction, ‘highbrow literature,’ literariness, oral storytelling, repressed stories, the Gothic tale (in general and one tale in particular), verbal transmission – –

– – – – Dominant intersections of dramatic and narrative modes on discourse level (récit)

– –

– –

orator characters; feelings and morally good behaviour are talked about instead of mimetically shown value system: speech explicitly and implicitly rated higher than deed (speech = insightful, sensitive; action = rash, unrefined) thematisation and performance of the cultural practice of oral storytelling story-telling, story-receiving, story-loving characters depiction of stories as power instruments inclusion of stories untold and stories hardly told dramatisation of diegetic storytelling (i.e., act of narration foregrounded so that the ‘sentimental comedy’ came to be defined as ‘narrative,’ not ‘dramatic genre’) narrativisation of drama: increasing narrative infiltration of dramatic discourse reduction of dramatic and theatrical modes (minus action, minus dialogue, minus stage, minus embodiment); increase of narrative mode (plus speeches, plus monologues, plus disembodied voices) incorporation of different speech genres, such as philosophical tractates, academic lectures, sermons, or prayers; exemplification of elocutionist standards (in style and tone) in monologues narrative as means of characterisation (explicit references to effects of narratives on characters) dramatisation of the struggles and failure to tell a story

Fig. 16: Dominant forms and potential functions of narrative in late-eighteenth-century and Romantic plays.


6 From Stage to Page, from the Publicly Politic to the Metaphysically Private

Dominant narrative modes and features of narration (‘narration as an abstraction’) placed and qualified within the communication model of dramatic narration

– – –

– –

– –

– – – Cultural dynamics and performative power of the above-mentioned dominant forms

Fig. 16 (continued)

abundance of characters’ usage of performative verbs on DNL 1; thematisation of ‘speaking’ on DNL 1 through ‘proper acts of speaking,’ characters on DNL 1 are taught to act in morally and socially acceptable ways on DNL 3 de-dramatisation (minus dialogue and minus mimetic narration) and foregrounding of monologues and diegetic storytelling (even feelings are verbally expressed, at length!, rather than shown) on DNL 1, power relations are illustrated with constellation of characters and their storytelling (gender aspect: men = tellers, in power; women = receivers, struggle for power) fictions have a formative influence on the facts of DNL 1, become world-making on DNL 3, mimetic storytelling of diegetic acts: performing acts of storytelling (and simultaneous highlighting of both the ‘telling frame’ and the ‘story frame’) Gothic theory put into practice on DNL 3 and selfreflexively referred to on DNL 1 mise en abyme-like structures employed on DNL 3 (identity of Gothic features in story world [i.e., on DNL 1] and story embedded in DNL 1) structural infiltration of DNL 3 by DNL 1’s ‘legend of the hunter-knight’ (metalepsis: fiction becomes real, captures actual story world) protagonist as focalising instance on DNL 3 narrating voices wavering between their situation on DNL 2 and their being heard on DNL 1 marked, extensive diegetic acts on DNL 1

Heightened degree of narrativity and its forms engender self-reference and self-definition (genre-system): – plays as tools of education: ‘school of elocution,’ ‘school of conduct,’ and ‘school of morality’ – meta- and self-study in the nature of ‘the Gothic’ in plays: explicit description of the Gothic’s physical and emotional effects (e.g., ‘terror,’ the sublime turning to ‘horror’) – rebellion against genre boundaries: transgeneric phenomenon of ‘the Gothic’ transforms the genre of drama to a universal one (inclusion of genre theory and fiction; multi-modal parataxis of dramatic, theatrical, and narrative modes) – genre compilation/drama as composite – genre iconoclasm Revolution in society, revolution in dramatic form (drama as a “macronarrative form”, Simpson 1998)

6.4 Dominant Forms and Potential Functions of Narrative in Romantic Plays


and hetero-reference as well as political engagement (culture): – education of the nation in polite, sentimentally refined behaviour – domestication of prevalent ideas of colonial alterity – establishment of an ethical code for the new economic realities – rebellion against gender boundaries, i.e., the patriarchal system of female subjugation and repression – reach beyond the concrete political situation towards metaphysical, existential issues Fig. 16 (continued)

7 Expanding the Allowances of Drama by Generic Encounters with Narrative in Victorian and Early-Twentieth-Century Plays: Intersecting Drama and Narrative as Means to Fight against Hypocritical Hegemonies as well as to Perform and Forestall Political Change As Paul Poplawski (cf. 2014b, 555) states in his literary history, the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries saw an unprecedented diversification of literary expression and styles across all genres, so that it became increasingly hard to keep track of different aesthetic currents and formal strategies, let alone categorise them. Drama remains a constant even in this period of radical change, modernisation, and diversification, however, in that it keeps on integrating narrative modes – albeit, as seems the fashion, in ever more diverse and innovative ways. Looking at popular works from this period, I give examples of the ‘modern,’ i.e., varied and original, intersections between drama and narrative in dramatic realms and their systemic and cultural contexts. While late-eighteenth- and early-nineteenth-century plays with a heightened degree of narrativity were, from a drama-historical stance, iconoclastic (cf. Ch. 6), by the turn of the twentieth century, narrative form in plays was no longer used to break with convention, but to diversify or enhance the forms of dramatic expression. Even though Ezra Pound’s modernist battle cry ‘Make It New!’ was not uttered until 1928 (Pound 2011 [1934]), it already seems a defining feature of late-Victorian and early-twentieth-century drama. The allowances of drama are renewed and enhanced by narrative means. From a contextual stance, narrative drama allows not only for an increasing psychologisation of characters or the dissection of complex social and legal issues, but also for a politicisation of drama. It is even possible to ‘perform’ political change before it has actually occurred and, with it, not just to anticipate, but to embody it. Furthermore, narrative drama enables playwrights to frame experiences that defy understanding, like those caused by World War I. A dramatic narration that incorporates narrative modes, thus, is able to give at least some order and logics to the experiences of inter-war generations. This is exemplified by George Bernard Shaw’s problem play Mrs Warren’s Profession (cf. Sect. 7.1), as well as Cicely Hamilton and Christopher St John’s How the Vote Was Won (cf. Sect. 7.2). Even if these plays differ in genre, they both exploit manifold forms of narrative for political ends. J. M. Barrie’s Mary Rose (cf. Sect. 7.3) illustrates this https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110724110-007

7.1 Reducing Dramatic Modes in Favour of Narrative Modes


admirably; in contrast to his Peter Pan (dramatic) narratives, Mary Rose is not escapist, but confronts serious topics, such as the experience of World War I. How all of these playwrights work through the constraints of drama, broadening its allowances through narrative forms for both generic and contextual purposes, is analysed in the following sections.

7.1 Reducing Dramatic Modes in Favour of Narrative (sensu Diegetic) Modes in George Bernard Shaw’s Mrs Warren’s Profession: Politicising Drama and Attacking an Ideologically Blinded Middle and Upper Class with ‘Stories’ that Counter Hegemonic Narratives of Society The Nobel Prize-winning playwright George Bernard Shaw is, along with his fellow Irishman Oscar Wilde, often lauded for having “changed the course of British drama” (Robson and Christ 2012, 1780). This praise is certainly justified. Shaw helped pave the way towards a modernisation of drama, countering Victorian dramatic conventions by introducing hitherto excluded perspectives and, as will be shown, by ‘narrativising’ the genre. This, however, is only half the truth. With his ‘diegetic’ renewal of drama, Shaw started to politicise it. Leaving behind the self-complacency the well-made play afforded its audiences, Shaw’s drama attacked the comfort zones of Victorian middle-class audiences, whose world models he believed as much in need of reformation as the kind of plays they enjoyed receiving. He thus not only ‘changed the course of British drama,’ but also partook in a cultural process of social renewal, demythification, and reformation. Written in 1893, published in 1898, and yet not legally performed in Britain until 1926,1 Mrs Warren’s Profession is one of Shaw’s (early) plays, which, in a paradigmatic manner, illustrates the reformative dramatic and political engagement sketched above. It is part of a larger body of nineteenth-century plays that focus on the ‘woman with a past’ or the ‘fallen woman,’ such as Wilde’s Lady Windermere’s Fan ([1892] 1985), Arthur Wing Pinero’s The Second Mrs. Tanqueray ([1892] 2012), and Henry Arthur Jones’ The Case of Rebellious Susan

1 The play was staged for the first time in 1902, however, only in a private club; its first legal public performance in England was not until 1926, after Shaw had been awarded the Nobel Prize.


7 Expanding the Allowances of Drama by Generic Encounters with Narrative

([1894] 2012).2 These dramatic representations of ‘fallen women,’ which stood in diametric opposition to the Victorian feminine ideal, the ‘Angels of the House,’3 made visible what was normally neither seen nor publicly discussed in ‘respectable society.’ To an even greater extent than thematically comparable plays, Mrs Warren’s Profession, through its peculiar dramatic narration, fictionally counters the actual, hegemonic narratives on prostitution and prostitutes dominant in Victorian culture. Treatises like W. G. Greg’s of 1850 construct or confirm ‘the’ prostitute as an extreme “of human wretchedness”, whose “career [. . .] is a brief one; [. . .] [and whose] downward path is a marked and inevitable one” (Greg, quoted in Eltis 2012, 224). Legislative institutions took up the narrative of the prostitute’s moral and physical decline, fostering a culture of legal and social stigmatisation. Issuing laws like the Contagious Diseases Act (1864; cf., e.g., Eltis 2012, 225), they allowed medical and constabulary inspection of “suspected prostitutes” (Eltis 2012, 225). In Mrs Warren’s Profession, Shaw directly attacks the beliefs and ideas about the mentally and physically incontinent, contagious, and deteriorating prostitute, nurtured by medical narratives and affirmed by legislative practice. He takes aim at those who see themselves as morally superior, pointing out the sexual and economic double standards of Victorian society and institutions. Depicting ‘the prostitute’ in contrast to dominant ideas not as “degenerate but [as] victim of social and economic forces” (Eltis 2012, 225), he directly accuses those who would have been able to watch the play in a theatre house as initiators of, accomplices in, and profiteers from prostitution: the capitalist middle and upper classes. In the following, I examine which narrative strategies and modes Shaw employs to modernise and politicise drama. I ask how Mrs Warren’s Profession’s narrativity potentially unveils hidden truths and encourages social reform. Before turning to these questions, however, I explore the intricate links between drama and narration in the broader context of Victorian culture.

2 W. B. Worthen (1992, 30) contends, “[t]o bring [such] ‘women’ to the stage is both a stunning and a typical event in the late Victorian period.” Sos Eltis (2012, 222–223) elaborates on the relationship between the fallen women, gender, and genre developments: “[T]he fallen woman in her many manifestations had been a familiar figure on stage throughout the nineteenth century. Her progress reflected both contemporary debates on the role and position of women, and the changing styles and concerns of the British stage through the century.” 3 Coventry Patmore’s long poem of the same title (cf. Robson and Christ 2012 [1854–1862]), proved formative of the idea of the chaste, gentle, homely, and, therefore, truly good woman.

7.1 Reducing Dramatic Modes in Favour of Narrative Modes


Mrs Warren’s Profession in Its Narrative Contexts It is no surprise that Mrs Warren’s Profession could or should emerge in the (late) Victorian epoch as a play that exploits the intersection of drama and narrative. Both Victorianism as a literary and aesthetic style and Shaw’s life and oeuvre are deeply fraught with and characterised by the meetings of genres, especially the two under examination. When Maria Frawley remarks that “[t]he theatrical and the literary were yoked in numerous ways during Victoria’s reign” (2014, 452),4 she is not just referring to novelists’ excursions into drama like, for example, the theatrical collaborations between Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins. Frawley also emphasises the theatricality and (melo)dramatic quality of many canonical Victorian novels, foregrounding their display of “features of dramatic culture” and their inclusion of “private theatricals or the tableau vivant (the latter form appearing in crucial scenes in Jane Eyre and, later in the century, Daniel Deronda)” (Frawley 2014, 452–453). What the literary critic observes in novels and novelists, namely their marked relations to drama, can be perceived in late Victorian and early modernist drama, too. There are manifold meetings with non-dramatic genres, especially prose genres: Contemporaries of Wilde and Shaw knew them also for their prose writings – [. . .] Shaw for essays such as ‘The Quintessence of Ibsenism,’ and as theatre critic for the Saturday Review. Working across genres was par for the course for many other writers throughout the period. (Frawley 2014, 454)

This “working across genres,” which defines the work of drama practitioners of the age, extends, in the case of Shaw, also to manifold intersections with narrative.5 Before turning to drama in the 1890s, the Irish playwright wrote five novels (cf. Robson and Christ 2012, 1781). Shaw’s predilection for narrative genres informed some of his major plays, whose sources might be mythical – as in Pygmalion (2002 [1913]) – or legendary – as in Saint Joan (1953 [1924]), and which, 4 With ‘the theatrical’ and ‘the literary,’ Frawley is arguably using concepts belonging to the semantic fields of drama and narrative, respectively, and that are used as synonyms for these generic concepts (cf. Sect. 3.2). 5 That Victorian plays also work across genres in another sense, namely, that they lend themselves to alter-generic narrativisation, in the form of adaptations for film, TV drama, or radio, becomes particularly obvious when one looks at Shaw’s dramatic oeuvre. His plays were, in the twentieth century, as Robert Everding (1998, 309; emphasis mine) remarks, virtually “sought by the stage, cinema, radio, and television.”


7 Expanding the Allowances of Drama by Generic Encounters with Narrative

structurally, display heightened degrees of narrativity.6 Mrs Warren’s Profession’s genesis, too, has its roots in an intense dialogue between narrative and drama. As Shaw remarks in a letter to The Daily Chronicle in April 1898, Mrs Warren’s Profession [. . .] came about in this way[:] [. . .] Miss Janet Achurch [an actress and friend of Shaw’s] mentioned to me a novel by some French writer [Yvette by Guy de Maupassant] as having a dramatisable story in it. [. . .] [S]he told me the story, which was ultra-romantic. I said, “Oh, I will work out the real truth about that mother some day.” In the following autumn I was the guest of a lady [Beatrice Webb] of very distinguished ability – one whose knowledge of English social types is as remarkable as her command of industrial and political questions. She suggested that I should put on the stage a real modern lady of the governing class not the sort of thing that theatrical and critical authorities imagine such a lady to be. I did so; and the result was Miss Vivie Warren. [. . .] Mrs. Warren herself was my version of the heroine of the romance narrated by Miss Achurch. The tremendously effective scene – which a baby could write if its sight were normal – in which she justifies herself, is only a paraphrase of a scene in a novel of my own, Cashel Byron’s Profession (hence the title, Mrs Warren’s Profession), in which a prize-fighter shows how he was driven into the ring exactly as Mrs. Warren was driven on the streets. (The Guthrie Theatre 2003, 24–25)

This dialogue between concrete narratives (novels by de Maupassant and Shaw himself) and drama in the play’s genesis is carried over into Mrs Warren’s Profession’s dramatic narration. It additionally defines the play’s early (hardly existent) stage history and reception. Due to the difficulty of getting his plays staged, Shaw “decided to publish them in book form as Plays Pleasant and Unpleasant, for which he wrote a didactic preface” (Robson and Christ 2012, 1781). In doing so, the dramatist conquered the book market, which tended to be used for the dissemination of narrative literature. He consequently not only circumvented theatrical censorship, making his plays accessible to the public at last, but also managed, as Katherine E. Kelly acknowledges, to “give his published scripts the material look and poetic weight of fiction and poetry” (Kelly 1998, 25).7 Exploiting the book market, gaining reading audiences with his plays, and including authorial prefaces, which were traditionally associated with and

6 Particularly in Saint Joan, intra-diegetically embedded (miracle) narratives about ‘The Maid’ abound (cf. Shaw 1953 [1924], 63, 98). 7 There seems to be a tradition in English literary history to associate everything narrative with ‘high art’ or as ‘literary,’ whereas drama is associated with ‘common entertainment’ or ‘shallow theatre.’ Not least due to these tacit generic evaluations, Romanticists turned away from drama – or, if they still decided to have a go at dramatic production, like Byron, they preferred to write closet plays and argued they were endowed with a greater literary value than conventional plays (cf., e.g., Burroughs 1997, 16).

7.1 Reducing Dramatic Modes in Favour of Narrative Modes


reserved for narrative works, Shaw got the better of censorship and, en passant, “fashion[ed] his plays as ‘high art’” (Kelly 1998, 25). Besides the cross-fertilisation of drama and narrative (in particular semantic manifestations) in the genres themselves and in artistic practice, narrative and drama meet in major transgeneric phenomena of the time, above all in ‘naturalism.’ With a theory first outlined by Émile Zola in two essays, one concerning the stage and one the novel (cf., e.g., Stilz 2011, 238), naturalist aesthetics became manifest in both plays and ‘traditional narratives.’ Naturalist aesthetics, usually defined by the depiction of “unpleasant, previously repressed realities, preferably with a focus on the life of lower social strata (which might be taken as a distinctive marker vis-à-vis early and mid-19th century realism)” (Stilz 2011, 240), was, at the time of its flourishing, boycotted and condemned across all genres by respectable Victorian institutions.8 What distinct shape the ‘obnoxious’ transgeneric phenomenon of naturalism, which spans across narrative and drama, takes in Mrs Warren’s Profession and at its text-internal intersections with narrative will be among the concerns of the paragraphs to follow.

Mrs Warren’s Profession’s Text-Internal Narrativity Mrs Warren’s Profession is a fictional narrative which effectively contradicts actual, hegemonic societal beliefs and values based on the narrative of the degenerate ‘fallen women’ and her further moral and physical decline (as outlined above), as well as on the narrative of prostitution potentially destroying the morals and bodies of respectable people and posing a threat to Victorian society in general.9 Shaw’s staging of a former prostitute and current businesswoman, Mrs Warren, her daughter, Vivie, as well as their disagreements, dismantles dominant Victorian moral concepts. At the same time, it presents narratives as true or truer than the hegemonic ones – narratives which usually

8 In 1889, the newly founded National Vigilance Association denounced naturalism in general and Émile Zola’s work in particular (cf., e.g., Stilz 2011, 238). Translations of the latter’s works were even judged as “vicious” and “obscene” by the Central Criminal Court (Stilz 2011, 238). 9 Sos Eltis (2012, 224) exemplifies nineteenth-century concerns over the large number of prostitutes in England and their dreaded effects. Among others, he cites contemporaries with a hyperbolic fear of the “pestiferous influence exercised on society by the single, fallen woman”, who allegedly incited “the dissolution of domestic ties, [. . .] the sacrifice of family peace [. . .]; but, above all, [. . .] the growth of practical Atheism” (Eltis 2012, 224.).


7 Expanding the Allowances of Drama by Generic Encounters with Narrative

go unacknowledged by those in power and which are solely lived and archived by those without any cultural and economic capital. Narrative becomes manifest in Shaw’s play primarily as ‘generator of a society’s ideologies’ and as ‘narratives these ideologies repress.’ More concretely, and with W. B. Worthen (Worthen 1992, 42): [S]taging the unspeakable woman provides Shaw with his chief means of criticizing the forms and currents of social power. [. . .] [W]hile the knowledge of such women is the prerogative of the wealthy and proper, disacknowledging them is the most common way of exercising that power.

How these ‘narrative power imbalances,’ as well as the emanations of narratives acknowledged and disacknowledged, hegemonic and supressed, are staged and discussed by way of Shaw’s dramatic narration shall be examined in the subsequent sections. Three narrative strategies in particular govern the present play: firstly, there is the thematic meeting of narrative and counter-narrative on the story level (i.e., DNL 1), epitomised in its idiosyncratic character constellation. Secondly, the play’s récit reduces conventionally dramatic modes and increases diegetic ones; at the same time, and in a naturalist spirit, Mrs Warren’s Profession is distinguished by a seemingly ‘objective,’ neutral ‘point of view’ due to Shaw’s work with perspective, which can be witnessed by an analysis of DNL 3. Thirdly, Shaw’s critical, essayistic prose framings of his play on a para-textual level (i.e., DNL 4) are a further striking characteristic that advance the play’s narrativisation and politicisation. To prove my first thesis, I focus on Mrs Warren’s Profession’s story level, which takes up real-life concerns and – by way of its peculiar character constellation – stages hegemonic social narratives side by side with repressed ones. With this, Shaw not only reveals that reality and actual truths are constructed by (highly subjective, if not fictional) narratives. He also counters these with repressed narratives, thus criticising his time and culture’s mechanisms of truth-generation. Even if Shaw, as a nineteenth-century thinker, temporally precedes critical movements like New Historicism or Marxist philosophers such as Antonio Gramsci,10 the playwright seems to anticipate thoughts which frame

10 Of course, Shaw was intimately familiar with the source on which these movements and thinkers based their ideas. He was seen closely studying Karl Marx’s Das Kapital (vol. 1, 1867) in the British Library and convinced of socialism’s positive impact on society (cf. Robson and Christ 2012, 1780–1781); it seems only consequential that, with Mrs Warren’s Profession, he developed ideas on politics and narrative that later became well-known through works of Marxists and New Historicists.

7.1 Reducing Dramatic Modes in Favour of Narrative Modes


narrative as “the main form of cultural production to embody normality and establish or maintain [. . .] hegemony” (L. Herman and Vervaeck 2007, 218; emphasis in original). He proclaims to “know that our parents and priests have been hypocritical worms like ourselves – that our so-called ‘natural feelings’ have been most unnatural impostures out of story books” (Shaw 1979 [1890], 82). He seems to anticipate the ideas that “crucial aspects of social meaning are produced through narration” (Koschorke 2007, 209) and that, “if a narrative is convincing, the ideology it both conveys and helps reproduce stands a good chance of being accepted tacitly” (L. Herman and Vervaeck 2007, 218). Through his portrait of Mrs Warren, Shaw contests the societal and melodramatic narratives of single prostitutes’ personal degeneration11 and their deleterious effect on society.12 Shaw fights both factual and fictional sources that fuel these ideologies, portraying Mrs Warren, a former prostitute and now manager of a European network of brothels, differently from the other ‘fallen women’ prevalent in Victorian melodrama. The latter are typically either romanticised as “seduced maiden[s], wicked seductress[es], repentant magdalen[s]” (cf. Eltis 2012, 223; cf. also Tönnies 2009a) or end their sinful lives, in line with the convention of poetic justice, in repentance (cf., e.g., Kent 2012, 187–188), illness, and/or death (cf., e.g., Stilz 2011, 245; Eltis 2012, 223–224). Mrs Warren’s spirit is neither broken, nor does her body show any signs of decline. Quite on the contrary, she is described as brimming with self-confidence, vigour, and health. She is “good-looking, showily dressed in a brilliant hat and a gay blouse fitting tightly over her bust [. . .][; she is] [r]ather spoiled and domineering” (19 SD).13 And she acts accordingly, orchestrating the men surrounding her when she visits her daughter, Vivie. As the stage directions reveal, she repeatedly attacks the men (cf. 27 SD, 29 SD) and, when opposed, sometimes even “turns fiercely on” them (33 SD). “[S]harply” (29 SD), she asks Sir George Crofts, her business associate, not to meddle in her private affairs (“What have you got to do with it, pray?”, 29) and angrily assures Frank, her daughter’s suitor, that 11 “The tale of the tortured and doomed prostitute was pervasive, and could be found in paintings, plays, novels, newspaper articles, and treatises on medicine, religion, and social regulation, achieving a shift in status from melodramatic warning to accepted social fact.” (Eltis 2012, 225; emphasis mine). 12 Sos Eltis (2012, 224) points out that the biased narratives about prostitutes and prostitution were not only disseminated by factual narratives, but also by fictional, dramatic ones: “Serious treatises and melodramatic plays [that] narrated the same highly colored tales to underline the same moral conclusion, constructing identical stories of the prostitute’s inevitable decline and death.” 13 Within this section, all not otherwise marked page numbers in brackets refer to Shaw (2002 [1898]).


7 Expanding the Allowances of Drama by Generic Encounters with Narrative

she “won’t have any young scamp tampering with [. . .] [her] little girl” (27). Concerning the morality of her profession, which is, by the way, never explicitly mentioned on the story level, she is depicted as strongminded and ‘unrepentant.’ The specific character constellation between a daughter, who has just learned about the source of her mother’s wealth, and a mother, who tries to win the affections of a daughter she barely raised, allows Shaw to stage Mrs Warren as an intelligent woman and a brilliant, winning speaker. Having the two diametrically opposed women exchange their ideas and ideals enables the fin de siècle playwright, on DNL 1, to counter the hegemonic narrative of the destitute prostitute who threatens Victorian morals and culture. The mother explains her present career to her reproachful daughter as the only logical conclusion when one considers her past options: [W]here can a woman get the money to save in any other business? Could you [Vivie] save out of four shillings a week and keep yourself dressed as well? Not you. Of course, if you’re a plain woman and can’t earn anything more; or if you have a turn for music, or the stage or newspaper writing: that’s different. But neither Liz [Mrs Warren’s sister] nor I had any turn for such things: all we had was our appearance and our turn for pleasing men. Do you think we were such fools as to let other people trade in our good looks by employing us as shopgirls, or barmaids, or waitresses, when we could trade in them ourselves and get all the profits instead of starvation wages? Not likely. (39)

Mrs Warren argues – logically and eloquently – in favour of her work as a prostitute. This ‘fallen woman,’ sensible, self-confident, self-employed, as well as energetic (cf., e.g., 39 SD), has nothing to do with the conventional melodramatic stock figure of ‘the prostitute,’ employed as a mouthpiece for conservative ideologies and morals. In a system that exploits and eventually kills off those at the bottom of the food chain (not only the poor, but poor women, and especially poor young women), Mrs Warren argues, it is only reasonable for women like her to turn to the parts of the system that allow them to survive and even thrive. ‘The’ prostitute is, in this speech, reframed as the victim of society and not its threat.14 The character constellation between the disapproving Vivie, who “set[s] [. . .] [herself morally] above” her mother, who “won’t bear” the filial condescension (37), allows Shaw to go even one step further, namely, “to attack the complacencies and conventional moralism of his audience” (Robson and

14 In this, drama and narrative become intertwined in yet another intriguing manner: Unlike other nineteenth-century plays but like nineteenth-century novels, e.g., Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles (1891), Shaw shifts the blame from the ‘fallen woman’ to the society that conditions her. Brad Kent (2012) even draws fascinating links to eighteenth-century narrative precursors of Mrs Warren’s Profession.

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Christ 2012, 1782). Expanding the argument between mother and daughter, Shaw reframes ‘respectable’ society as ‘predatory,’ unconventionally reassessing its conventions as a threat to all young women – independently from their class background, their financial means, or prospects. When Vivie finally concedes that her mother was right to do as she did from a “business point of view” (39), Mrs Warren bursts out: or any other point of view. What is any respectable girl brought up to do but to catch some rich man’s fancy and get the benefit of his money by marrying him? – as if a marriage ceremony could make any difference in the right or wrong of the thing! Oh, the hypocrisy of the world makes me sick! (39)

Shaw, who often has been lauded for his “art of destroying ideals” (Stilz 2011, 242), that is, of tearing down hegemonic narratives that serve to form a society’s identity and justify its beliefs and practices, reassesses prostitution with his depiction of Mrs Warren – she is neither romanticised nor demonised – and her reasoning. He provides a sensible, comprehensible narrative that counters hegemonic ones: the poor woman is forced into prostitution by society; she is not morally corrupt, enjoying the “disgusting” and “disagreeable [. . .]” sexual favours she is paid to do (40); and she can still thrive on her business. She is part of a profession that “has throughout recorded time been encouraged, fostered, demanded by a profit-motivated economic system” (Laurence 2004, 38). With his special character constellation, Shaw constructs even more powerful narratives than the one pointing out the hypocrisy and dangers of the current economic system. Having Mrs Warren, in the discussion with the challenging Vivie, equate the ideal of the married ‘Angel of the House’ with ‘the Prostitute,’ Shaw is directly attacking the very foundations of ‘respectable society.’ He proposes an outrageous counter-story directly geared towards the family – a core social unit that is also complicit in capitalist culture by ‘selling off’ its daughters. All of this – Shaw’s attack on society’s hegemonic narratives by his unconventional characterisation of Mrs Warren (both compared to real-life and dramatic discourses) and by a character constellation which helps him generate spectacular counter-narratives – is part of a hailed post-Ibsen drama, with its “forensic technique of recrimination, disillusion, and penetration through ideals to the truth” (Shaw 1979, 220). Part of Shaw’s “forensics” is his innovative orchestration of different perspectives in drama, which goes hand in hand with the reduction of conventionally dramatic modes and the increase of diegetic ones. Examining the present play’s récit, the diversity of voices is eye-catching. The second extra-diegetic level in Mrs Warren’s Profession (i.e., DNL 3), the level on which, firstly, perspectivation is steered and on which, secondly, potential narrative modes are (or are not)


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foregrounded (cf. Sect 3.3), is governed by structural processes that bring about a perspective very much akin to multiple, uncommented focalisation, and furthermore, a narrativisation – sensu diegetisation – of the play’s plot. As a ‘social problem play,’ Mrs Warren’s Profession exemplifies the idea that “problems can be studied, discussed, and perhaps, even solved by ‘objectively’ presenting and analysing them on the stage” (Stilz 2011, 238). The problem is arguably a “conflict of unsettled ideals” (Shaw 1979, 213) surrounding the complex of Victorian prostitution. This complex is to be presented as neutrally as possible so the ‘sensible’ receivers can form their own opinion (cf. Stilz 2011, 238). This means, according to the laws of naturalism, that, on DNL 3, manifold perspectives are introduced – ideally, as diverse a range as possible, including otherwise shunned voices. This also means that, preferably, any authorial judgement or evaluative ranking of one position above the other is painstakingly avoided. In the character of Mrs Warren alone, whose knowledge and perspective on life unfolds in long speeches, a multitude of viewpoints is introduced – all of them shunned and marginalised in Victorian moralistic discourses (be they factual or artistic). As character-storyteller, she introduces the recipients to stories of her ‘respectable,’ but dead sisters, one of whom died of lead intoxication and the other of whom lead the miserable life of a poor drunkard’s wife (cf. 38); as well as to her own position and prospects as a young girl, who was forced by the system to turn to prostitution (cf. 38–39). She, furthermore, gives inside information on the lives of the prostitutes now working for her, whom she has often pitied [. . .], tired out and in low spirits, having to try and please some man that she doesn’t care two straws for – some half drunken fool that thinks he’s making himself agreeable when he’s teasing and worrying and disgusting a woman so that hardly any money could pay her for putting up with it. But she has to bear with the disagreeables and take the rough with the smooth, just like a nurse in a hospital or anyone else. (40)

With her insight in and description of the everyday realities of a prostitute, and her comparison of them to women in more ‘respectable’ positions, Mrs Warren demystifies the profession and normalises it: it is like any other. Besides the experiences of others, which the businesswoman relates, Shaw also confronts his (reading) audience with Mrs Warren’s own grasp on prostitution: I can’t stand saying one thing when everyone knows I mean another. What’s the use in such hypocrisy? If people arrange the world that way for women, there’s no good pretending that it’s arranged the other way. I never was a bit ashamed really. I consider that I had a right to be proud that we [Mrs Warren and her sister Liz] managed everything so respectably, and never had a word against us, and that the girls were so well taken care of. (41)

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She is proud instead of sorry; and she accuses ‘the world,’ i.e., Victorian capitalist society, for putting her in her position, while at the same time moralising and expecting her to feel ashamed. With the introduction of further perspectives, Shaw creates “a drama of ideas, in which his characters strenuously argue points of view that justify their social positions” (Robson and Christ 2012, 1782). At the same time, he demonstrates that the complex of ‘prostitution’ is not restricted to the lower orders, but that, in fact, all circles of society are complicit in it – enjoying it, benefiting from it, and – more often than not – denying it. There is the old clergyman, Reverend Samuel Gardener, Frank’s father, who was once a regular customer of Mrs Warren’s (cf. 25–26). Now that he happened to meet her again, he tries to conceal the awkwardness of the situation and is eager to end the meeting as quickly as possible. Telling her “any blessed thing except the truth”, he aims at gaining time to devise a plan of “how [. . .] to get rid” of her before his wife returns home (44). There is the artist, Mr Praed, who is somehow acquainted with Mrs Warren. There is aristocrat, Sir George Crofts, who obviously has had a sexual relationship with Mrs Warren and is now her business partner, who shares in the profits without sharing in the labour and does not hesitate to pursue (or rather: harass) Vivie (cf. 50–51). And there is smug Frank, Vivie’s suitor, who mainly wishes to marry the Cambridge graduate for her mother’s money. Once he learns how it was made, however, Frank breaks off his courtship efforts, hastening to add: “it’s not the moral aspect of the case: it’s the money aspect. I really can’t bring myself to touch the old woman’s money now? [sic]” (59–60) Juxtaposing Mrs Warren’s perspective on prostitution with the opinions of respectable, established men, which are in their revelations of (supressed) truths just as unexpected as Mrs Warren’s, Shaw accuses established, allegedly respectable classes of both hypocrisy and complicity. Designing his second extradiegetic level as a conglomerate of multiple perspectives, which – perhaps much to the surprise of his contemporaries – are all insiders’ perspectives, the playwright issues, as Laurence puts it, a frontal attack on a smug, greedy society of prostitutes, not merely on whores who provide sexual gratification for a fee, but industrialists, politicians, clergy, press, country squires – all reaping benefits from the working prostitute without sharing the labor, and earning knighthoods, baronies, and social prominence in the process. (Laurence 2004, 38)

Bringing marginalised takes on prostitution (Mrs Warren’s, her sisters’, and her prostitutes’) and otherwise hidden perspectives (above all, Reverend Gardner’s and Sir Crofts’) to the fore, Shaw does, indeed, adhere to naturalist ideals. Yet, not totally: there is no complete lack of judgement. Like other naturalists, he


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concentrated [. . .] [his] [social] analysis on the hitherto neglected reality of ‘low life’ while at the same time focusing [. . .] [his] interest in the middle and upper strata of society on the extent to which they caused and profited from the exploitation of the poor. [. . .] [He] strove to expose the taboos and self-deceptive lies through which respectable Victorians disguised and defended their comfort. (Stilz 2011, 239–240)

So far, Shaw acts by the book. Yet, the fact that, in his multiperspective panorama, all the men are presented as hypocrites, liars, and self-deceivers, whereas Mrs Warren appears straightforward and honest, is likely to guide the recipients’ sympathies towards the latter.15 Even though there is no clear-cut narrator figure, there is still some implicit narratorial reception regulation; that is, narratorial evaluation is – despite all naturalist conventions to the contrary – not entirely absent. In spite of this, with an additional strategy that is characteristic of Mrs Warren’s Profession’s récit, any other judgement is largely withheld to avoid ranking one (particular) position above another. This becomes particularly obvious when one zooms in on the perspectives of Vivie and Mrs Warren and on the modes in which they are presented. In key scenes of the play, that is, scenes in which these two characters are alone together (cf. Act II, 34–42, and Act IV, 62–66), one can observe a strategy of dramatic narration that affects the whole play: the presence of a central dramatic mode, namely ‘action,’ is cut and narrative modes – sensu diegetic – are foregrounded. Instead of action, which had defined drama from Aristotle onwards, there is, as Christopher Innes says, “[n] othing but talk, talk, talk” (cf. Innes 1998b, 162). The reduction of action becomes apparent in the opening of the first scene in which the two women are alone together. It is evening, shortly before bedtime; Mrs Warren is, according to the stage directions, “resigning herself to an evening of boredom” (34–35). A key scene of the play is, thus, introduced not with an energetic exposition but, quite anticlimactically, with two ladies “sit [ting] down” (cf. 34 SD, 37, 38 SD). The ensuing scene is not rich in physical motion or events – even though, once in a while, someone is“[s]pringing up sharply” (36 SD). The only indicators that a major conflict is being staged is the way the ladies sit, namely, “opposite” each other (36 SD) and the fact that the scene is heavily charged with emotion – Vivie, the mathematician, trying to act “[c]oolly” (37 SD) and Mrs Warren, not being able to keep her cool, becoming more and more agitated and “[p]assionate[. . .]” (36 SD).

15 And, true enough, as Shaw once remarked, tongue-in-cheek, in his “The Quintessence of Ibsenism” ([1891] 1979, 194): “No great writer uses his skill to conceal his meaning.”

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The scene is nearly exclusively marked by diegesis, by verbal transmission. It is an extended discussion between daughter and mother; between the ‘New Woman,’ Vivie, and the ‘Fallen Woman,’ Mrs Warren;16 and between a conventional Victorian point of view, condemning prostitution, and a usually silenced one, explaining its unavoidability given the Victorian social system (on the topics ‘choice’ vs. ‘circumstances,’ cf. esp. the women’s arguments on p. 37). With the poverty of action and dominance of dialogue, Shaw adheres to conventions he admired in Ibsen, namely, “the introduction of the discussion and its development until it so overspreads and interpenetrates the action that it finally assimilates it, making play and discussion practically identical” (Shaw 1979, 219).17 What has been less remarked upon is the fact that, in making Mrs Warren’s Profession diegetic – that is, making play and discussion identical – Shaw also resorts to the further decrease of dramatic modes in favour of an increase in narrative (still sensu diegetic) ones. There is not just the “switch from action to discussion” (cf. Innes 1998b, 162); there is also the reduction of dialogue within this discussion. Shaw tends to have his characters monologue. They are presented as less interacting characters than as orators giving a speech.18 They aim at convincing, arguing. This has a paradoxical effect: In applying narrative modes, Shaw does not increase his drama’s narrative character, i.e., its narrativity. Rather, the quality of the play becomes argumentative. Audiences are to be intellectually convinced by an argument of one orator, rather than emotionally touched by a story (as series of events). In both key scenes between mother and daughter, Mrs Warren is the monologuing orator, her speech quantitatively (and qualitatively) far outweighing Vivie’s sporadic interjections. Whereas in the first scene (Act II, 34–42), the daughter provides the cues for her mother to develop her argument of prostitution as a direct, logical, and inevitable consequence of social injustice and hypocrisy in Victorian society, in the second scene (Act IV, 62–66), Vivie’s oppositional

16 Merle Tönnies (cf. 2009a) points to the fact that Shaw, despite his attempts to move away from the stock figures of melodrama, has, with Vivie and Mrs Warren, still created types, rather than individuals. Vivie shows all traits of the ‘New Woman’ (self-confident, firm handshake, smoking, decides to life her life without “beauty and [. . .] romance”, 56), and Mrs Warren still features stock characteristics of the ‘Fallen Woman.’ For more on Vivie (and other female stage characters) as ‘New Women,’ see, for instance, Kerry Powell (1998). 17 To put it differently, the “action of such [ideal] plays [exclusively] consist of a case to be argued” (Shaw 1979, 213). 18 This is also something which makes, for Shaw, an ideal, modern dramatist, the “free use of all the rhetorical and lyrical arts of the orator, the preacher, the pleader, and the rhapsodist” (1979, 220).


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remarks serve to gradually question Mrs Warren’s argument. That is, with her second monologue, Mrs Warren – involuntarily – reveals that, with time, she has become increasingly complicit in the capitalist system. Despite being less hypocritical about it, she, too, is now part of the establishment, sustaining the very system that had brought her to prostitution and that now brings others to it. When Vivie, on these grounds, refuses to accept further money from her mother, Mrs Warren even advertises the system and encourages her daughter to participate in it: Vivie: the big people, the clever people, the managing people all know it [the inevitability of capitalism and the unimportance of alleged ‘morals’]. They do as I do, and think what I think. I know them to speak to, to introduce you to, to make friends of for you. [. . .] What did the people that taught you to know about life or about people like me? When did they ever meet me, or speak to me, or let anyone tell them about me? – the fools! Would they have done anything for you if I hadn’t paid them? Haven’t I told you I want you to be respectable? Haven’t I brought you up to be respectable? And how can you keep up without my money and my influence and Lizzie’s [i.e., Mrs Warren’s sister’s] friends? (63)

In Mrs Warren’s desperate plea, part of a much longer speech in which she tries to prevent Vivie from severing ties with her, the whole conflict is encapsulated and presented as a moral dilemma. Firstly, Mrs Warren has become enmeshed in the system that she, in her earlier monologue, held responsible for social injustice and her own downfall. Secondly, she and others, who know how the system works and who are in power, i.e., the wealthy and those connected with them, all use it for their purposes. In doing so, they exploit those with less economic and cultural capital. Thirdly, those who can afford it (i.e., the Cambridge professors who taught Vivie) can hold up class distinction and high morals. They have the power to ignore lower orders or deny the knowledge of their existence, while, at the same time hypocritically accepting their money and profiting from them. Fourthly, even though Vivie no longer wants to be acquainted with her mother, who continues to benefit from the system even though she does not financially and existentially need to do so anymore, she has always profited from her money. Her mother’s money has made Vivie a well-educated, independent woman with excellent career prospects and affiliations – she will become an accountant and business partner of a Cambridge associate. Consequently, as Mrs Warren’s monologue shows, all four propositions point to stalemates between personal involvement, Victorian morals, and manners. Mrs Warren’s speeches and the fact that action is given up for argumentation in Mrs Warren’s Profession further contribute to the politicisation of the play. They point to dilemmas which – true to naturalist ideas of ‘objectivity’ –

7.1 Reducing Dramatic Modes in Favour of Narrative Modes


are not solved by any narrative or focalising instance on DNL 3.19 Vivie’s and Mrs Warren’s arguments, one in favour of and one against capitalist exploitation of the less privileged, stand beside each other unjudged. They are, additionally, as the short speech excerpt above shows, inherently charged with (moral) inconsistencies and paradoxes. There seems no clear right and wrong.20 In this respect, the ‘diegetisation’ and ‘monologisation’ of crucial scenes, which goes hand in hand with the annihilation of dramatic modes like ‘action’ and ‘dialogue,’ serve to put the Victorian addressees in uncomfortable positions. “Shaw was interested in [. . .] [Ibsen’s The Doll House] as the first modern play with a ‘discussion scene’ and [. . .] as the work that ‘gave Victorian morality its death-blow’” (Wisenthal 1979b, 49). With his discussion and monologues, he is, however, not aiming at dealing Victorian morals the ‘death blow’; he seems much more interested in reformation. Presenting Victorian dilemmas with the opposition of Vivie’s and Mrs Warren’s arguments as well as with their inherent paradoxes, Shaw appears to enjoin his recipient: ‘Cognosce te ipsum!’ And to further ask them, with their gained self-knowledge, to judge the problem themselves – in the hope of triggering ‘reformation.’21 What Shaw’s modes of narrative in Mrs Warren’s Profession are to actually perform can be gathered from an examination of DNL 4, i.e., the para-textual poetics surrounding the play. Here, narrative and dramatic modes also interlock. Due to this, the play’s political concerns are expanded and raised to a higher, national pane. Shaw’s critical prose essay “The Author’s Apology” (1902) is a decisive determinant of his play.22 If the play itself tries to convince or provoke Shaw’s audiences into self-recognition, his prose preface, which 19 That Shaw delights in “[p]laying around the edges of monolithic binaries” can also be witnessed when one examines further plays, as Tracy C. Davis notes (1998, 218). 20 His techniques of diegetising his play and foregrounding monologues (while at the same time decreasing traditional markers of ‘the dramatic’) help Shaw to realise his conception of the ‘ideal’ play, in which “the villain is as conscientious as the hero, if not more so: in fact, the question which makes the play interesting [. . .] is which is the villain and which the hero. Or, to put it in another way, there are no villains and no heroes” (1979, 214). 21 Catherine Robson and Carol Christ draw a similar conclusion; however, without acknowledging the accomplishments of narrative within the play, which would further substantiate it: “By the rhetorical brilliance of his dialogue and by surprising reversals of plot conventions, Shaw manipulates his audience into a position of uncomfortable sympathy with points of view and characters that violate traditional assumptions” (2012, 1782). 22 This is not just the case in Mrs Warren’s Profession; Shaw embeds all of his plays in excessive critical frames (cf., e.g., Shaw 1953 [1924], 2002). These frames are sometimes so extensive and complex that he has to work with sub-divisions and additional (sub-)headings to make them more easily accessible to his recipients. They would not only be part of reading experiences; when the plays were staged, these prefaces would be, once-removed, parts of the theatre


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frames the play,23 certainly shocks his audiences into it. In contrast to what the title suggests, the essay is not an apology. It is rather a settling of accounts with contemporary London play culture24 and British censorship;25 and, above all, it is a direct attack on the English nation, the English people, and their tendency to fashion the nation as morally leading. The latter tendency is evaluated as smug and hypocritical, especially when it comes to prostitution: “Nothing would please our sanctimonious British public more than to throw the whole guilt of Mrs Warren’s profession on Mrs Warren herself. Now the whole aim of my play is to throw that guilt on the British public itself” (9; emphasis mine). A remark like this is not just a proleptic instruction on how to read and understand the play; what is presented on DNL 1 and what could concern any capitalist society, is raised to a national level. The conscious use of “British public” – twice – makes clear Shaw’s direct attempt to induce self-understanding on the part of the nation and its people. Ideas of cultural self-mythologisation, i.e., Britain as the country of Shakespeare, as World Empire on which the sun never sets, as ‘mother of nations,’ as pioneer in industrialisation, or as forerunner in moral and intellectual education, a notion that had been formed in the eighteenth century (also with the help of plays, cf. Sect. 6.1), are ruthlessly countered. Equating Mrs Warren’s characteristics with the faults and “high [. . .] social virtues” of “English society” (cf. 9), England is depicted as a nation not defined by any of the mythological virtues sketched above. Quite on the contrary, the English people are themselves all the things they love to ascribe to prostitutes: base and immoral. England is thus personified as a prostitute. Those British who prefer to ignore this blatant truth, i.e., the ruling classes, are, in Shaw’s opinion, ‘idiots’:

experience, too (directors would have read and been influenced by them; they may have even printed Shaw’s prefaces in theatre bills). A further analysis of the DNL 4s of all of Shaw’s plays, with regard to their exploitation of the nexus of drama and narrative in his essayistic prose, might therefore be rewarding – and not only for contextually interested narratologists. 23 Both in the play as read and as seen. Directors will know it and be influenced to some extent by it in their staged interpretations. 24 Shaw is critical of the London theatre culture which stages courtesans as “heavenly”, idealising their business by making it look “beautiful and gratifying” (6). In what amounts to a battle cry against this insincere stage convention, he fashions himself as free-spirited: “Shaw cannot be silenced. [. . .] I am not dependent on the theatre, and cannot be starved into making my play a standing advertisement of the attractive side of Mrs Warren’s business” (6). 25 “All censorships exist to prevent anyone from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorship” (7–8).

7.1 Reducing Dramatic Modes in Favour of Narrative Modes


Though it is quite natural and right for Mrs Warren to choose what is [. . .] the least immoral alternative, it is none the less [sic] infamous by society to offer these alternatives. [. . .] The man who cannot see that starvation, overwork, dirt, and disease are as antisocial as prostitution – that they are vices of a nation, and not merely its misfortunes – is (to put it as politely as possible) a hopelessly Private Person. (9–10; emphasis in original)

Framing his play with a prose essay on DNL 4, Shaw gives all that is said on the other three intra-textual levels further political leverage and actuality. What is referred to by way of metaphor in the play is made explicit here: the British nation and those dominant and economically successful in it systematically produce anti-social, immoral vices, e.g., poverty and starvation.26 Even though directly benefiting from the exploitation of the poor, the English middle and upper classes, with their cultural and economic capital, prefer to ignore the fact that their wealth is only possible at the cost of others. They consciously decide to be apolitical, ‘private persons’ (Greek ‘ἰδιώτης,’ idiotes), in short: idiots.27 For the eventuality that his shock therapy of addressing unpleasant truth and “naming things as they are” (for a change) does not work, Shaw, with his preface on DNL 4, gives his play the same formal appearance as novels. Using the paratextual strategy usually connected to narrative, i.e., literary texts, for Mrs Warren’s Profession, he gives the piece the complexion of a work with allegedly higher generic status than a conventional, entertaining Victorian theatre piece would be endowed with.28 He thus gives even more weight to his attempt to persuade his nation into self-recognition – “recognition of subjects unacknowledged by the middle-class audience: the struggles of sexual domination, of poverty, of industrial oppression” (cf. Worthen 1992, 29) – and to trigger “remedial” (Stilz

26 Cf. also Stilz, who summarises, “[Shaw] discloses a chain of causes and effects, indeed a whole network of conditions, which create and maintain prostitution. It is not individual weakness or failure that are made responsible for the commercial success and the huge economic profits drawn from this problem [i.e., prostitution], but the ruthless mechanisms of a greedy high capitalism at the turn of the 20th century” (2011, 243). 27 In the polis of ancient Greece, idiotes were ‘private people’ who did not get involved in political matters or hold public office. 28 Shaw’s ‘political play’ and his printed, prefaced form provides a stark generic contrast to dominant dramatic forms in Victorian theatre, like the extravaganza, farce, burlesque, or melodrama. When Maria Frawley (cf. 2014, 452) describes the preferences of Victorian audiences, e.g., musical theatre or light operas by Gilbert and Sullivan, it becomes obvious that the most popular dramatic forms were light and entertaining ones. As unusual as Shaw’s play is compared to Victorian theatrical convention, so is it pioneering when one considers modern drama: It already displays “[t]he reflexive awareness and formal renewals of modernism, its resistance to routine mimesis, [which] become in the theatre a complex calling-of-attention not merely to issues of style, but also of enaction [sic] and social function” (Levitas 2014, 111).


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2011, 243) reformation. In Mrs Warren’s Profession, it is not the classical English idols, like Shakespeare, and ideals, such as Victorian morals and manners, that are taken to define the nation. Instead, ‘prostitution’ becomes a decisive marker of Englishness. If it is true that, as W. B. Worthen states, “knowledge of [. . .] [prostitutes] is the prerogative of the wealthy and proper, disacknowledging them is the most common way of exercising that power” (1992, 42), it is equally true that, when Shaw gives Mrs Warren and her profession so much diegetic space in his play, he is arm-wrestling with his middle- and upper-class audiences. Using all possible textual levels of Mrs Warren’s Profession, he denies them the possibility of exerting their power or suspends it – at least for the time that it takes to read or watch the (preface and) play.

7.2 Modernising Traditional Dramatic Modes and Theatrical Qualities, Using Them as Instruments of Political Pressure: Cicely Hamilton and Christopher St John’s How the Vote Was Won as Performance of Gender Inequality and Political Conversion Cicely Hamilton and Christopher St John (née Christabel Marshall) designed a one-act comedy that, albeit very different in tone and complexity, thematically touches on some of the issues dealt with in Shaw’s problem play penned sixteen years earlier (cf. Sect. 7.1). In How the Vote Was Won (1909), London women from all classes unite to successfully trick those in power, i.e., men with cultural and political capital, into supporting them to gain the Vote.29 Accordingly, the play, like Mrs Warren’s Profession, is concerned with social injustice, particularly gender inequality. What is more, it too shows that English society’s status quo, the ideologies on which it is based, and the inequality it engenders are not natural givens, but narratively constructed. While Shaw is primarily concerned with a capitalist system of (female) exploitation, Hamilton and St John relate to problems which became topical at the turn of the twentieth century and the ensuing new epoch, modernism. As Paul Poplawski remarks in his literary history, [i]f war was one permeating issue of the period [i.e., the early-twentieth century], so too was the different sort of combative struggle represented by the continued rise of feminism

29 As, for instance, Sue Thomas (1997, 49) explains, “[i]n 1907, the qualifications for voting at the national level were ownership of property and maleness.” It was only after World War I, in 1918, that women over 30 who met some property qualifications were allowed to vote.

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and the intensifying campaigns of the suffragist, suffragette and social movements for greater rights. [. . .] [D]ebates [about women’s issues] had come to constitute an integral part of the historical context within which all writers were working and it was inevitable that they would engage with those issues and debates in ever-more complex and varied ways. (Poplawski 2014b, 564–465)

It is precisely these issues that Cicely Hamilton and Christopher St John engage with in their play: the ‘combative struggle’ between proponents and opponents of suffrage, debates about the exclusion of women from the public sphere, as well as (some) women’s rising frustration with their government and legislation.30 In How the Vote Was Won, they draw attention to legal discrimination of their sex, in particular to suffrage, and design a vision of the future. By narrative means, they (amusingly) envision a change for the better; their characters not only discuss a strategy of how women could win their right to vote, they also ‘perform’ it. Even if How the Vote Was Won can be regarded as thematically exemplary for its time, it seems, when one regards the canon and genre history, also atypical, because writing women and narrative plays have a tradition of not featuring prominently in genre histories. Yet, women playwrights in the Edwardian period and narrative in modernist plays and further literature did actually exist. As Susan Carlson and Kerry Powell show, responding to Virginia Woolf’s 1929 observation that plays by women were non-existent on early twentieth-century bookshelves, “by the end of [. . .] [the Edwardian] period women dramatists were increasingly difficult to ignore, and for those with eyes to see were breaking out of the myth of their own invisibility” (S. Carlson and Powell 2012, 237). To look at plays like Hamilton and St John’s, likewise, means to confront the myths that there were no women authors and that modernism necessarily means the avoidance of narrative form. True enough, avant-gardist modernist poets and playwrights, like W. B. Yeats or T. S. Eliot, who challenged traditional narrative form, have often been regarded as ‘the’ modernist norm.31 While they 30 As Paul Powlawski (2014b, 566–567) points out, there was by no means consensus among women on the suffrage question. In 1908, some women even organised themselves in the newly established Women’s National Anti-Suffrage League. 31 Novelists like James Joyce in Ulysses ([1922] 2006) and playwrights like W. B. Yeats in At the Hawk’s Well (2010 [1917]) draw heavily on myth for their plots. They make use of what T. S. Eliot baptised the ‘mythical method’ and what he opposed to an – allegedly less progressive – ‘narrative method’ (cf. T. S. Eliot, quoted in Poplawski 2014b, 553). Virginia Woolf is certainly also guilty of conceptualising “Modern Fiction” as preferably experimental, when she criticises conventional works by, e.g., ‘materialist’ John Galsworthy and praises the works of avantgardist ‘spiritualists’ like James Joyce (cf. Woolf 1951 [1925]).


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often defied “traditional narrative structures of chronological succession and logical cause-and-effect, as being false to the essentially chaotic and problematic nature of subjective experience” (Lodge 1981, 6), Hamilton and St John’s play shows that there is more to modernism.32 There is, too, a fascinating repertoire of narrative modes and strategies in modern dramatic narration which should not lightly be excluded from the canon. Hamilton and St John, like so many other playwrights of the Edwardian era, were, as Carolyn Tilghman puts it, “eager to usher in the modern age” (Tilghman 2011, 339). In the case of How the Vote Was Won, the modern age of drama is ushered in precisely with narrative. It is arguably employed not to express disorder, but to bring logic to a world of perceived disarray, and to overcome the ‘chaos’ experienced by many women and some progressive men. Before examining forms and functions of narrative in Hamilton and St John’s comedy, the transgeneric concerns and practices that are part of the context in which the play arose and which shaped it shall be considered.

How the Vote Was Won in Its Narrative Contexts The historical and poetic context in which How the Vote Was Won and other suffrage plays were penned33 was not exclusively defined by intersections of drama and narrative. There were also junctures of drama and other non-dramatic genres. These were not even restricted to the sectors of art production or fiction; transgeneric meeting points of drama and narrative between 1907 and 1914 were also trans-sectional, spanning across several public political and theatrical spheres, and across several fictional and non-fictional genres.34

32 Besides Hamilton and St John’s, there are other suffrage plays with heightened degrees of narrativity, above all Hamilton’s A Pageant of Great Women (1910), in which characters of myth, legend, and history are joined and collectively re-emplotted for the suffrage cause. Apart from narrative modes in suffrage plays, G. B. Shaw (cf. Sect. 7.1) and J. M. Barrie (cf. Sect. 7.3) certainly deserve mentioning. Especially the latter’s plays, with their elongated narrative passages, excel in narrativity. The Admirable Crichton (1902) and Peter Pan (1904), which alone could fill a monograph on narrative in plays (cf. Sect. 9.3), are certainly cases in point (cf., e.g., Barrie 2008 [1995]). 33 The genre thrived between 1907 and the beginning of the First World War (cf., e.g., Andes 2015, 503). 34 Cf. the construction of the ‘culture of sensibility’ (cf. Sect. 6.1), which, much like suffrage debates, was characterised by its emergence between different fictional and nonfictional sectors (as well as institutions) and across genres. Cf., once again, Paul Poplawski (2014b, 565–566), who sketches the complex and varied ways of artistic and non-artistic exchange on suffrage.

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The debates on suffrage rights for women were carried out in a context characterised by a complex intertwinement of artistic (dramatic and narrative), activist, and journalistic agency and writing. On the one hand, there were newspapers whose editors made space for printing suffrage plays (cf. cf. S. Carlson and Powell 2012, 249); on the other, there were playwrights who implemented their political and journalist agenda in their narrative and dramatic works. This went so far that plays were – derogatively – labelled “tracts in fiction” (Delahaye 2016, 1). Elizabeth Robins, for instance, is said to have inspired not just the trans-generic form of ‘suffrage literature,’ but also the whole suffrage movement (cf. Andes 2015, 503) with her transgeneric work, above all, with her novel The Convert ([1908] 2014) and play Votes for Women! ([1907] 1909). Christopher St John and Cicely Hamilton, too, were activists, journalists, and playwrights. While St John evidentially made an “impact” in all of these three respects (cf. S. Carlson and Powell 2012, 249), Hamilton experimented with the allowances and constraints of her theoretical discourse when transporting it to her plays.35 At the same time, she paid homage to narrative genres in her plays’ récits, honouring great novelists, such as Jane Austen and George Sand, and legendary women of history and/or myth, like Joan of Arc, by making them characters in her plays (cf., e.g., Hamilton 1910).36 Links between narrative fiction and plays in the Edwardian period, however, arguably hinge on the friendship and collegial cooperation between eminent novelists like Henry James and equally distinguished playwrights like Florence Bell and Elizabeth Robins (cf. S. Carlson and Powell 2012, 251). According to Susan Carlson and Kerry Powell, the novelist’s advice shaped the work of many female suffragist playwrights. And even though this argument is problematic because it, to a certain extent, attributes the originality of these plays and the accomplishments of their female authors to an eminent, canonised male author,37 it still illustrates three matters of importance. It,

35 Anna Andes (2015) makes a convincing argument when displaying the various kinds of cross-fertilisation of Hamilton’s programmatic proto-feminist manifesto Marriage as a Trade ([1909] 2010) and her (non-suffragist) dramatic oeuvre. 36 In one of the biographies of Cicely Hamilton, it is even implied that How the Vote Was Won is itself an adaptation of a narrative, a “satirical fantasy” (Thomas 1999, 134). For this, however, I have not found any further evidence. 37 Arguably, their argument also anachronistically perpetuates the early-twentieth-century idea that women lacked the ability to write, while “[m]asculinity, by contrast, was counted as a qualification for writing plays in itself” (S. Carlson and Powell 2012, 239). It is, to be fair and for the record, also an argument that is fiercely criticised and countered by Carlson and Powell (S. Carlson and Powell 2012, esp. 237–240, 253–254) themselves.


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firstly, exemplifies yet another manifestation of the contextual entanglements between narrative and dramatic production at the time. Secondly, the “omnipresence” of the novelist to a degree explains “the subtlety and nuance to which so many of [. . .] [the political suffragist playwrights] aspired” (S. Carlson and Powell 2012, 251). Thirdly, and most importantly, it accounts for these playwrights’ commitment to and fondness for narrative experiment in their political plays.

How the Vote Was Won’s Text-Internal Narrativity With How the Vote was Won, Cicely Hamilton and Christopher St John show that comedy, seen chiefly as form of entertainment and means of escapism, had become dated by the turn of the twentieth century. The collaborating authors demonstrate this not just in a small but telling episode on the play’s story level (DNL 1), in which London theatres apparently refuse to function as a space of pleasant diversion any longer (cf. 20);38 they first and foremost establish this by way of their dramatic narration, with which they turn their comedy into an “efficient political weapon” (S. Carlson and Powell 2012, 254). Modernising drama by fusing traditional dramatic modes and theatrical qualities with narrative ones, the playwriting duo use their comedy as an instrument of exerting political pressure and instigating political change. Four strategies exploit narrative to this end: firstly, the play’s storyline adapts the strategies and topics of social injustice of earlier, eminent novels to ‘perform’ a conversion narrative. It, secondly, ‘enacts’ a metalepsis, which, on DNL 1, confronts hegemonic narratives of gender inequality and renders them ridiculous. Thirdly, action is reduced in favour of a montage of female life narratives. And, fourthly, farce-like instances of teichoscopy, a conventional dramatic device that tends to be used for narrative purposes, are compiled to trigger (and enact) a conversion narrative. How the Vote Was Won stages a clash of two different narratives, both of which determine the reality of DNL 1, i.e., the place and time that constitute the plot. There is, on the one hand, the hegemonic narrative that women need not

38 Within this section, all not otherwise marked page numbers in brackets refer to Hamilton and St John (2013 [1909]). Horace, wanting to escape the oppressing reality he finds in his home, makes for the theatre, when a cousin reminds him, “the theatres are all closed – and the halls too” (20).

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vote, since they are “supported by men” (7) anyway,39 and, on the other hand, the unacknowledged actual ‘tale’ of independent women, who, like men, are perfectly able to and actually do take care of themselves and, thus, deserve the same rights as men. The play stages the discrepant awareness of Londoners, who meet in a “house at Brixton” (5 SD) in “any year in the future” (5 SD), through the circumstances of 1909, the year in which the play was penned. The two narratives, the hegemonic and the unacknowledged one, are presented side by side in an introductory dialogue between two sisters, the conformist Ethel and her sister, Winifred, a suffragette and activist. This side-by-side presentation displays a divide between conservative and progressive perceptions of the 1909 status quo regarding women’s rights and women’s contribution to the economy and public life. Presenting two ‘tales’ referring to one situation and a ‘conversion narrative,’ Hamilton and St John draw on grand, canonical British narratives that portrayed England, firstly, as a nation divided in two and, secondly, as a nation that can be educated, converted, and – ideally – united. Unlike Benjamin Disraeli or Elizabeth Gaskell, who, decades earlier, in Sybil, or The Two Nations (2008 [1845]) and North and South (2008 [1855]), respectively, problematise a chasm between the classes, segregating the poor workers from the rich aristocracy (as well as rural from industrial areas), Hamilton and St John adopt the strategy made popular by these social novels to thematise (and even out) another social divide: the one between men and women in early-twentieth-century Britain. Processes of approximation between the different parties, as they are depicted in the aforementioned novels,40 are in How the Vote Was Won declared to have already failed. At the outset of the play, Winifred asserts: “[T]he majority of men in this country shouldn’t for years have kept alive the foolish superstition that women are supported by men. For

39 At this point, it needs to be mentioned that How the Vote Was Won reduces the complexity of arguments against female suffrage. There were many – often ‘scientifically’ founded – objections to the Vote. In an illuminating article, Cheryl Jorgensen-Earpa and Darwin Jorgensen dissect how biological arguments were used to support the antisuffragist cause. Women allegedly lacked “the masterful mind of the male” (Jorgensen-Earp and Jorgensen 2016, 136, 143) and were, especially during their menstruation (and even at menopause), mentally too ‘deranged’ to be given the vote. 40 I refer to arguments like those of Egremont, whose speech for “rights of labour to be as sacred as those of property” (Disraeli 2008 [1845], 291) moves other characters, that is, Sybil, to tears; or like those arguments exchanged between Margaret Hale and John Thornton (cf., e.g., Gaskell 2008 [1855], 120–124), which allow both characters to reconsider their old convictions and which help towards a mutual understanding.


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years we [suffragettes] have told them it was a delusion, but they could not take our arguments seriously” (7). So, in contrast to the aforementioned novels, which tell conversion narratives that are based on verbal exchange between people of different convictions, How the Vote Was One brings about conversion by action. This action, however, is not just taken in drama-specific ways; it is also characterised by strong ties to narrative. Hamilton and St John merge narrative and drama in yet another way: with an ‘enacted metalepsis,’ the play’s women realise and thus confront the – fictive – hegemonic narrative that justifies and cements gender inequality: that women are supported by men. The women’s reasoning and plot, which Winifred explains, is funny, creative, and clever at the same time: “At this very minute, working women of every grade in every part of England are ceasing work, and going to demand support and necessities of life from their nearest male relatives, however distant they may be” (7). The aim is to have conservative men like Ethel’s husband, Horace, realise that the narrative on the basis of which they had denied the Vote to women is a mere fiction: men do not and could not support all of their female relatives. As his sister-in-law reasons, Horace, like any other man, will “want to get rid of [. . .] [his female relatives] at any cost – even the cost of letting women have the Vote” (7). What follows Winifred’s diegetic prolepsis, is, for the remainder of the play, an enactment of the hegemonic fiction of female dependency on men. Narrative (sensu fictive story) and dramatic (sensu performance) modes are combined in Hamilton and St John’s récit to stage an ‘enacted metalepsis’ on DNL 1. The audience witnesses how Horace’s female relatives assemble to perform a hegemonic fiction: henceforth, they want to live in his “modest” (5 SD) home and be fed and clothed by him. What the women do is more than a practical joke on Horace, who is put in the uncomfortable position of being confronted with a fiction becoming real. Six female bodies crowd his home, put up an act of dependence, and force him to accept that they can lay claims to him as their closest male relative. The enacted metalepsis, the women’s insistence on actually performing the fictional story ‘of male dependence’ and to ‘make a ruthless show’ of it, as well as their physical presence nearly suffocates Horace, the self-pitying, “poor clerk” (19), who, upon realising that there is no escape, turns in his exasperation to a funnily infantile and pathetic solution: he “dives under the table” (21 SD). With this metalepsis enacted, it is not just Horace who is ridiculed. One of the hegemonic narratives of early-twentieth-century gender equality is rendered – for both Horace and audiences to see – ridiculous. What is visibly made unreasonable and ludicrous is verbally supported:

7.2 Modernising Traditional Dramatic Modes and Theatrical Qualities


Agatha As my nearest male relative, I think you are obliged to do so [i.e., support Agatha, Horace’s sister]. If you refuse, I must go to the workhouse. Horace But why can’t you support yourself? You’ve done it for years. Agatha Yes, ever since I was 18. Now I am going to give up work, until my work is recognized. Either my proper place is the home – the home provided for me by some dear father, brother [. . .] or uncle – or I am a self-supporting member of the State who ought not to be shut out from the rights of citizenship. [. . .] Horace Women are so illogical. [. . .] You put me in a most unpleasant position. You must see, Agatha, that I haven’t the means to support a sister as well as a wife. (15)

This exchange verbally underlines what is physically demonstrated by way of the women’s theatrical show and their crowding of Horace’s humble home. Firstly, women are reasonable, self-sustaining members of society (sometimes economically even more successful than their male relatives, cf. 19). Secondly, the majority of the male members of society, like Horace, could not possibly support a collective of female dependants. Visibly and verbally, Hamilton and St John allow only one sensible conclusion: The hegemonic narrative that supports anti-suffragists and their unwillingness to pass the “Bill for the removal of the sex disability” (19) is laughable and preposterous. It is a “pious fraud” (7) that has to be uncovered and, once and for all, disposed of. With an additional strategy that defines the récit of How the Vote Was Won, namely, the reduction of action in favour of a montage of six female life narratives, the playwrights also work towards shaking society out of its intellectual dullness. In her manifesto Marriage as a Trade ([1909] 2010), Cicely Hamilton had already complained that “what custom and long usage has made familiar we do not trouble to inquire into but accept without comment and investigation” (Hamilton; quoted in Andes 2015, 1). With the narrative means that characterise their comedy, the playwrights force people like Horace and their audiences into reconsidering their Victorian-inherited, customary perception of women’s role in society. The dramatic mode of action in Hamilton and St John’s one-act play is limited; not much happens after the exposition, in which Winifred narratively prefigures the women’s strike and plot and Ethel finds her servants gone or leaving – except that people, women, keep arriving, “all with the same story, ‘I’ve come to be supported’” (6; emphasis mine). With the action gone, there is no diversion from the actual life stories the arriving (and in one case departing) women bring with them and which counter the conservatives’ so far uncommented hegemonic “story” (6) of the male supporter. There is the story of Ethel’s


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maid Lily (8), who “shabby” and, as her dialect implies, uneducated and plain, has been able to support herself, but who is now, since she has no male relatives, willing to go to the workhouse and support the strike, rather than to be a “traitor ‘oo’s sailin’ under the ‘ostile flag” (9). There is the story of Horace’s sister, Agatha, who was, at the age of 18, in contrast to Horace, “thrown upon the world penniless, with no training whatever which fitted me to earn my own living” (15). And despite this bleak point of departure, she managed to do so and be a “selfsupporting member of the State” (15). There is Horace’s independent niece, Molly, who refused to marry once, was called “‘sexless’” because of it (16), and now lives by writing books, earning with her “scandalous” (17) profession even more than her uncle (cf. 16). There is Madame Christine, a lady and distant relative, who is obviously very wealthy, arriving even in her own chauffeured car (cf. 17). She sums up her life to Horace, “I had a husband once. He liked me to do foolish things – for instance, to support him. After that unfortunate experience, Cousin Horace, you may imagine how glad I am to find a man who [. . .] will support me instead” (19) The life stories of Lily, Agatha, Molly, and Madame Christine already provide a strong insight into female spiritual and economic independence across all classes. As is if this would not suffice, Hamilton and St John add two more stories to their narrative montage, that of Maudie Spark, an actress and cousin of Horace’s (cf. 19–21), and of his unmarried aunt, Miss Elizabeth Wilkins, who runs a successful bed and breakfast (cf. 21–22). Producing a sequence of abruptly alternating female life stories, Hamilton and St John achieve two things: firstly, they let otherwise silenced people, i.e., women, speak publicly, as characters with exemplary biographies.41 Secondly, they convey the evidence that – across all classes –, at the beginning of the twentieth century, the notion that “[a] woman’s place is home” (20) has become dated. With their montage of six life stories and by dispensing with any distracting additional action, Hamilton and St John force their audience to reconsider this notion.42 Like Horace, the viewers are put in the “unpleasant position” (15)

41 In this, they are comparable to many innovative playwrights of the age. Shaw, too, gave voice to those marginalised, e.g., a prostitute (cf. Sect. 7.1), as did Elizabeth Robins, who, in Votes for Women!, made “a move [. . .] from silent suffering towards speech” for an otherwise ‘unspeakable’ and ‘unspeaking’ unmarried woman, who had become pregnant and had an abortion (J. Townsend 2001, 102). 42 With their montage and the presence of so many women on the stage, Hamilton and St John make use of the ensemble piece so popular in suffragist theatre. As Carlson and Powell show (2012, 248) with regard to further plays, there is always a “focus on group”, e.g., groups of people, the grouping together of stories, and even the “creation of a double community”, suffragists on the stage and those in the audience; there were even productions in which reallife activists had parts and acted on stage.

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of having to give up their intellectual laziness and ‘investigate into’ the ontological status of the hegemonic “story” (6) of the male supporter, which few conservative characters in the comedy, Horace, his wife Ethel, and their neighbour Gerald Williams, prefer to uphold. The hegemonic narrative that serves as the basis for denying women the Vote is revealed to be fictional, qualified as a “foolish superstition” (7) and, thus, rendered hollow. Hamilton and St John also use narrative, however, for comedic purposes. While the life stories are assembled together to convince (in a comedy-specific, amusing manner) audiences of female independence, sensibleness, and other achievements, the collaborating authors embed further narratives on their play’s DNL 1. These embedded narratives are represented by way of a modernised, up-to-date form of teichoscopy. Nobody looks outside a window or across a wall to describe the tumultuous, civil war-like scenario in London streets to tell the audience what happens outside Horace’s house during the women’s strike; rather, an evening newspaper is fetched and read because “some men never believe anything till they see it in the paper” (21). The short documentary narratives counter the matter-of-fact style expected of a newspaper; adhering to the conventions of comedy, they are unexpected, exaggerated, even unlikely, and thus most witty. Some of them read as follows: ‘Women’s Strike – Latest Messrs. Lyons and Co. announces that by special arrangement with the War Office the places of their defaulting waitresses will be filled by the noncommissioned officers and men of the 2nd Battalion Coldstream Guards. Business will therefore be carried on as usual’ (22),

or ‘Latest Intelligence – It is understood that the Naval Volunteers have been approached by the authorities with the object of inducing them to act as charwomen to the House of Commons’ (22),

and Our special representative, on calling up the Prime Minister with the object of ascertaining his views on the situation, was informed that the Right Honourable gentleman was unable to receive him, as he was actively engaged in making his bed with the assistance of the boot-boy and a Foreign Office messenger. (23)

Military officers acting as waitresses, naval recruits as cleaning ladies, and the PM, a boot boy, and a diplomat collaborating in an attempt to make the PM’s bed – these farce-like newspaper narratives are, firstly, embedded for comedy and entertainment purposes. Secondly, and at the same time, these hyperbolic instances of newspaper teichoscopy amusingly envision the ‘dystopian’ future of a society that continues to acknowledge women’s contribution in a state of


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emergency, which turns out more than “unpleasant” (15) for the men. Public life has come to a halt, has even become impossible without women in their usual professional positions. So, Hamilton and St John, thirdly, use their compilation of absurdist teichoscopies to deal Horace’s old convictions a final deathblow. After his conversion, Horace realises,43 in a monologue and to the cheers of his female relatives, I know I’ve been against it [the vote for women], but I didn’t realize things. I thought only a few howling dervishes wanted the vote; when I find that you – Aunt – Fancy a woman of your firmness of character, one who has always been so careful with her money, being declared incapable of voting! The thing is absurd. [. . .] If this rotten Government think we’re going to maintain millions of women in idleness just because they don’t like the idea of my Aunt Lizzie making a scratch on a bit of paper and shoving it into a ballot-box once every five years, this Government have reckoned without the men – [. . .] I’ll show ’em what I’ve got a vote for! What do they expect, you can’t all marry. There aren’t enough men to go round, if you’re earning your own living and paying taxes you ought to have a say; it’s only fair. [. . .] The Government are narrow-minded idiots! (24)

As Horace’s passionate speech shows, the combined narrative efforts (performed narratives and accumulated told and read stories) in How the Vote Was Won manage to convert the conservative into a progressive suffragist. Horace, however, not only tells his family (and the audience) about his conversion; his conversion narrative is also put into action. Horace agrees to be decorated with suffragist “ribbons” (27 SD), crying “Votes for Women!” (27), and “marches majestically out of the door” (27 SD) to join all the men that have started a demonstration, “running [. . .] like lunatics” (21) to the House of Commons, asking for women’s suffrage. Witnessing Horace’s ‘conversion narrative’ (cf. Andes 2015, 504, 506) performed seems to have had an amusing, but striking impact on the audience. As one of the play’s early reviewers remarks (Paxton 2013a, x), [i]t is the most rippling piece of fun which has been put on boards for a long time [. . .]. Why not an invitation performance for Cabinet Ministers? Cannot you imagine a nudge and a whisper creeping along the row of their stalls: ‘I say, you fellows – we’ve been making fools of ourselves . . . Let’s bring in a Bill.’

It can be thus concluded that, by way of combining narrative and drama, Hamilton and St John not only question the status quo concerning women’s suffrage, they also – amusingly – reveal that its underlying ideologies are narratively

43 Horace’s realisation is arguably part of the larger modernist preoccupation with ‘epiphany’ (cf. Poplawski 2014b, 569). In contrast to Joyce, for instance, Hamilton and St John use it for comedy.

7.2 Modernising Traditional Dramatic Modes and Theatrical Qualities


constructed. These ideologies are even fictions which one could laugh at (at least in the theatre) if they were not real. As a comedy, therefore, How the Vote Was Won occupies an interesting new position between seriousness and laughter, politics and entertainment. This liminality can be even witnessed in Horace’s selfimportant final remark, in which he declares to his female relatives (27), “[y]ou may depend on me – all of you – to see justice done. When you want a thing to be done, get a man to do it! Votes for Women!” Horace’s performed conversion and his final speech are hilarious in that they render the man and the fictions he believes in highly amusing; moreover, his whole sex is ridiculed for believing nothing can be done without it, though the entire play has shown exactly the opposite. At the same time, audiences, through Hamilton and St John’s dramatic narration, must come to realise that suffrage is an important cause; it does not just concern suffragists, but all of society, women and men alike. With their modernisation of traditional dramatic modes, such as teichoscopy, a montage of character speech and life narratives, and the renewal of theatrical qualities (when the women of DNL 1 join to put up an act of a hegemonic story, a ‘fraud’), Hamilton and St John renew comedy, which unlike in the Victorian era, no longer serves exclusively to entertain.44 They use their comedy also as an instrument of political pressure.45 Through the renewed genre of the modern, narrative comedy, the playwrights both force their audiences into intellectual reflection and convert them, via laughter, into wanting (and maybe even instigating) political, pro-suffrage change. Unlike Shakespeare (cf. Sect. 4.1) or Behn (cf. Sect. 5.2), they are not just thematising historical and cultural facts: they are trying to proleptically form history, having the women and Horace perform change for the audience to witness. With Horace’s conversion narrative, the playwrights envision and perform a cultural and political change that had not yet been realised. That the playwright duo does not

44 Even if Hamilton and St John do not tend to experiment like the modernist avant-garde, their play is still an example of modern literature. “[S]uffragists’ material [like theirs is] [. . .] both politically modern and aesthetically modernist [. . .]. ‘Modernism’ is a legitimate concept broadly signifying a paradigmatic shift, a major revolt, beginning in the mid- and late nineteenth century, against the prevalent literary and aesthetic traditions of the Western world” (Eysteinsson; quoted in Delahaye 2016, 2). With their renewal of comedy, the playwright duo arguably partakes in this revolt. 45 One part of this political pressure is geared towards obtaining women’s suffrage. Another part, however, is exerted in the realm of theatre itself. Just like Elizabeth Robins is said to have envisioned a “Theatre of the Future” (Powell 1997, 149–150) in which gender bias would be overcome, Hamilton and St John, with their production of a political play, take part in a larger project of reforming the stage. They, too, fight for a place within a theatrical establishment dominated by male writers, casts, producers, and directors.


7 Expanding the Allowances of Drama by Generic Encounters with Narrative

see their ambition as an unreachable utopia is indicated by their play’s title: the past tense of How the Vote Was Won is an expression of confidence.46 It makes clear that, at some time in the future, the play will correspond to history, since the Vote will have been won. Hamilton and St John’s play, in this future, will be more than an amusing anecdote, a ‘story’ of how this might have happened; it will testify to the former status quo and the necessity of its change, and it will have been part of the forces that instigated this change.

7.3 Coping with Events That Defy Their Telling, with National Trauma, Personal Loss, and Disjointed Time between the Wars: The Foregrounding of Story Mise en Abymes, Narrative Instance, and Character Focalisation in J. M. Barrie’s Post-World War I Play Mary Rose James Matthew Barrie’s work is arguably at the very heart of British national heritage. Generations of children have grown up with his character Peter Pan, reading the novel or watching the play, which is staged every Christmas in London’s West End. In spite of this, Barrie’s plays have never got the critical attention they deserve. This may be due to two reasons: one pertaining to his reputation, one to the hybrid character and narrative form of his plays. Often considered a “cosy writer” (N.N. 2008), Barrie and his work have tended to go unjustly underestimated. The play considered his “last great stage success” (Hollindale 2008, xiii), Mary Rose (1920), proves Barrie to be a non-escapist playwright, one who – like other eminent playwrights between and after the World Wars – is not afraid of dealing with the unpleasant realities of contemporary Britain. In Mary Rose, he deals with the complexities of national post-war trauma, personal loss, and experiences of disjointed time. This thematic gravity, created by the eponymous heroine’s losses (time with her family, her memory, her baby, and finally her life), must have been apprehended by the play’s contemporary audiences: When it [Mary Rose] opened in London in 1920, just two years after the end of the First World War, there could barely have been an audience member who had not been touched by loss. And there would be no escaping the reality as the curtains opened, since one of the two characters that enter is a returned soldier. (N.N. 2008)

46 For the past tense as a prototypical narrative mode, see Schwanecke (2012, 104, fn. 121).

7.3 Coping with Events That Defy Their Telling


The play’s topics and topicality have therefore been often used to explain its great success with its first audiences, who could relate to loss and the realities of war. As Joseph McBride (McBride 2001, 25) states, the play “gave a mythical answer to Rudyard Kipling’s cry of national bereavement, ‘But who shall return us the children?’” Mary Rose is one of many British plays that deal with the harsh and traumatising consequences of the two wars, which defy being told. Like Noël Coward’s Post Mortem (Coward 1979, 1930), in which a dead soldier returns, and Blithe Spirit (Coward 1976 [1941]), in which deceased wives trouble their authorhusband, Mary Rose deals with the dead, their lost lives, and their haunting of the living. Similar to John Boynton Priestley’s Time and the Conways (1937) and, once again, Coward’s Post Mortem, Barrie’s play captures some of the most unsettling war experiences, the disruptions of life and of time. Yet, what distinguishes Mary Rose from the aforementioned dramatic works is its unconventionality, its high grade of hybridity: while Coward and Priestley’s plays – though they do intersect with narrative – are still recognisable as ‘plays proper,’ Barrie’s is, in parts, not (cf. Prologue in this volume). Due to its emphatic foregrounding of narrative, it is as much a novel as a play. Its topics are established and presented by a salient narrator, an atmospheric exploitation of narrative voice, and brilliant narrative experiments in time. Yet, not just Mary Rose but, rather, Barrie’s complete oeuvre bears strong ties to narrative genres, which is why, before coming to the present play’s text-internal narrativity, I look at the context in which the drama-narrative hybrid originated and by which it was shaped.

Mary Rose in Its Narrative Contexts Mary Rose was penned in a literary and cultural context defined by many meetings of drama and narrative. The author’s oeuvre is, to begin with, distinctly transgeneric. As a glimpse into their genesis and history shows, Barrie’s individual narrative and dramatic works can be regarded as especially “mobile” (cf. Hollindale 2008, xv): in its development, one work often travelled to and fro between different genres. The story of Peter Pan, for instance, originated in an episode of one of Barrie’s early novels, The Little White Bird ([1902] 1913), before becoming a self-contained play, Peter Pan, or the Boy Who Would Not Grow Up (1904). Barrie wrote and published a novel based on the play, Peter and Wendy, in 1911. The play appeared only after this, in 1928 – strongly revised, after its basic story had undergone such a considerable ‘travel history’ (cf., e.g., Gebsattel and O’Sullivan 2009). Peter Pan’s movement between narrative and dramatic


7 Expanding the Allowances of Drama by Generic Encounters with Narrative

genres for at least twenty-six years thus had had decisive effects on both the novel and the play (versions).47 In addition, for the conception of some plays, e.g., The Admirable Critchton (1902), Peter Pan, and Mary Rose, Barrie drew on manifold well-known narratives. He used and, more importantly, fused motifs from fairy tales, Celtic mythology, and canonical novels:48 Celtic myths about children abducted by fairies (cf. McBride 2001, 24), fairy tales’ magical characters, and paradigmatic island literature such as Robinson Crusoe (1709) and Treasure Island (1881–1882). Other dramatic works by Barrie that did not draw on or appear in novel or novella form also travelled through different generic stages of drama, sometimes endowed with less, sometimes with more narrativity. As Peter Hollindale (cf. 2008, xv) remarks, production scripts like those of What Every Woman Knows (1908) or Mary Rose often differed from their published scripts. The latter were embellished by even more elaborate and, as will be shown, narrative stage directions. J. M. Barrie’s practice of developing his plays transgenerically is complemented by reflections of genre within poetological passages in certain plays. Looking at them, one can develop a further idea of the decidedly transgeneric context in which Mary Rose was written. In plays conceptualised and written in some temporal proximity, such as Alice Sit-by-the-Fire (1905), genre conventions are directly addressed. For this reason, the play’s introductory stage directions are worth quoting at length: One would like to peep covertly into Amy’s diary [. . .]. To take such a liberty, and allow the reader to look over our shoulders, as they often invite you to do in novels [. . .], would be very helpful to us; we should learn at once what sort of girl Amy is [. . .]. We should also get proof or otherwise, that we are interpreting her aright; for it is our desire not to record our feelings about Amy, but merely Amy’s feelings about herself; not to tell what we think happened, but what Amy thought happened. [. . .] Sometimes in the night, Amy, waking up, [. . .] lingers among the pages [. . .]; so we could peep over her shoulder, while the reader peeps over ours. Then why don’t we do it? Is it because this would be a form of eavesdropping [. . .]? It cannot be that, because the novelists do it. It is because in a play we must tell little that is not revealed by the spoken words; you must

47 As Peter Hollindale (2008, x) shows, as long as Barrie lived, his plays were never stable: “In successive preliminary drafts, then during rehearsal, then in the light of initial production experience, and [. . .] even when a play is fully established in the repertoire, he is ceaselessly modifying, experimenting, refining, improvising possible variations, or simply changing his mind.” 48 In all of the three plays mentioned, islands play an important role. The Admirable Critchton can be even considered one of many, earlier and later, ‘Robinsonades’ (cf. Gould 2011, esp. 141, 158–159), while Peter Pan and Mary Rose are part of a body of (narrative and dramatic) fiction in which the disappearance (and implied abduction) of children is a leitmotif.

7.3 Coping with Events That Defy Their Telling


ferret all out all you want to know from them, although of course now and then we may whisper a conjecture in brackets; there is no weather even in plays except in melodrama; the novelist can have sixteen chapters about the hero’s grandparents, but there can be very little rummaging in the past for us; we are expected merely to present our characters as the toe the mark; then the handkerchief falls, and off they go. [. . .] [W]e have not always been such sticklers for the etiquette of the thing; but we are always sticklers on Thursdays, and this is a Thursday. (Barrie 1928 [1905], 241–242)

Meta-narrative and -dramatic reflections like these certainly do more than betray the ‘novelist manqué,’ as some say (cf. Hollindale 2008, xvii), or show Barrie’s “envy of the novelist’s freedom” (Hollindale 2008, xvi). They are part of a complex transgeneric poetics: discussed are, firstly, the conventions, the allowances, and the constraints of each genre; secondly and with a winking eye, transgressions beyond the confines of the present play are both hinted at and actually performed. Drama, in its construction of diegetic worlds, is constrained by the dominance of dialogue, the sporadic stage direction (in brackets), and its focus on present action. Novels, in contrast, allow for the representation of inner worlds, minds, and background information. These are often missing in a play, but not impossible to implement; the ‘majestic plural’ finds no reason for them not to be there, except that they are forbidden by convention; they are not “expected” in a drama. Alluding to both its recipients’ experience and expectation of drama and narrative (i.e., “the etiquette of the thing”) and to its earlier work, the ‘royal we’ concedes, tongue-in-cheek, that is has not always meticulously adhered to these expectations. Promising to now honour generic customary practice because “this is a Thursday”, the ‘we’ not only makes light-heartedly fun of conventions; it also exposes their arbitrariness – and, by extension, the senselessness of general rules in specific contexts. The ‘we’ wants to give the reader information usually withheld in a drama and it finds a way of doing it. Even though this ‘we’ promises to adhere to drama conventions in a purist manner here (because it is a Thursday), the extensive meta-generic reflections in the form of introductory stage directions, which also provide narrative information on a character’s habits, actually undermine. They make Alice Sit-by-the-Fire narrative and, with it, transgeneric; furthermore, they indicate what can be expected from the plays to follow (thus forming a new convention, or at least trying to do so). Barrie’s plays are entangled in a complex web of narrative and dramatic threads, not just because of their analeptic references to elements from narrative, but also because their adaptation history. Some of them were transferred to various narrative genres and media forms. There is the 1953 Disney classic Peter Pan, a 1989 video game, a 1995 BBC musical radio play, the famous Steven Spielberg adaptation Hook (1991), and many, more current adaptations. A


7 Expanding the Allowances of Drama by Generic Encounters with Narrative

screenplay version of Mary Rose exists as well; it was reportedly Alfred Hitchcock’s “dream project for half a century” (McBride 2001, 25), but never went beyond the written script. This feels appropriate somehow: like Mary Rose’s life was never fully lived, the film version was never fully realised.

Mary Rose’s Text-Internal Narrativity While trauma by definition resists narration,49 J. M. Barrie encapsulates the trauma of a nation in Mary Rose – that is, in a play which uses narrative extensively. This oxymoron works because narrative and dramatic modes are complexly intertwined in the Scottish playwright’s dramatic narration: firstly, a mise en abyme-like structure of embedded stories within (embedded) stories as well as variations of abduction narratives, sometimes diegetically, sometimes mimetically rendered, are at the core of the play’s story level, its DNL 1. Secondly, throughout the play, a distinct narrative voice on DNL 2 is discernible that frames the action and comments upon events that defy comprehension. Thirdly, the creative (and narrative) way in which perspective is used on DNL 3 complements the aforementioned strategies by giving insight into individual psyches that have been touched by loss. While the latter serves also as a means of accessing repressed, concealed, and actually irretrievable past events, the sum total of the narrative strategies in Mary Rose resonate on a national scale. They seem to capture and make sense of “the absurdity and intense pain of postwar existence” as well as to address and process contemporary British “culture’s devastation” (Wixon 2013, 208). The story level of Mary Rose, DNL 1, displays narrativity rather saliently. First and foremost, this is due to a mise en abyme-like story arrangement surrounding the key scene, in which the eponymous heroine suddenly disappears (cf. Fig. 17). Secondly, it is because the leitmotif story, i.e., Mary Rose’s disappearance and return, is represented three times, alternately mimetically and diegetically rendered. To substantiate my first thesis, I will start by describing the mise en abymelike story level: on an outer, framing level, there is the story of Harry Morland Blake, an Australian expatriate, who has just returned to his abandoned and

49 As a focaliser of one of Siri Hustvedt’s trauma narratives puts it aptly, in line with Freudian conceptualisations, “[t]rauma isn’t part of a story; it is outside story. It is what we refuse to make part of our story” (2009 [2008], 51–52).

7.3 Coping with Events That Defy Their Telling


deteriorating childhood home (cf. I.1–249).50 Here he will later encounter the ghost of his mother, who is now younger than himself (cf. III.403–655). In the middle of this story, there is a analeptic lap dissolve to another story, that of Harry’s grandparents, Mrs and Mr Morland, living in the very house that Harry will visit after the Great War. In the first part of this story (cf. I.250–838), Harry has not yet been born; his mother-to-be, eighteen-year-old Mary Rose, is telling her parents about her engagement to Simon Blake. In the absence of Mary Rose, in which Simon asks Mrs and Mr Morland for her daughter’s hand, they tell him a central story (cf. I.596–689), another story within the story: when Mary Rose was a child, she mysteriously vanished without a trace from a remote, uninhabited, very small island in the Outer Hebrides on a family holiday. After twenty days, Mary Rose’s father suddenly sees her sitting where she sat before she vanished. She is not aware that she has been away and has no knowledge either of the lapse of time or of her whereabouts when she was absent. The second part of Harry’s grandparents’ story again takes place in the Morland family home (cf. III.1–402), after another one of Mary Rose’s mysterious disappearances. After a twenty-five-year absence, Mary Rose reappears, unaltered and untouched by time and, once again, without any knowledge of her previous whereabouts or the lapse of time. She keeps looking for her two-yearold child, who is, as her parents and husband have difficulty explaining, a young man and gone, the expatriate from the framing diegetic level. In another story (cf. III), embedded into the story of Mary Rose’s parents and husband, Simon and Mary Rose, now mother of a two-year-old Harry, are on a belated honeymoon on the island on which the heroine first disappeared at the age of eleven. In this story, embedded stories of vanishing children abound; and Mary Rose disappears for a second time; this time, for twenty-five years. As the dissection and visualisation of the diegetic structure show (cf. Fig. 17), the story level of Mary Rose is highly complex. It consists of at least five ontological levels, with (temporally) ever remoter embedded stories. The employment of not just one, but many mise en abymes, stories within stories, not only makes the diegetic level of the present play appear highly narrative. The combination of multiple embedded stories with complex lapses in time51 also renders Mary Rose’s diegetic level quite unclear and confusing to the recipient.

50 Within this section, all not otherwise marked page numbers in brackets or act and line numbers in brackets, respectively, refer to Barrie ([1920] 2008). 51 These lapses in time are visualised, in Fig. 17, with zigzag lines. The single zigzag on DNL 1 (a) pertains to an ellipsis of allegedly ten minutes (cf. III.404–405); the double zigzag on DNL 1 (b1) indicates an ellipsis of twenty-five years (cf. III.1).


7 Expanding the Allowances of Drama by Generic Encounters with Narrative

DNL 1 (a): Harry, returning from war, visits his childhood home (formerly home to his grandparents, now to Mary Rose’s, i.e., his mother’s ghost) DNL 1 (b1): Mary Rose’s parents’ home (day of MR’s engagement) DNL 1 (b2): story of Mary Rose’s first disappearance

DNL 1 (b1): Mary Rose’s parents’ home (day of MR’s return, after 25 years’ absence)

DNL 1 (c1): ‘Mary Rose’s island’ and her second disappearance DNL 1 (c2): disappearance stories

DNL 1 (c2): disappearance stories

Fig. 17: The five ontological levels of Mary Rose’s diegetic level, DNL 1.

This narratively conveyed structural puzzle, first and foremost, expresses and enhances the characters’ predominant state of mind. All of the people on the various intra-diegetic levels are more often than not confused in the face of experiences they cannot make sense of. Mary Rose and Simon, in their verbal exchanges that touch upon her repressed first disappearance, are left “senseless[. . .]” (I.816 SD), “disturbed” (I.818 SD), and “troubled” (I.835 SD). Mr and Mrs Morland, too, are at their wits’ end when they try to make sense of their daughter’s disappearances. Trying to rationalise it, they quickly come to a dead end, “[w]e don’t know” (I.679); even doctors reportedly have “no explanation” (I.693) for it. Feelings of the evasiveness of traumatic experiences, such as the loss of a daughter in the case of the Morlands, or the loss of one’s self and memory in the case of Mary Rose, abound on the play’s DNL 1. Secondly, the play’s complex structure impressively illustrates that feelings of puzzlement and bewilderment are transgenerational. Even generations who, strictly speaking, did not experience the family disruption are troubled by the repercussions of loss and separation. After having had visions from the past, Harry states in bewilderment, “I don’t know what to think” (III.415). All verbal and non-verbal statements (e.g., the facial expression and gestures the stage directions implicitly prescribe) of the characters express that the generations in Mary Rose are either lost or at a loss. There is the sensation of having lost one’s senses (Mary Rose), the fact that one is lost for words and explanations (the Morlands,

7.3 Coping with Events That Defy Their Telling


Simon), the impression of not knowing what to think (Simon, Harry), and the struggle of how to cope with extreme events (the Morlands, Harry). The complex mise en abyme-like structure of Mary Rose’s DNL 1, thirdly, carries meanings that go beyond the expression of loss, confusion, and the emotional and mental troubles of the characters; it also makes these feelings tangible and experienceable for the audience. Just as the characters struggle to make sense of their lives and the events in them, so do audiences potentially grapple with the puzzling arrangement of different stories within stories, which, at decisive points, include temporal analepses and ellipses, which only intensify the confusion. The ellipses are not just temporal, but also semantic gaps. That is, they epitomise gaps in history and meaning that can be felt, but unfortunately never filled. Finally, as a structure that is, in principle, open to infinite recursion, the embedded stories within (embedded) stories give form to Britain’s then condition of trauma and bereavement. Just as the living Mary Rose of DNL 1 (b1) (cf. Fig. 17) gradually vanishes from sight and, at the end of the inner story, is erased, so do the nation’s times of pre-war innocence and lightness seem beyond reach. If they are not irretrievably lost, they are, at least, tainted or damaged by the experience of war. Light-hearted states of mind, intact lives, minds, and bodies potentially seem, like DNL 1’s innermost story, once or twice removed from reality; they have become as ungraspable as Mary Rose herself. Narrative and dramatic modes meet, on Mary Rose’s DNL 1, in yet another striking way. The play’s récit repeats the central story of the heroine’s disappearance three times – in diegetic and mimetic variation. First, Mary Rose’s parents tell Simon, her daughter’s fiancé, in detail about her mysterious first vanishing at the age of eleven (cf. I.588–728). The diegetic recounting is repeated in the second act, when the protagonist and her husband of four years are on the island in the Outer Hebrides, where she disappeared when she was eleven. Here, the Scottish guide Cameron tells the young couple stories of children who have “heard the call of the island” and disappeared (II.369). Upon Mary Rose’s pressing request, he also recounts the story of a “young English miss” (II.346; cf. II.357–399). Except for Simon and the audience, nobody is aware that this is the heroine’s story. The context in which the diegetic stories are rendered varies. In the first act, Mary Rose is not present, and the story is told in the safe confines of the Morlands’ home. In the second act, the heroine is present, and the story is told at the magical place where it happened eleven years earlier. And even if Mary Rose, in the first act, does not overhear the story, and even if she, in the second act, does not know that it is her own story, the story has immediate and far-reaching effects on her life.


7 Expanding the Allowances of Drama by Generic Encounters with Narrative

Once told, the story exerts a certain power over the heroine – similar to a self-fulfilling prophesy. In the first instance, Mary Rose, who had largely forgotten about the island (cf. 725–726), suddenly remembers it; curiously, at exactly the same time her parents tell Simon about it; and even though she is in another room, on another floor, and cannot possibly have overheard the conversation. When she joins Simon later, the recipient realises this eerie coincidence. Mary Rose remarks, “[w]e once went to [. . .] [the island] when I was little. Isn’t it funny; I had almost forgotten about that island; and then suddenly I saw it quite clearly as I was sitting up there.” (I. 814–816) She even thinks about spending their honeymoon there. In the second instance, the telling of the story delays Mary Rose’s safely leaving the dangerous island and, thus, only enables the island to ‘swallow’ the now twenty-two-year-old for a second time: “The story first; I won’t go without the story” (II.356). The diegetically rendered stories are thus staged to add to the mystery of the drama – and to show what a life-changing force both the act of narration and narrative itself can be in the development of an individual. In a Scottish accent, the guide Cameron states: “It iss [sic] not good to disbelieve the stories when you are in these parts. I believe them all when I am here, though I turn the cold light of remorseless Reason on them when I am in Aberdeen.” (II.397–399) His statement will prove to be correct: the ghostly stories about the disappearances are true. Repeated over and over again, they develop a magical force, which is more than just merely emotional. Mary Rose’s story, in particular, draws its recipients in and eventually functions as self-fulfilling prophesy. The fascination and potential danger of narratives is re-emphasised with another variation on Mary Rose’s story. When she vanishes a second time, her disappearance is mimetically rendered. Her being consumed by the island is staged in a dumb show, in which nothing is heard but the call of the animated isle and opposing, ethereal sounds (II.556 SD): [T]he call has come to Mary Rose. It is at first as soft and furtive as whisperings from holes in the ground, ‘Mary Rose, Mary Rose.’ Then in a fury as of storm and whistling winds that might be an unholy organ it rushes upon the island, raking every bush for her. These sounds increase rapidly in volume till the mere loudness of them is horrible. They are not without an opponent. Struggling through them, and also calling her name, is to be heard music of an unearthly sweetness that is seeking perhaps to beat them back and put a girdle of safety round her. Once Mary Rose’s arms go out to her husband for help, but thereafter she is oblivious of his existence. Her face is rapt, but there is neither fear nor joy in it. Thus she passes from view. The island immediately resumes its stillness. The sun has gone down. Simon by the fire and Cameron in the boat have heard nothing[.]

The repetition of the story and its varied presentation modes – twice in a diegetic mode, once in a traditional dramatic mode, as a dumb show – seem an

7.3 Coping with Events That Defy Their Telling


attempt to capture trauma; the trauma of loss and of a violent one, too (Mary Rose’s second vanishing is staged as “horrible”, “unholy”; she even reaches out “for help”; all II.556 SD). Trauma has, at least in a Freudian conceptualisation, been defined as that which is, with an effort, repressed (cf. Freud 2001 [1910], 25), and, at the same time, as something which wants to come back; e.g., in an unconscious compulsion to repeat the hurt in different forms (cf. Freud 1922 [1920], esp. 16, 17–25). Freud exemplifies his thesis of the repetition of hurt by way of the story of Tancred. The character from Torquato Tasso’s epic La Gerusalemme Liberata (1574) unwittingly kills his beloved, Clorinda – twice and in various forms. The first time, he fails to recognise her because she is clad in armour. He makes a second on her life when, in a magic forest, he puts his spear into a tree, in which his beloved’s soul happens to be captured. When he attacks the tree, he hears Clorinda’s voice crying that he has killed her again. The diegetic and mimetic variation on Mary Rose’s disappearance can be compared to the repetition of Tancred’s killing of Clorinda and thus linked to trauma theory. Even though the heroine’s disappearances on DNL 1 (b) and (c) are set before World War I, Barrie could expect his post-war audiences to relate to them. They, too, were likely to have lost family members in cruel ways. In consequence, the repetition of Mary Rose’s disappearances in various form can, on the basis of Freudian trauma theory, be read, on the one hand, as a metaphor of national trauma. Mary Rose is the performance of an unconscious compulsion to revisit sites of hurt; and this in different – diegetic and mimetic – forms. On the other hand, the specific combination of diegetic and mimetic storytelling in Barrie’s play can be also framed as an attempt to process trauma. In different grades of foregrounding either dramatic or narrative modes, the dramatist experiments with forms that express and narrativise that which would otherwise go unacknowledged. In doing so, he perhaps seeks not just to express, but also to process matters that are repressed or defy understanding.52 Mary Rose can be thus seen as a metaphor for a nation characterised by bereavement, repeatedly foregrounding hurt, and as an attempt to process the reality of the millions of World War I casualties that have left the nation essentially traumatised.

52 While one has to be aware that there is never a simple form to function mapping, this kind of intersection of narrative and drama was already exploited in early modern plays. In John Webster’s The White Devil (cf. Sect. 4.2), diegetic and mimetic stories are also paralleled. In periods marked by experiences of violence, playwrights seem intent on processing their nation and culture’s anxiety and hurt by way of combining the repetition of stories with mimetic and diegetic variation.


7 Expanding the Allowances of Drama by Generic Encounters with Narrative

Leaving DNL 1 and its composition behind to examine Mary Rose further, one quickly realises that another level of dramatic narration displays an unusually high degree of narrativity: its first extra-diegetic level. The ‘level of verbal perspectivisation and/or narration,’ DNL 2 (cf. Sect. 3.3) is fully realised. Narratorial commentary in the form of stage directions are salient, framing the intradiegetic level and interspersed within it. Barrie has always had a reputation for “luxuriat[ing] in stage directions, even beyond Shaw” (Trewin 1951, 62). In Mary Rose, too, his stage commentary radically breaks with convention – both in form and in function. Here, the secondary text amounts to complete paragraphs (cf. 264), multiple paragraphs (cf. 252–253, 278), or even several pages (cf., e.g., 241–242, 247–249). Yet, more important than their quantity is their quality: they fulfil not only descriptive and prescriptive purposes, but also narrative ones as well. With his stage directions, which qualitatively and quantitatively exceed what he calls conventional “conjectures in brackets” (Barrie 1928 [1905], 241), Barrie fulfils the dream poetics outlined above. He transcends dated generic conventions by employing means traditionally only applied in novels. As a narrative frame to the story level, Mary Rose’s stage directions help narrativise and thus tackle events that defy telling: the ruthless passing of time, the withering of lives, regretful absences, and the thin line between life and death. Even though there is no character narrator and the narrative instance is impersonal, Mary Rose’s narrator is quite an overt one.53 The ‘we’-narrator strongly ties the events seen and heard on the intradiegetic level to the context in which the play was penned, namely, post-war England, speculating on the deadened state of mind and numbness of its characters, such as Mrs Otery, the caretaker of the Morelands’ abandoned home, for whom “[t]here may be some one, somewhere, who can make her laugh still, one never knows, but the effort would hurt her face” (I.28–30) and giving the recipient surplus narrative information, explaining that “[e]ven the war, lately ended, meant very little to her” (I.30–31 SD). Switching between first-person plural narration and second-person singular narrative, Barrie directly addresses his collective audience, introducing Harry as a “young Australian soldier, a private, such as in those days you met by the dozen in any London street, slouching along it forlornly if alone, with sudden stoppages (in which you ran against him)” (I.42–45). The narrator directly links his dramatis personae to present, contextual post-war

53 The narrative voice in Barrie’s oeuvre tends to be so overt that some directors of his plays apparently felt compelled to cast a generative narrator or a fictional Barrie as characternarrator to deliver the stage directions (cf. Hollindale 2008, xvii–xviii).

7.3 Coping with Events That Defy Their Telling


times; with the ‘you’ and ‘we’-addresses, the narrative instance explicitly connects occurrences on the diegetic level to the experiences of the play’s contemporary audience: their knowledge of death, of the relentless passage of time, and of fractured time. With intermedial references to the visual arts, the narrative instance personifies the scenery. The house, in which the scene is set, becomes animated, albeit in a morbid way: All of this room’s past which can be taken away has gone. [. . .] [I]f a photograph could be taken quickly, we might find a disturbing smile on the room’s face, perhaps like the Mona Lisa’s, which came, surely, of her knowing of what only the dead should know. [. . .] The wallpaper, heavy in the adherence of other papers of a still older date, has peeled and leans forward here and there in a grotesque bow, as men have hung in chains[.] [. . .] We might play with the disquieting fancy that this room, once warm with love, is still alive but is shrinking from observation. (I.4–20; emphasis mine)

The room is anthropomorphised by the narrative instance. Time and decay have left their mark on the space; it is in a state between life and death. It is depicted as a suffering human being in chains, festering, but not yet or maybe never to be released. The room seems like one imprisoned, waning in strength and life. Like Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, the room wears an enigmatic smile, which the narrator links to a premonition of (imminent) death. This narrative passage has at least four effects: Firstly, it narratively creates the haunting atmosphere that, from now on, will underlie the play’s plot. Secondly, it prefigures that the house is occupied by someone captured between life and death, Mary Rose’s restless spirit. Thirdly, the narrative stage directions serve to contextualise the play’s plot. They enable the play’s reading audiences to apply the macro-frame of narrative and, with it, to make sense of different ontological states, like being and non-being or the transition between life and death, which they might find hard to understand, even if they, too, have been directly affected by loss. With its imagery of a decaying room, Mary Rose’s stage directions give form to experiences of liminal situations, instances in which life and death meet as, for example, in situations in which one suddenly loses someone without being able to say goodbye, in which one does not know if a missing person is alive or dead, or in which one is not able to dissociate oneself from the living memory of a dead loved one. In short, Mary Rose’s narrator gives form to the otherwise inexpressible and ungraspable, to the “narrow veil between life and death, or between the ‘real’ world’ and another” (Ormond 1983, 62). Fourthly, by resorting to spatial description in his narrative stage directions, Barrie visualises what might feel excruciating when someone has died, the relentless passing of time. Decaying rooms which still bear traces of their


7 Expanding the Allowances of Drama by Generic Encounters with Narrative

past, in this case, the impression that they were “once warm with love” (I.19), painfully indicate that this past is irretrievably gone and, with it, the people who once occupied, lived, and loved in it. When one thinks of the second part of Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse (1927), published eighteen years after Mary Rose, Barrie’s play can be said to have proved formative to a narrative strategy used in outstanding novels, too. Visualising the passage of time by means of spatial description and personifying decaying space, the playwright develops a strategy that later novelists will find so fruitful that they, too, will apply it to capture a ‘before and after war,’ ‘before and after loss,’ as well as the grief and disconsolation that come with the personal experience of these two ontological states (cf. Woolf 2008 [1927], Ch. “Time Passes”, esp. 103–106). The narrative voice is so present, even throughout the dialogue, that it has been termed “interventionist on-stage voice” (Hollindale 2008, xx). This voice is a highly ambivalent one. It expresses hurtful truths the characters do not want to hear or acknowledge, but it also offers solace. Regarding the former: playing devil’s advocate, the narrative instance seems to move between the internal and external communication system, highlighting matters for the audiences which remain latent on the story level or preferably go unacknowledged by the characters. When Mary Rose returns home after twenty-five years, unaltered and unaware that she has been away that long, she, upon greeting her mother, experiences a strange sensation, a “something” on which she cannot lay her finger (III.367 SD): “She is leaping towards her mother in the old impulsive way, and the mother responds in her way, but something steps between them.” (III.367 SD) More in dialogue with the ‘interventionist’ narrator than with her parents, Rose asks, ‘puzzled’: “What is it?” (III.368) To which the narrator, brutally honest, replies, seemingly unheard by those on the intra-diegetic level but received by the audience: “It is the years.” (III.368 SD) The passage of time, the fact that she has been robbed of years of time with her loved ones, Mary Rose cannot and will not accept (cf. 383). Like her father, she “cannot cope” with the situation (III.401). And yet, the narrator does not spare anyone from the truth, having Mary Rose search for her baby, who is – as the audience and her family understand, since they know Harry as an adult – just as lost to her as the time she could have spent with her family if she had not been forced away (cf. 387 SD). Even though this realisation is hurtful to Mary Rose and her family, life, the narrator truthfully and unsparingly keeps asserting, went on without her; and there is no bringing it back. Through its narrative ending, however, the play also offers consolation. The weary ghost of Mary Rose, having searched for her baby so long, finally meets Harry. And even though she does not recognise him as her baby, she has the “thing [she has been searching for] at last” (III.630–630), and her soul is released from its imprisonment in the Morlands’ decaying house. The narrative

7.3 Coping with Events That Defy Their Telling


ending, which could be realised on stage in a non-verbal dumb show or a narrative voice-over, expresses the hope that people, one day, can put their sorrows to rest. How this is brought about cannot be rationally explained, neither by characters on stage, nor by the narrative voice itself. It is in the stars, as Harry says, the “[g]ood old glitterers” (III.652–652); and it is, thus, described by the narrative voice with the help of sound imagery and the beautiful, hopeful picture of a shooting star – a symbol (not only in Christian belief) of wishfulfilment, hope, and new beginnings: It is a celestial music that is calling for Mary Rose, Mary Rose, first in whispers and soon so loudly that, for one who can hear, it is the only sound in the world. Mary Rose, Mary Rose. As it wraps her round, the weary little ghost knows that her long day is done. Her face is shining. The smallest star shoots down for her, and with her arms stretched forth to it trustingly she walks out through the window into the empyrean. The music passes with her. Harry hears nothing, but he knows that somehow a prayer has been answered. (III.655 SD)

Embraced by beautiful, ethereal music, Mary Rose vanishes into the starry night. Unlike in her first mimetic disappearance, her face is shining. Her son witnesses her departure, and is glad that one of his prayers has been answered. He and his mother, who never got to say goodbye, finally meet and bid each other farewell, peacefully and warmly. And even though this ending seems so unearthly beautiful and so unreal that one must concede that it is fictional and likely happens only in Harry’s mind, this does not make it less consoling or real for the son and mother, who had lost and missed each other for so long.54 Mary Rose highlights not only narration, but also perspective. At points, it employs focalisation, too, to give form to personal, subjective war experience. The character focaliser of the whole play seems to be Mary Rose’s son, Harry, who has just returned from war – even though he cannot have possibly witnessed events that either preceded his birth or occurred in his absence (e.g., Mary Rose’s mimetic abduction on the island and her return twenty-five years later).55 The

54 Barrie’s idea that things thought and truly felt in liminal situations might be just as real as allegedly ‘real’ ones has been taken up by later writers, too. In one seminal narrative fantasy, Barrie’s notion is carried across by way of a (dramatic) dialogue between another Harry and the ghost of his revered, dead mentor, Albus Dumbledore, in their final goodbye scene: “‘Tell me one last thing,’ said Harry. ‘Is this real? Or has this been happening inside my head?’ [. . .] ‘Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?’” (Rowling 2007, 579). 55 The fact that a character focaliser or character narrator cannot possibly have witnessed events him-/herself has never prevented literature from having its narrators and focalisers tell them. Both in novels and plays, there are plenty of instances of ‘unnatural’ scenes. Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy famously (almost) recounts his own birth (2003 [1759–1767]) and, in


7 Expanding the Allowances of Drama by Generic Encounters with Narrative

character focaliser’s thoughts and perceptions give insight into predominant experiences of returner soldiers and their families: experiences of disjoined time and alienation, i.e., disjointed experience. In the ten minutes that Harry waits for Mrs Otery, the house’s caretaker, to get him a cup of tea, it is suggested that he has a vision. Sitting in a chair, “staring at the fire” (I.231 SD), he becomes “part of the room” (I.233 SD), and fades out of sight. The audience now directly sees what Harry seems to see with his inner eye: all of that which has happened at crucial points in his family’s history – his mother’s engagement, his mother’s second disappearance and return. When Mrs Otery reappears, after ten minutes, which she emphasises twice, she is “struck by his appearance”, as he is “staring wide-eyed into the fire, motionless” (III.405 SD). To bring the “blankly” (III.406 SD) staring Harry, deep in thought, back to the here and now, Mrs Otery states (III.407): “I have brought you a cup of tea, I have just been ten minutes.” Harry has a hard time believing this, after all that he has just seen and after all the long time span he himself has just experienced (III.408–415): Wait a mo. [. . .] See here, as I sat in that chair – I wasn’t sleeping, mind you – it’s no dream – but things of the far past connected with this old house – things I knew nought of the came crowding out of their holes and gathered round me till I saw – I saw them all so clear that I don’t know what to think, woman.

While the ‘interventionist’ narrative voice contextualises painful realities, the perspectivisation by way of character focaliser Harry on DNL 3 shows that personal experience – especially an unusual, violent one – precedes and defies causal narrative logic and understanding. The dashes and incomplete sentences show that the character has to grapple with what he has just witnessed, with what happened to his family, their being violently torn apart. Harry’s focalisation also makes him re-experiences what many soldiers must have felt upon returning home: that their experience (of time) radically differs from the experience of those who have not witnessed cruel fights, violence, and death. What feels and objectively is just ten minutes for Mrs Otway feels like a lifetime for Harry. What feels like a continuous succession of minutes for the caretaker, feels and is disrupted for Mary Rose’s son because of his vision, his mental experience. What is shown by focalisation here, the discrepancy in time experience, especially after traumatic events, is also thematised on the play’s story level. The

Kate Atkinson’s novel Behind the Scenes at the Museum (1998 [1995], 9), narrator Ruby is present at her conception and tells her audience about it. In Brian Friel’s play Dancing at Lughnasa (1990), narrator Michael, in part, also recounts events from a summer in his aunts’ cottage when he was seven, which he himself did not witness.

7.3 Coping with Events That Defy Their Telling


days and years in which Harry’s grandparents waited for their daughter never existed for her (cf. I.676). Nor does Mary Rose age; she appears like a frozen flower. As her mother explains to Simon, Harry’s father-to-be (I.700–703), after her returns, she seems “curiously young for her age – as if – you know how just a touch of frost may stop the growth of a plant and yet leave it blooming – it has sometimes seemed to me as if a cold finger had once touched my Mary Rose.” Mary Rose, after her disappearances, always stays young and more innocent than others. For soldiers in trenches, it must have been different. For them, in retrospect, time passed rapidly; so much had happened, while those at home stayed innocent, their experience of time undisrupted. But be that as it may, the play, even if in a chiastic structure, shows how time can be disrupted by traumatic experiences, which leads to different experiences of time between those at home and those abroad. This might lead to alienation or experiences of estrangement between those who left and returned and those who waited at home. When Mary Rose returns after twenty-five years, her parents do not speak about her absence at first, about what might have happened to her, or about her now-grown baby. “They cannot face her” (387 SD), and they cannot tell her the truth. Instead, they resort to banalities, enquiring about her journey and offering some tea (cf. III.374–375). Mary Rose thus plays with perspective, giving insight into some minds, such as Harry’s, and refusing to give insight into others, like Mary Rose’s. By way of Harry’s focalisation, audiences are invited to realise how easily one’s experience can alter one’s perception of time, and how radically strange events might lead to a fissure or, in drama-theoretical terms, discrepant awareness between those who have lived through them (like Harry and, through sharing his vision, the audience) and who have not (like Mrs Otery). By refusing to give insight into the mind of Mary Rose, however, the playwright adds yet another experience: The audience also sees how traumatised people might lock up or block out their experience out so neither they themselves nor others have access to it. Harry’s focalisation, his vision, and the refusal to give narrative or perspectival insight into Mary Rose’s mind all make clear – for the audience to see for themselves, as they allegedly are in the character’s mind – that the difference in time perception and in experience between people who have been apart, be it Mary Rose, her parents, and her baby, or Mrs Otery and Harry, seems unbridgeable – especially in the face of violent, unusual, or traumatising incidents. For some, time is disrupted (like Harry or war veterans); for others, it is a smooth succession of events (those who remained at home will never know what really happened in the trenches and how violent and shocking the soldiers’ experiences were); for others, again, time stands still or


7 Expanding the Allowances of Drama by Generic Encounters with Narrative

comes to an end (those killed in war and their loved ones at home, who remember them as they were, never changing, never ageing). After the war, these different groups will never be truly joined again. And still, there is, at least in Harry’s imagination, which is recounted by way of narrative in the end, the hope that national and personal ghosts can be put to rest, so that both the living and the dead at last find peace. To conclude, by foregrounding mise en abymes of stories, employing an interventionist narrative voice, and relying on character focalisation in Mary Rose, which oscillates between conveying dread and providing solace, Barrie addresses post-World War I experiences. With his dramatic narration, the Scottish playwright attempts to bring causal logic to events that defy being told and made sense of. Examining the play’s narrative strategies, one realises that Barrie is not at all a ‘cosy writer’ (cf. N.N. 2008) or a writer whose works only processes his own personal experiences of loss, as some claim (cf., e.g., Ormond 1983, 63). Far from that, with a narrative play like Mary Rose, he addresses grave topics that defy coherence, giving them at least some shape and sense: topics as substantial and inconceivable as war, national trauma, death, alienation, and disjointed time.

7.4 Dominant Forms and Potential Functions of Narrative in Victorian and Early-Twentieth-Century Plays: The Narrativisation of Drama as a Ways of Partaking in Political Debate and Coping with Post-War Realities Making drama new, late Victorian and early-twentieth-century playwrights expand the allowances of drama by enriching their plays with narrative forms (see Fig. 18). Dramatists before the war attack hegemonic narratives that engender social injustice, unveiling them as narrative constructs and fictions. With their drama, they partake in political debate. Being censored, like George Bernard Shaw, is a marker of their success. They are, after all, considered serious and unpleasant political and moral opposition. In Mrs Warren’s Profession (cf. Sect. 7.4), Shaw reduces dramatic modes in favour of diegetic ones to introduce perspectives and stories of the socially shunned, e.g., prostitutes and the poor. With this, he politicises drama, accusing his audiences, who belong to the hegemonic elites, of being ideologically blinded or hypocritical, and criticises the aberrations of late-nineteenth-century capitalism and Victorian morality. The women playwrights Cicely Hamilton and Christopher St John, too, believe in the political power of drama to transform society and in the progressive notion that the allowances of dramatic form can be even further expanded by

7.4 Dominant Forms and Potential Functions of Narrative in Victorian Plays


combining it with narrative modes. With narrative in How the Vote Was Won (cf. Sect. 7.2), they modernise the genre of ‘comedy,’ making it political. Like Shaw, they debunk hegemonic societal narratives and confront social inequality. While Shaw focuses on a capitalist chasm between the rich and the poor and, by extension, between those who can afford to uphold morals and those who cannot, Hamilton and St John thematise another social split that divides British society into two: the legal and political gulf between men and women. With narrative, they expand the possibilities of comedy so that it becomes a genre whose traditional allowances, e.g., entertainment and humour, become part of a greater project. Now, comedy and humour are employed as instrument of the suffrage movement. To exert political pressure, they ridicule patriarchal beliefs and stage a conversion narrative. They combine a montage of women’s biographies, which are narratively rendered, with a performance of change. Those who did not believe in women’s contributions to society, rights, and suffrage at first are shown to change. Hamilton and St John thus prove – for all with eyes to see – that change in favour of female suffrage is possible. With their narrative comedy, they spread suffragists’ ideas, assert “the possibility of woman’s political power” (Delahaye 2016, 2), and work towards and even forestall political change, even if it was not to be achieved before the end of the Great War, which, for four years, brought the suffrage movement to a complete halt. Nothing arguably defined the early-twentieth century more than the cataclysmic experience of World War I. In its aftermath and in attempts at making sense of events that defy being narrativised and understood, it is exactly narrative to which playwrights in large numbers resort (cf. Sect. 7.3). With it, they manage to bring form, order, and at least a bit of sense to experiences of violence, alienation, and death – even those playwrights like J. M. Barrie, who have, to this very day, a reputation for writing escapist drama. Analysing his narrative strategies – story mise en abymes, a salient narrative instance, and focalisation –, one cannot but arrive at the conclusion that Barrie’s Mary Rose attends to serious topics. Barrie deals with national trauma, personal loss, as well as unsettling and alienating experiences of disjointed time and discrepant perception. With his dramatically embedded narratives, he does not shun pain, but is brave enough to look at it (and has the narrative means of doing it), and, at the same time, offers at least a little solace to post-war audiences. To conclude, combining the allowances of drama and narrative in very different, yet innovative ways, late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century playwrights seem to have found decidedly modern ways in which to create the best of all (dramatic) worlds. They reach their audiences by manifold strategies: by printing their plays, writing journalistically, or, traditionally, by gathering them in the theatre. Developing narrative drama further, they address uncomfortable truths, exert


7 Expanding the Allowances of Drama by Generic Encounters with Narrative

Central contextual intersections of drama and narrative (i.e., the ‘narrative contexts’ of plays) – Victorian art characterised by various meetings of narrative and drama (novelists producing plays together; novelists depicting private theatricals in their novels and making novels dramatic; novelists turning to playwriting; playwrights adapting myth, legend, novels; essayistic oeuvre of playwrights) as well as by transmedial aesthetics (e.g., realism or naturalism), which become manifest in both narrative and drama and, thus, suprasegmentally, link both genres. – Before the beginning of WWI, transgeneric (fictional and non-fictional) and trans-sectional (e.g., fiction, journalism, political activism) meeting points of drama, narrative, and other non-dramatic genres; transgeneric versatility of authors; playwrights pay homage to narrative genres in their plays’ récits (e.g., famous novelists as characters); friendship and collegial cooperation between established novelists and emerging playwrights. – Writers working transgenerically (producing novels and plays); transgeneric ‘travels’ / genesis of individual plays (“mobile texts”, Hollindale 2008, xv); transgeneric poetics, meta-generic reflection and transgeneric practice (also within plays, in form of introductory stage directions); transgeneric adaptation history (plays in dialogue with old narrative genres and media as well as new narrative genres and media: myths, games, or movies). Prevailing kinds of intra-textual intersections of drama and narrative Dominant semantic dimensions Narrative sensu ‘act of narration,’ ‘a society’s narrative,’ of narrative documentary prose, embedded story, fictional story, ‘hegemonic narrative’ or ideology, ‘life story,’ ‘power of a story’ Dominant forms of narrative on – story and counter-story (introduction of story level unacknowledged and [partly] hidden stories); clash of two different social narratives – characters as orators – ‘enacted metalepsis’ – embedded newspaper stories / documentary prose – narrative mise en abymes – act of narration – the ‘magic power’ of narration (mechanisms of selffulfilling prophesy) – reduction of conventionally dramatic modes and Dominant intersections of dramatic and narrative modes on increase of diegetic ones (reduction of action play becomes discussion; reduction of dialogue discourse level (récit) monologisation; characters hold argumentative speeches) – adoption of narrative strategies and themes of canonical social novels (e.g., two ‘tales’ of one situation as in, e.g., North and South) – realising/performing (fictive) narratives – reduction of dramatic mode of ‘action’ in favour of a montage of different life narratives – performance of conversion narrative

Dominant narrative modes and features of narration (‘narration as an abstraction’) placed and qualified within the communication model of

– – – – –

diegetic and mimetic variation on one story (a leitmotif) extensive and narrative stage directions thematisation of untold stories on DNL 1 (countering actual hegemonic narratives) metalepsis: realising abstract (and fictional) hegemonic narratives, performing them on DNL 1 multiple focalisation on DNL 3, (partly) unevaluated by

Fig. 18: Dominant forms and potential functions of narrative in nineteenth- and early-twentiethcentury plays.

7.4 Dominant Forms and Potential Functions of Narrative in Victorian Plays

dramatic narration

– – – –

– –

Cultural dynamics and performative power of the above mentioned dominant forms


narrative instance; ‘neutral observer’ fiction essayistic prose framing on DNL 4 teichoscopy in ‘modern form’ on DNL 1: embedded (hyperbolic and narrative) newspaper articles proliferation of embedded stories in (embedded) stories on DNL 1 “interventionist” narrative voice (Hollindale 2008, xx) on DNL 2, framing the events on DNL 1 and playing devil’s advocate for audiences and characters alike, highlighting latent, painful realities character focalisation on DNL 3 play with perspective on DNL 3(focalisation gives insight into minds; narrative and dramatic modes serve as a refusal to access minds)

Heightened degree of narrativity and its forms engender selfreference and self-definition (genre-system): – politicisation and modernisation of dramatic genre; argumentative nature of play – modernisation of traditional dramatic modes and theatrical qualities – renewal of genre of comedy (entertainment, on the one hand; critique of status quo and instrument of political pressure, on the other) – meta-generic references in dramatic and narrative modes (Alice Sit-by-the-Fire) – transcending dated genre conventions (employing conventional strategies of the novel in plays) and hetero-reference as well as political engagement (culture): – assessment of capitalist society that counters hegemonic view-points – provocation and criticism of hypocritical moralist societies, esp. Victorian Great Britain (dethroning and demythologising the ‘Great Nation’) – instrument of envisioning, proleptically performing, and, ideally, instigating political change – metaphor of national trauma; expressing and processing of trauma – narrativisation of brutal war experience to give coherence to what has none – giving insight into different perceptions of time; explanation for alienation between war returners and people at home

Fig. 18 (continued )

political power, and, at least to some extent, offer a traumatised nation the possibility of dealing with inexpressible and inexplicable experiences, and soothe some of their hurt by giving a narrative ending to those personal stories that had been denied it by the cataclysmic disruptions of the Great War.

8 From Stories in Drama to the Drama of (Performed) Stories: Late-Twentieth and Early-Twenty-First-Century Dissolutions of Established Generic Traditions and Cultural Histories as Well as the Generation of New, ‘Ex-centric’ Genres and Histories through Narrative What critic Linda Hutcheon argues in her seminal study The Politics of Postmodernism for post-1960 historians also holds true for post-1960 dramatists: they have been freed [. . .] to note the dispersing interplay of different, heterogeneous discourses that acknowledge the undecidable in both the past and our knowledge of the past. What has surfaced is something different from the unitary, closed, evolutionary narratives of historiography [and of the nation and society] as we have traditionally known it: as we have been seeing in historiographic metafiction as well, we now get the histories (in the plural) of the losers as well as the winners, of the regional (and colonial) as well as the centrist, of the unsung many as well as the much sung few, and I might add, of women as well as men. (Hutcheon 1989, 66)

British drama of the second half of the twentieth century and the first decades of the twenty-first challenges narrative unity and totalisations. It does so, paradoxically, by exploiting the treasure trove of narrative modes for its dramatic narration. British plays of the era construct alternative versions to hegemonic historiographical narratives and provide kaleidoscopic and de-centred concepts of the British nation and society. Interestingly, as drama’s stories move farther and farther away from the central – and widely accepted – narrative of British and European culture, its generic status becomes more and more ex-centric. Narrative modes seem to increasingly dominate and supersede conventions regarded as central to drama. Playwrights working in this mode include not only Samuel Beckett and Harold Pinter, who in some of their seminal plays1 reduce action or render it absurdist to make an excessive use of narrative modes, including extended acts of speaking and storytelling. There is also Caryl Churchill, who combines narratives of different women of different ages in one dramatic narrative and narration, and Sarah Kane, who

1 Cases in point are, for instance, Krapp’s Last Tape (Beckett 1976 [1958]) or The Caretaker (Pinter 1962 [1960]). https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110724110-008

8.1 Staging and Questioning Authorial Omnipotence


dissolves the category of character to present nothing but minds and streams of consciousness.2 There are also playwrights like Peter Shaffer, debbie tucker green, and Lucy Prebble, who even move away from those straightforward strategies of implementing narrative and transgeneric modes in drama, making both their plays and the whole genre of drama even more unusual and ‘ex-centric.’ The selection of the plays in this chapter exemplifies these two trends: that plays of the late-twentieth and early-twenty-first century, firstly, thematise new concepts of the British nation, society, and its most pressing problems, and that they do so by rejecting the portrayal of a single, unified story and creating a ‘drama of (performed) stories’ by increasingly narrativising and hybridising their plays. Dramatic works like Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus (cf. Sect. 8.1), debbie tucker green’s stoning mary (cf. Sect. 8.2), and Lucy Prebble’s Enron move beyond isolated instances of narrative in their dramatic narration, even creating new (narrative) genres of drama in the process. At the same time, they show that the range of narrative techniques available to drama has expanded, just as the genre system itself has expanded. Narrative forms of reference are no longer exclusively textually transmitted ones, such as the novel, the epic, or oral genres (e.g., rumour, gossip), but also audio-visually mediated kinds of narratives (e.g., opera, film and TV narratives). How exactly these playwrights combine dramatic and recent narrative modes in their work, how they establish new dramatic genres with their inter-generic intersections, and to what extent their plays can be said to “challenge the impulse to totalize” (Hutcheon 1989, 66) and “to challenge models of unity and order” (Hutcheon 1995, 57) and, in so doing, to re-write, reperform, and re-form the British nation is the subject of the following sections.

8.1 Staging and Questioning Authorial Omnipotence: Desecrating the ‘Holy Trinity of Protagonist, Narrator, and Focaliser’ in Peter Shaffer’s Post-Modern Gesamtkunstwerk Amadeus as a Means of Unveiling and Undermining Traditional Normalisation and Unification Tendencies Even though Peter Shaffer’s transnationally successful play Amadeus (1979), which is a staging of the unproven but still circulating rumour that Wolfgang

2 I am referring in particular to Caryl Churchill’s Top Girls (2001 [1982]) and Sarah Kane’s Crave (1998) and 4.48 Psychosis (1999; both in Kane 2001).


8 From Stories in Drama to the Drama of (Performed) Stories

Amadeus Mozart was killed by Antonio Salieri out of jealousy, has been narratologically and culturally analysed in earlier studies both rewardingly and in great detail (cf. esp. W. Huber and Zapf 1993; A. Nünning 1994; Glomb 1997, 172–198; A. Nünning and Baumbach 2011), it would be negligent to not investigate an exemplarily narrative piece like this. In a study that attempts to give an exhaustive and representative overview of paradigmatic narrative forms in British drama throughout its history, Amadeus must not be excluded simply because of its previous academic appeal. Amadeus cannot but be featured in a discussion of transgeneric drama even today, especially by virtue of its outstanding exploitation of narrative form and its salient contextual links to narrativity. Shaffer, firstly, employs diverse narrative modes in the play’s dramatic narration to an enormous extent. A fresh look, one that is informed by this study’s theoretical framework, reveals that the play has even more to offer regarding narrative than has been recognised and discussed so far. Secondly, Amadeus is exemplary of post-modern literature, in which [past] events no longer seem to speak for themselves, but are shown to be consciously composed into a narrative, whose constructed – not found – order is imposed on them, often overtly by the narrating figure. The process of making stories out of chronicles, of constructing plots out of sequences, is what postmodern fiction [and, one must add, drama] underlines. (Hutcheon 1989, 66; emphasis mine)

Staging the conscious composition of past events into a narrative, the process of ‘making’ history, and an (unreliable) narrator, Amadeus can be taken as prime example to illustrate the interdependence of genres within a changing genre system. Like the fiction that comes to increasingly dominate the second half of the twentieth century, Amadeus does not mask the processes and mechanisms by which the past is narrated. Instead, and in analogy to many meta-fictional and meta-historical contemporary novels, the play deliberately foregrounds them. Before examining how this is done and discussing the specific forms and functions of narrative in Amadeus, I will outline some of the pertinent and diverse contextual meeting points of narrative and drama at the time of the play’s genesis.

Amadeus in Its Narrative Contexts Like the narrative plays dealt with earlier, Shaffer’s Amadeus was not penned in a literary and cultural vacuum. The context of its emergence, too, is ripe with transgeneric intersections. Narrative and drama meet in at least three respects and on at least three different levels. Looking firstly at the play’s immediate

8.1 Staging and Questioning Authorial Omnipotence


dramatic neighbours and focusing on Shaffer’s oeuvre, one realises that Amadeus is one of three plays that are structured alike. The Royal Hunt of the Sun (]1964] 2007), Equus ([1974] 2007), and Amadeus have been framed as a trilogy on account of their being “narrated by a principal character” (Klein 1983, 31). Thus, Amadeus is part of a larger dramatic experiment carried out by Shaffer, in which he intertwines narrative and dramatic modes. In all three plays, the dramatist both foregrounds a generative narrator and, with this foregrounding, expands the affordances of his plays in particular and dramatic form in general.3 If one, secondly, takes the system of dramatic literature as a whole into consideration (and this transnationally), Shaffer’s dramatic works and especially his trilogy can be seen as part of a larger body of plays that emerged sporadically before the Second World War, but rapidly proliferated since then. These are, on the one hand, plays which, on their story levels, feature authors and authorial processes prominently,4 and/or which experiment with narrating characters on their discourse levels. Cases in point are Thornton Wilder’s Our Town (1987 [1938]), in which the main character, a stage manager, directly addresses the audience and functions as generative narrator; Bertold Brecht’s The Caucasian Chalk Circle (2015 [1945]), in which a Singer functions as a narrator, telling a fable that brings the main narrative into being; Edward Bond’s Bingo (1984 [1974]), which centres around an ageing William Shakespeare; Jack Shepherd’s In Lambeth (2014 [1989]), which revolves around a meeting between the writers William Blake and Thomas Paine in 1791; and Tom Stoppard’s Travesties (2008 [1974]), in which a deluded consular official, Henry Wilfred Carr, reminisces about his time in Zurich in the First World War, when he had dealings with the great modernists James Joyce and Tristan Tzara.5 Like many post-modern novels, plays like these tackle ‘authorship’ from an “interrogative stance, [. . .] contesting [. . .] authority” (Hutcheon 1995, 57). On the other hand, plays which take their inspiration from the novel in their attempts to explore the minds of characters and, with them, their subjective, fragmented, and chaotic experiences increasingly dominate the dramatic landscape. Examples include Luigi Pirandello’s Each in His Own Way (1989 [1924]), in which point of view is explicitly discussed, e.g., when a character

3 This is why the generative narrators of Shaffer’s trilogy differ in form and function. For the ways in which they do, see Dennis A. Klein’s elucidating essay (1983). 4 That even the protagonist of Amadeus, Salieri, who is a composer and not a writer, can be considered an author and fulfils authorial functions has been convincingly argued by Stefan Glomb (1997, 174–178). 5 For more examples and a discussion of them, see Andreas Höfele’s enlightening article (1990).


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enquires into the nature of reality and conventions of (narrative and theatrical) representation; Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman (2011 [1949]), in which the protagonist re-imagines events from the past as if they were real; or Alan Ayckbourn’s Woman in Mind (1989 [1985]), in which the main character hallucinates after having received a bump to the head and the audience, lacking an outside perspective, sees through the eyes of the focalising protagonist. There are also plays which combine these two trends, in that they feature a narrator character and, in exploring these narrator-characters’ minds, encroach on domains that used to be exclusively novelistic. Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie (1985 [1944]), Travesties, and Amadeus all serve as examples in which narrative (sensu diegetic) presentation and explorations of minds as well as perspectives are paradigmatically combined. Since the 1950s, narrative and narration have, thirdly, become major concerns in their own right – even outside the system of literature. In European and transatlantic cultures at large, these concepts have been challenged across academic disciplines and beyond, e.g., in political debate. In particular, there is the post-modern preoccupation with the narrative construction of groups, e.g., societies, ideologies, and historiographies. Marxist and proto-materialist notions which had circulated for some time in critical thought – and even, before that, in plays as we have seen (cf. esp. Sect. 5.3, 7.1) –, became virulent and viral in the 1970s and 1980s. The intertwinement of narrative, ideology, and culture was urgently discussed. To begin with, the narrative set-up of culture and ‘normality’ was problematised. The hidden mechanisms of a culture’s hegemonic ideologies, their narrative construction and their normalisation, exposed earlier in the twentieth century by Marxist Antonio Gramsci (1971), were, in the 1970s and 1980s, ever more highlighted and denounced, e.g., by Linda Hutcheon: “Ideology [. . .] naturalizes narrative representation, making it appear natural or common-sensical [. . .]; it presents what is really constructed meaning as something inherent in that which is being represented.” (Hutcheon 1989, 49; emphasis in original) Correspondingly, there was the urgent acknowledgement of the fact that literature, too, followed these narratively constructed and naturalised rules, an idea convincingly substantiated by New Historicists like Stephen Greenblatt (cf., e.g., Greenblatt 1988, 2005 [1980]) and materialists like Lennard Davis. The latter argues that plays and fiction –artistic products in general – “do not depict life, they depict life as it is represented by ideology” (1987, 24). Literary texts are, therefore, material manifestations of normalised, hegemonic narratives and far from apolitical, innocent cultural products. In the same vein, the ideological and narrative design of another cultural product came under intense investigation: namely, historiography.

8.1 Staging and Questioning Authorial Omnipotence


Linda Hutcheon describes post-modernism as a “context of a serious contemporary interrogating of the nature of representation in historiography” and directly leads over to a connected concern. “There has been much interest recently in narrative – its forms, its functions, its powers, and its limitations – in many fields, but especially in history.” (Hutcheon 1989, 50) The problem-ridden practices of the historiographic emplotment of historical events, the flawed conventions of historical and fictional representations, and historiography’s tricky ‘totalisations’ through narration were extensively dissected and seriously questioned. Zooming in on ‘totalising representation,’ Linda Hutcheon, too, discusses these matters. She particularly emphasises the distorting “process[es] [. . .] by which writers of history, fiction, or even theory render their materials coherent, continuous, unified – but always with an eye to the control and mastery of those materials, even at the risk of doing violence to them.” (Hutcheon 1989, 62) The insight into the historiographer’s problematic impositions of meaning and order onto historic subjects and events, as well as historiography’s narrativity and its “totalizing impulse” (Hutcheon 1989, 63), significantly shaped post-modern cultures. This manifested in numerous ways and across many sectors: while it has been widely acknowledged that meta-fictional and metahistoriographical reflectiveness on these topics abound in historiography (cf. Jameson 1979; Iggers 2012 [2005]), fiction (cf. A. Nünning 1995, 2008), and theory (cf. Hutcheon 1989, 1995), the emanations of these issues in contemporary drama have been much less considered – a lacuna that will be filled, at least partly, with the discussion of Amadeus and the subsequent plays below.

Amadeus’ Text-Internal Narrativity Amadeus, which won the 1981 Tony Award for Best Play and which was adapted by Peter Shaffer for the 1984 Academy Award-winning movie of the same title, is a paradigmatic example of the late-twentieth-century, post-modern body of plays that turn to historical subjects and narrative modes. The story is based on a rumour,6 and gives a highly fictionalised account of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s life and death in Vienna – from the perspective of (the equally fictionalised) Antonio Salieri. The play is just as much a fictional dramatic biography – as it 6 Even if music history has given us no evidence that Salieri did poison Mozart, the rumour – true to its nature – persists, and has been successfully exploited by post-modern literature and other arts (cf., e.g., Braunbehrens 1989, 7–8). For literary scholars’ perspectives on this, see also Werner Huber and Merle Tönnies (2009).


8 From Stories in Drama to the Drama of (Performed) Stories

recounts parts of Mozart’s life in dramatic form – as a dramatic autobiography, as there is the congruence of a narrating and a narrated ‘I’ in the character of Salieri. Amadeus is, furthermore, a dramatic music history in that it follows, explains, and dramatises the genesis of works of Viennese Classicism. Intertwining typically dramatic and narrative means, Amadeus is arguably a post-modern investigation into the – all at once – complex, rich, and questionable interrelations between narrative, history, and historiography.7 On Amadeus’ story and discourse levels, Shaffer installs narrative modes precisely to undermine them – and moreover, in multifaceted ways that go beyond the implementation of a generative narrator and the application of strategies of the epic theatre, which have been already fruitfully examined (e.g., A. Nünning 1994). Examined within the present theoretical framework (cf. Ch. 3), the post-modern play proves much more complex than so far perceived. In consequence, the previous ground-breaking analyses have to be complemented. In at least three further ways, which exploit narrative modes, the play enters into a complex meta-generic dialogue with genres traditionally regarded as narrative, dismantles narrative’s totalising influence in culture, lays bare the ideologies underneath hegemonic cultural myths, and counters historical master-narratives. Firstly, and mainly on an intradiegetic level (DNL 1), diverse oral and written narrative genres drive the play’s plot. Secondly, Amadeus’ récit can be regarded as a virtuoso combination of alternating narration (on DNL 2) and focalisation (on DNL 3). And thirdly, on all levels of the play’s dramatic storytelling, there is the marked presence of intermedial kinds of narrative. That, in addition to the obvious topic ‘music,’ narrative genres play an especially major role on the story level of this musical (auto)biography, is emphasised right at the beginning of the play. The intertwinement of rumour and history (that is, rumour’s emanation as biography, autobiography, and historiography) is not just thematised, but even performed on the play’s story level.8 Even before the well-known and well-researched narrator character, composer

7 If this chapter, thus, begins with a déjà vu, this is certainly due to the fact that Shakespeare, too, with his highlighting of narrative in Henry IV, especially Part 2, and his allegory of Rumour, uses some the same narrative strategies as Shaffer to explore the complex intertwinement between narrative, history, and historiography (cf. Sect. 3.1). Even if this diachronic comparison shows that certain narrative forms have a history in drama and tend serve certain stable purposes throughout British drama history (even if not exclusively and not always), their outcomes can differ greatly. Shaffer, for example, challenges the concepts investigated much more than Shakespeare, whose Henry IV plays always remain ambivalent towards them. 8 There is even an additional genre of narrative that the play’s story level integrates, namely, biblical inter-texts. These have been informatively analysed by Nehama Aschkenasy (2010).

8.1 Staging and Questioning Authorial Omnipotence


Antonio Salieri, comes to the fore, two characters who will regularly reappear throughout the play, the Venticelli, Salieri’s paid informers (cf. 38.26),9 are introduced. Their shadowy but constant presence (they are even part of Amadeus’ closing scene) betrays the importance of hearsay in both the (auto)biographical story to follow and in the text-external genesis of music history (as historia rerum gestarum). As “purveyors of fact, rumour and gossip” (14.4–5 SD), these ‘little winds,’ so the literal translation of their name, are not distinct characters. Like Rumour in 2 Henry IV (cf. Sect. 4.1), they serve as dramatic tools to demonstrate the characteristics and workings of oral narratives like rumour. What is more, the Venticelli illustrate the often unacknowledged presence of liminal narrative genres between fact and fiction, such as gossip and rumour, in the construction of genres with a claim on objectivity, such as biography, autobiography, and historiography. Like little winds – swift, insubstantial, powerful (like wind, the Venticelli’s information is neither tangible nor able to be caught and, thus, inexorably spreading) –, Salieri’s informants carry hearsay not just to him, but all across 1829 Vienna. This is mainly illustrated by the Venticelli’s performance: they do not walk, they “glide” (21.13 SD, 102.11 SD, 149.8 SD) across the stage like ethereal, elusive winds. Like wind, they are swift, speaking rapidly (cf. 14.5 SD). Their disembodied voices seem, in analogy to wind, to spread everywhere, unseen but heard: the Venticelli’s (dis)information is multiplied by invisible Whisperers (e.g., 14.1, 14.15, 14.21, sic passim). Rumour and gossip seem both hard to catch and everywhere. The Venticelli prove these private, informal, and unreliable narrative genres powerful. Rumour shapes Mozart’s personal history – after all, on the diegetic level, his progress is repeatedly obstructed by Salieri’s “constant slander” (123.6–7) –, the dramatic genesis of Mozart’s biography, which is, at the same time, Salieri’s autobiography, and the play-external, general historiographic accounts of these and other composers’ life and music, accounts that, paradoxically, lay a claim on objectivity and truth. With its additional implementation and performance of the Venticelli beyond the play’s story level (these storytelling characters also occupy a position on the play’s DNL 2), Amadeus partakes in meta-generic criticism. It is a postmodern foregrounding of all the ‘flaws’ of (auto)biographical narrative and music histories: their contingency, their fictionality, and their unreliability. If one looks closely, it is not just the extra-diegetic Salieri who generates the intra-diegetic narrative of Salieri and Mozart. It is, first, the Venticelli, their

9 Within this section, all not otherwise marked act and scene numbers or page and line numbers in brackets refer to Shaffer (2012 [1979]). For clarity’s sake and due to the idiosyncratic edition of the play, act and scene numbers are given in all cases in which an entire scene is referred to; otherwise, page and line numbers are referenced.


8 From Stories in Drama to the Drama of (Performed) Stories

Whisperers, and those who “tell [. . .] tale[s] for a drink” (16.13) who jointly function as Amadeus’ ultimate generative narrators on DNL 2. On a subordinate level, DNL 2 (a), they provide an additional frame to Salieri’s frame narration on DNL 2 (or, to be more precise, DNL 2 [b]). They are seen and heard even before Salieri; they breathe life into the inanimate figure in his wheelchair, who is surrounded by darkness and of whom the audience, in the beginning, can see only “the top of his head, and perhaps the shawl wrapped around his shoulder” (13.19–20). It is the Venticelli, with their urgent, pressing inquiry about Salieri’s latest utterances in unison (“Tell us. Tell us. Tell us at once! . . . ”, 18.2; emphasis in original), who force a reply out of the old man. It is they who make Salieri cry “MOZART!!!” (18.4; emphasis in original) and to start his narration of Mozart’s life, i.e., Mozart’s biography, and his own role in it, i.e., Salieri’s autobiography from the play’s second scene onwards. That the Venticelli, on an additional superordinate level of narration, DNL 2 (a), frame and trigger Salieri’s narrative has at least three implications: as purveyors of gossip, their reliability as storytellers is, to put it mildly, questionable. It is they to whom Salieri owes most of his information on Mozart, which he then shares with the audience. The framing of Salieri’s account of Mozart’s life, which is imparted to the audience on DNL 1 is, with this – first, the Venticelli triggering Salieri’s narrative on DNL 2 (a) and informing his perception of Mozart on DNL 1 – proleptically stigmatised as potentially doubly unreliable. Secondly, historiographical genres, like biography, autobiography, and music history – that is, genres usually regarded as part of ‘serious’ and reliable literature, with a clear teleology – are, on a meta-generic plane, questioned. Their closeness to oral narrative genres of base public entertainment, like ‘gossip,’ is highlighted and, thus, their status of ‘seriousness’ is undermined. Instead of their assumed teleology, their dependence on random information, and thus, their contingency is emphasised. The presence of hearsay in history-writing is even underscored by an excessive use and repetition of performative verbs on DNL 2 (a) – e.g., “[t]hey say” (14.16, 14.19), “I hear” (14.17–18), “[h]e’s spoken” (14.22, 14.25). Thus any historiographical claim to objectivity, truth, and verifiable fact is debunked as mere wishful thinking. Thirdly, the Venticelli in Amadeus are more than personifications of rumour; they are allegories of historiography, a historiography that is – in contradistinction to any biographical and historiographical ethos – made up of “fact, rumour and gossip” (14.4–5). This allegory, in the form of unreliable, characterless, and shady gossipers, not only knocks well-respected, ‘serious’ historiographical genres like biography, autobiography, and music history – realised here in

8.1 Staging and Questioning Authorial Omnipotence


dramatic form – from their pedestals. It also demystifies particular histories: the Mozart genius cult, which persists to the present day, is demystified.10 Viennese Classicism’s celebrated musical output, which is granted such importance that it is used synonymously with ‘classical music’ in general, is said to have had its mediocrities, too. The legendary icons of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Joseph Haydn, and Ludwig van Beethoven become the subject of base gossip – and, even worse, some of them even gossip themselves. These musicians’ splendid, ‘superhuman’ image, Amadeus seems to say, with its highlighting of the Venticelli on DNL 1 and DNL 2 (a), is an illusion and to be revised. The play thus discredits and counters historical master-narratives: after all, the classical composers’ larger-than-life reputation seem based on unreliable, ‘low’ narrative genres as well as on dubious sources.11 Even stories of “hard drinker[s]” (16.19 SD), like Salieri’s valet Greybig, who seems to tell any tale “for a drink” or two (16.13; cf. also 31.3–4), are among the sources that feed into so-called ‘reliable,’ highbrow narratives such music history and biography. With Amadeus’ récit, what have been regarded as paradigmatic narrative modes are taken over into the domain of drama: narration (on DNL 2) and focalisation (on DNL 3) are combined in a virtuoso manner. Earlier playwrights, like J. M. Barrie, had already successfully experimented with narration and focalisation in their plays. This kind of experiment seems to be one of the constants in twentieth-century drama; and, according to Edward Groff, it appears to transfer the “rich [. . .] complexity of the novel” (1959, 269) to plays: [W]hen the scene is peopled not only by characters in action but also by the impressions existing in the mind of one of those who appear before us [. . .], some of the rich, subjective complexity of the novel is present in the theatre. It is in this direction that much of the experimentation in drama has gone. Dramatists have attempted to explore the minds of characters in theatrical terms, to establish a limited point of view within the consciousness of one or more characters, or to place a dramatic story in the mouth of a narrator who may or may not be engaged in the events of the play. (Groff 1959, 269–270)

10 Even in our own day and age, music historians publish what they call ‘declarations of love’ to Mozart and his music (cf. Leopold 2006) and ennoble his work by describing it with superlatives. 11 And, indeed, they are. Especially around Mozart, many legends have accumulated. As Silke Leopold (cf. Leopold 2005) shows, shortly after his death, anecdotes were told, legends started to crop up, and in ensuing historical periods ever new and different images of Mozart – here, the ‘darling of the Gods,’ there, the ‘the ever cheerful Rococo composer,’ or ‘the drunkard with dirty fingernails who happened to compose the most celestial music’ – were added to the old ones. The lack of knowledge regarding the fragmentary Requiem invited particular speculation (cf. Leopold 2005, 15), and ‘the’ rumour on which Shaffer’s play is based, namely, that Salieri has had a hand in Mozart’s untimely death, has persisted for ages – despite its improbability and lack of evidence (cf., e.g., N.N. 2005).


8 From Stories in Drama to the Drama of (Performed) Stories

What Barrie and Shaffer achieve with their successful application and combination of narration and focalisation in plays is not, however, just a subjectivisation of drama; they actually demonstrate that narration and focalisation are by no means specifically narrative modes; they are actually transgeneric. While earlier playwrights combine narration and focalisation only sporadically and comparably straightforwardly, separating them relatively distinctly from each other (cf. Sect. 7.3), Shaffer skilfully intertwines the two transgeneric modes in at least three ways: in narration with zero-focalisation; focalisation with zero-narration or a low degree thereof; and the co-presence of narration and focalisation. In all instances, diegetic and/or mimetic kinds of storytelling are foregrounded to various extents. In the first instances, those in which there is only narration without any discernible focalisation, diegetic frames are highlighted: stories are told – no more, no less. This occurs especially in the two narrating frames, on which, on a superordinate extra-diegetic level (DNL 2 [a]), the Venticelli and Salieri’s valet, Ignaz Greybig, generate the character Salieri, who then, on a sub-ordinate extra-diegetic level (DNL 2 [b]), generates the actual diegetic level, DNL 1, with its Mozart-Salieri plot set in Vienna in the eighteenth century. In other words, two narrating frames are highlighted; one engenders the other, and it must be asked: to which end? Whereas the Venticelli, as allegories, serve as a form of implicit historiographic criticism and help us to fathom the relations between esteemed narrative genres and questionable ones, the duplicated narrative frame serves to investigate the mechanisms involved in ‘history-making.’ Performances of acts of storytelling become issues in themselves. As both the narrators on DNL 2 (a) and Salieri on DNL 2 (b) reconstruct past events, ‘history-making’ is equated to ‘acts of storytelling’ and to ‘performance.’ In this line of reasoning, authorship becomes a ‘performance,’ not just in the aesthetic context of Amadeus as a staged play, but, rather, as the material embodiment of a cultural practice which refers back to itself and constitutes reality.12 If authorship and storytelling constitute reality, however, they become political issues. To assume the role of an author is to assume a power position, and storytelling becomes the author’s, in this case, the historiographer’s instrument of exerting that power. Laying bare the performativity of authorship and historiography in acts of theatrical performance, i.e., by highlighted diegetic acts, Amadeus makes these facts literally materialise in front of the audience’s eyes. With the help of this

12 For a concise overview of the further semantic dimensions of ‘performativity’ and the influential, but differing conceptualisations by John L. Austin and Judith Butler, see, e.g., Erika Fischer-Lichte (2005c).

8.1 Staging and Questioning Authorial Omnipotence


visual aid, the audience ideally gains ‘insight’ into the nature of historiographical accounts. These can no longer be regarded in positivist terms. They are shown to be not reports of ‘how things really were,’ but how single authors, or, as the combination of DNL 2 (a) and DNL 2 (b) suggests, whole cohorts of a certain authorial tradition, who are moreover once, twice, or further removed from res gestae, think or say they were. By making Salieri both narrator and focaliser,13 Shaffer furthermore exposes possible authorial strategies for guiding and even manipulating readers. He goes beyond illustrating that authors of historiographic texts hold positions of power by showing how they establish and maintain it. In Amadeus, Salieri is not only the narrating I; he is also the narrated I. With the congruence between the two, the Italian composer becomes a fictional autobiographical narrator.14 Whereas the retrospective (re)construction of history by any author is potentially erroneous, this seems especially the case in autobiographical reconstruction. After all, the reception history of autobiography has always revolved around the genre’s peculiar tension between fact and fiction (cf., e.g., cf. L. R. Anderson 2001, 1–2). In Amadeus, this tension is generated by a skilful interplay between Salieri’s focalisation and his related diegetic framings.15 What is mimetically rendered are those things the Italian composer sees and remembers. They can be regarded as instances of focalisation. The audience is allowed to experience what Salieri saw and heard twenty years previously – or at least remembers to have seen and heard. In any case, through the play’s mimetic narration on DNL 1, the audience is given direct access to the mind of the remembering subject. What one suspects when one listens to his narration on DNL 2 becomes proven with the additional layer of focalisation: the man is deluded and his

13 Most studies, so far, have investigated Amadeus’ narrative framing. Even though some scholars have recognised that the play’s intra-diegetic story is, from its beginning, marked as “actualisation of matters and memory and consciousness” (cf., e.g., A. Nünning and Sommer 2002, 112), and with this, described Amadeus’ ‘focalisation,’ its “selection or restriction of narrative information in relation to the experience and knowledge of the narrator” (Niederhoff [2011] 2013a), they have refrained from naming and examining it as such (cf., e.g., A. Nünning and Sommer 2002, 111–112). 14 In contrast to Philippe Lejeune’s definition, according to which autobiographical narration hinges on the identity between author, narrator, and protagonist (cf. L. R. Anderson 2001, 2), in Amadeus, there is only continuity between the latter two. This is why Salieri must be considered a ‘fictional’ autobiographer. 15 There is also a further tension to which Martha Townsend (1986, 216) points: it is Salieri’s skilful guidance of the audience which makes the audience sympathise with him while having moral doubts about his villainy.


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memory tainted. Compensating for his own perceived insignificance in the face of Mozart’s ‘divine’ music (cf. 93.4–94.19), he starts to believe that he has been challenged by God himself and struggles against him: “What use, after all, is Man, if not to each God His lessons?” (94.18–19) What is suggested by Salieri’s storytelling, namely, that he enters a literally impossible fight – because it is necessarily either one, in atheistic terms, with a non-existing entity or, in Christian terms, with the omnipotent, invincible creator of the universe – is confirmed by way of his focalisation, which unwittingly betrays his distorted worldview.16 It gives ‘ocular proof’ of it. As Salieri has previously admitted to the audience, he holds the Emperor of Austria, brother to Marie Antoinette, in low esteem, thinking him, just like other political or military leaders of the time, “unremarkable” (36.19), “ordinary” (37.1), and “dull[. . .]” (37.2). His lack of regard for Joseph II informs Salieri’s memory of him. The audience is, thus, not presented with either an ‘objective’ or an unmediated version of Joseph II, but perceives him like the reminiscing composer does. Though Joseph II is a central character in history books, Amadeus’ focalisation reveals, that, in Salieri’s mind, the Emperor is pushed to the margins of history: Joseph II is not only put into the stage’s background of Act I, scene iii; he is also introduced in a pantomime. That is, he is seen by the focaliser and, accordingly, also by the audience, as a – both literally and metaphorically – dumb character. Joseph’s ‘dullness’ and ‘dim-wittedness’ is repeatedly illustrated. In flashbacks, his predilection for empty phrases is repeatedly stressed (cf., e.g., 58.22, 65.14, 133.7) and he is depicted as a mere puppet in Salieri’s hands (cf., e.g., II.ii, II.x), who can be easily manipulated into doing anything the composer wants. Even if rulers’ counsellors, throughout history, have exerted a not irrelevant amount of power, this peculiar focalisation, which dignifies Salieri as it degrades others, shows that one should doubt both the composer’s picture of the Emperor and his influence over him – even if one sees both with one’s own eyes. That the audience’s eyes are, in fact, guided by the focaliser also becomes clear in instances where there is zero-narration on DNL 2, and only focalisation, namely, where the focalisation is not directly complemented by Salieri’s narration. The first depiction of Mozart is one of these instances. From other characters on the intra-diegetic level, who enthuse about Mozart’s character, praising his “gaiety of spirit”, “ease of manners”, or “natural charm” (42.8–10), one would

16 This highly subjective worldview is not just the character’s, but probably one that any autobiographical subject displays as it turns gazing inwards to confess (cf. L. R. Anderson 2001, 19) and find God (cf. L. R. Anderson 2001, 20). If, however, the closeness to God is a matter that the autobiographical subject always seeks, this subject, per se, is one that attempts to carry out a megalomaniac project, one doomed to fail.

8.1 Staging and Questioning Authorial Omnipotence


not expect a character like the one Salieri and, with him, the audience gets to know. In Salieri’s mind, Mozart is portrayed unfavourably, lacking the qualities others laud in him. In his mimetically rendered introduction (44.13–48.9), Salieri remembers the character perceived by others as ‘charming’ as a scurrile, eccentric man with an unforgettably “piercing and infantile” giggle (45.2), who is engaged in playful wooing of his later wife, talking gibberish (45.13–18), making bawdy jokes and fart noises (cf. 46.10, 46.15). Salieri is “appalled” by him (46.18). In another scene, Mozart’s reported ‘ease of manners’ is non-existent, too. Salieri’s focalisation shows that even in past scenes in which he himself was not present, he expected to have witnessed a musical genius whose existence is not only a provocation but an insult to other composers – literally. The audience witnesses a Mozart informed by the focaliser’s idée fixe. This Mozart openly insults other musicians by pointing out their alleged inferiority, in public and in front of other musicians like Count Orsini-Rosenberg, the Imperial opera director: “Do you realise that I am better than any musician in Vienna? Do you? (Shouting) Better!!” (71.19–20). The incongruence between what is reported by others on DNL 1 and that what the focaliser shows might leave the audience puzzled regarding the truth of what they witness. True, real-life sources like Mozart’s letters testify to the composer’s bawdiness and – at least, behind other’s backs and sotto voce – offensive character.17 With Salieri’s focalisation and narration in Amadeus, this text-external picture seems, at first, confirmed. Yet, the complex intertwinement of focalisation and narration in Shaffer’s dramatic storytelling cautions the recipients that what they see might not be true. The historical characters and events might not at all have been as the audience has just witnessed them. Even though the audience is led to believe them, because they are partially congruent with DNL 5 sources and because they have witnessed them with their own eyes, seemingly unmediated, they might be just a mind game on the part of a megalomaniac, deluded autobiographical subject who tricks the audience into believing him. While previous researchers have focused on Salieri’s skilful narration and his ensnaring addresses to explain the character’s clever guidance of his

17 In a letter from 17 October 1777, he writes, for instance: “Wie [sic] saßen in einem Gastzimmer. ein gewisser Pater Emilian, ein hofärtiger Esel und ein einfältiger wizling [sic] seiner Proffeßion war gar herzig. er wollte immer seinen spaß mit dem Bäsle haben, sie hatte aber ihren spaß mit ihm - - endlich wie er rauschig war, welches bald erfolgte, sang er einen Canon [. . .]. ich sagte, mir ist leid, ich kann nicht mitsingen, denn ich kann von Natur aus nicht intoniren [sic]. das thut nichts, sagte er. er fieng [sic] wieder an. ich war der dritte. ich machte aber einen anderen text drauf, Pater Emilian: o du schwanz du, leck du mich im arsch. sotto voce: zu meiner base. dann lachten wir wieder eine halbe stunde.” (N. Bauer 2006).


8 From Stories in Drama to the Drama of (Performed) Stories

audience (cf., e.g., W. Huber and Zapf 1993, 65; A. Nünning 1994, esp. 148–150; Hesse 2009, 26), the above evidence suggests that the intertwinement of narration and focalisation, and especially the latter, illustrate how authorial and autobiographical subjects establish and maintain their power. Providing access to their innermost thoughts and memories, they suggest that they give direct, unmediated access to the events as they ‘really’ were. With this additional technique of dramatic narration, they guide reception into believing and trusting them. However, the ensuing, constructed fissures between this kind of focalisation, on the one hand, and the world knowledge of recipients (regarding DNL 5) as well as the statements of other characters on DNL 1, on the other, stage any act of remembering as informed by individual worldviews and subjective assumptions and, as such, potentially erroneous. Furthermore, it makes visible – for the audience to see for themselves – how authors are able to skilfully veil their unreliability. What is more, the power of autobiographical subjects, i.e., “historians of the self” (L. R. Anderson 2001, 18) is testified to. By extension, historiographers in general seem to be major manipulators of reception: no matter if subconsciously or on purpose, they construct ‘history’ and, retrospectively, ‘reality’ in a potentially misleading way. In addition to the narrative modes introduced so far, Amadeus features, on all of its textual levels, the marked presence of intermedial kinds of narrative. There is, to begin with, an integration of Mozart’s music, both on Amadeus’ story and discourse level; furthermore, film narrative strategies inform the play’s récit. Even though music has not been regarded as prototypically narrative, there are musical media combinations which are ‘genuinely narrative,’ such as opera (cf. Wolf 2002, 96), i.e., a genre that features a story which is in part expressed, in part enriched, and in part spurred on by means of music. Premieres of Mozart’s operas and/or their preparation feature prominently on Amadeus’ the story level. They are either mimetically shown (for instance, the first performance of The Abduction from the Seraglio; cf. I.viii), or partly mimetically and partly diegetically rendered (Salieri witnesses and comments on the first performance of The Marriage of Figaro; cf., II.vii) or just intermedially referred to (e.g., the genesis of Don Giovanni is linked to the death of Mozart’s father; cf. II.ix; the “pa-pa-pa” of the famous duet of Papageno and Papagena in The Magic Flute is shown to be based on a private game between Mozart and his wife; cf. 148.5–14). Thus, the plots of these operas serve as constant foils that metaleptically point towards musical narratives outside Amadeus’ story world. At the same time, they enrich Amadeus’ story world by serving as incentives for the plot, especially Salieri’s wish for revenge. Each time the Italian composer witnesses one of Mozart’s operas, he becomes more envious of their

8.1 Staging and Questioning Authorial Omnipotence


brilliance (cf., e.g., 123.24–124.15), and his need to further fight God by fighting his “Creature” (cf. 126.3–9) increases. Yet, what is more, Amadeus’ dramatic narration is, at points, made to conform to operatic narration – especially when it comes to Don Giovanni and its music. Structurally, there are verbatim parallels between the Shaffer’s play and Mozart’s opera. Especially in a key scene of the play, which Salieri stages to seal Mozart’s final psychological and physical downfall: “a design to hasten him [Mozart] towards madness, or towards death” (144.19–20). Dressed like the opera’s Commendatore, who is killed by Don Giovanni because he tries to take vengeance for the Don’s seduction of his daughter, and who returns as a ghoststatue to kill his murderer, first Greybig and then Salieri himself threaten and intimidate Mozart. They disguise themselves as ghostly messengers and commission a Requiem Mass from him (cf. II.xv) and, masked, haunt Mozart by standing in front of his house at night (cf., e.g., 151.1–27). Shortly before Mozart’s death, Salieri visits him once more in disguise (II.xvi). It is here that the plots of Don Giovanni and Amadeus parallel each other. Like the statue of the Commendatore into Don Giovanni’s house, the ghostly Salieri is invited into Mozart’s apartment, even with exactly the same words: Like Leporello, Don Giovanni’s servant, Mozart says, “O statua gentilissima, venete a cena!” (152.4; emphasis in original) Like the statue, Salieri accepts the formulaic invitation. Knowing the character constellation in Don Giovanni, the audience can already anticipate the ending of the scene, in which Salieri ‘confesses’ to a confounded, confused Mozart that he has ‘poisoned’ him (cf. Xvii). Like the Commendatore, who brings death and hell to Don Giovanni, Salieri as ghostly messenger is about to bring death and hell to Mozart. A further strategy of making Amadeus’ dramatic narration conform to operatic narration is the constant use of music on DNL 3, especially in the scenes surrounding Salieri’s plot to hasten Mozart’s death. The opening chords of Don Giovanni repeatedly (cf., e.g., 130.3, 144.7) sound, D-minor chords. Entire passages from the overture are included as well (e.g., 152.12–15). With this additional musical layer on DNL 3, Shaffer makes his play not just more atmospheric and theatrical, but also emphasises the ways in which Salieri, as a focaliser, attaches more importance to himself and to his cunning plan. The two “great” (144.6) opening chords, which are also heard whenever the Commendatore’s statue appears in Don Giovanni, are D-minor chords, a key that not only sounds sinister but which has, throughout music history, been semantically linked to fatality and terror.18 It is this meaning that the focaliser, with his imagined soundtrack

18 Mozart’s fragmentary Requiem is, too, set in D-minor.


8 From Stories in Drama to the Drama of (Performed) Stories

(which the audience also hears) takes over to characterise and aggrandise his scheme. The fact that these chords and the overture are accompanied by “the hollow music of trombones” (cf. 152.14–15), that is, instruments that Mozart used sparingly in his work, but which, since Claudio Monteverdi’s Orfeo (c. 1607), had been used to signify descents into the underworld, foreshadows Mozart’s end as well, and further characterises Salieri’s venture as devilish. In Amadeus, thus, music tells part of the story. It is linked to operatic narratives and its sound allows the audience to draw conclusions. If they know the music, they know the story linked to it, and they are allowed to infer what this music is to mean for the characters on stage. With a discursive parallelisation of the opera and play’s plots, as well as the inclusion of chords and scales on DNL 3 with allusions to their cultural and narrative meaning, Shaffer shows that Salieri aims at stressing his own fatal role in Mozart’s life and death. With this, the focaliser exalts himself by endowing his ‘mediocre’ life with more meaning (he is not anyone; he is the one who killed the divine Mozart, the one who brought him the ‘inferno’). The fictionalised Italian composer disguises himself as a statue (like the Commendatore’s) and uses infernal music to create a vengeful statue of himself, a monument to his memory. His reasoning is simple: If he cannot be remembered for his music, he will ensure that his name is forever linked with Mozart’s. Filmic narrative strategies also feature among Amadeus’ intermedial narrative forms. The play’s récit imitates modes of film narration popular in the 1970s. Highly notable is Amadeus’ use of voice-over techniques and freeze frames. With its application of these methods, Shaffer’s play proves a highly modern one, testifying to the fact that, after World War II, the novel as the ‘prototypical’ narrative genre had become replaced by other, equally popular and productive forms of narrative. Similar to some of the classics of 1970s cinema, such as Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange (2018 [1971]), Terrence Malick’s Badlands (2017 [1973]), Woody Allen’s Annie Hall (1977), and Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now (2012 [1979]), Shaffer’s Amadeus features, from its beginning to end, something resembling filmic voice-over narration.19 The technique, which

19 Some might argue that Salieri’s narration is not akin to a filmic voice-over but to Brechtian epic theatre, which features narrators, too. However, Brecht never asked for a narrator to be present in epic theatre; on the contrary, he was particular about not having “named any strictly artistic elements characterizing [. . .] epic theatre” (2010 [1938], 472). He defined his theatre by its purpose and effect, rather than its strategies. If he uses narrators (and he does not do so in every play), in contrast to Shaffer, he does not always establish an additional intradiegetic layer beneath them (which is, however, always there, like in Amadeus, in filmic voice-over). Even the singer of The Caucasian Chalk Circle can be arguably regarded as part of the scene which he comments upon.

8.1 Staging and Questioning Authorial Omnipotence


already appeared in early films,20 uses a voice that is not part of the diegetic level (in Amadeus, on DNL 2) to describe what is happening on the diegetic level (here, DNL 1) or to comment on it while it is happening. That is, there is a simultaneity of two frames: silent mimetic storytelling, i.e., the actions on stage, and an audible diegetic storytelling over the mimetic one. This simultaneity is also used in Amadeus. Salieri’s voice comments on a dumb show in which Joseph II with his estate, the Italian composer’s wife, and his later mistress people the stage. While the people on the diegetic level mime what they usually do, Chapelmaster Giuseppe Bono taking “his place at the keyboard” (33.15–16) and accompanying a singer “energetically mim[ing] her rapturous singing” (34.13–14), the ‘voice’ interprets their actions. The co-presence of mimesis and diegesis, as well as the latter’s comparative dominance, shows that Salieri is not only structurally, but also semantically, situated on a higher plane. The characters on DNL 1 cannot introduce themselves; they are denied their own voice; their existence and their evaluation is dependent on a higher level of abstraction: the singer is reduced to her sexuality, to little more than “merry eyes and a sweet eatable mouth” (34.17), while Bono becomes a mere metonymy of his physical resilience, which is criticised with a cynical insinuation of his hoped-for death (cf. 35.1–4). With the co-existence of two diegetic planes, one endowed with a voice, the other without, the focaliser’s feeling of omnipotence is given visual form. That Salieri has things firmly under control is also shown by the repeated use of freeze frames. The technique was already widely known – from private games, such as charades, to the theatre and film of the 1960s and 1970s, as, for instance, Blow Up by Michelangelo Antonioni (2004 [1966]) – when it appeared in the play Amadeus. Salieri, in his mind, has people enter and exit the stage or remain there, at his leisure (cf., e.g., 36.11–17, 61.19–21). The technique of the freeze frames endows him with even greater power: he can even meddle with and even halt time (cf. 35.5, 59.18–20). Similar to previous autobiographers,21 albeit with other means, Salieri makes himself god-like; or, rather, he fashions himself god-like. By applying narrative strategies which, by the 1970s, had become conventional in film, Shaffer finally and visibly debunks the ‘trinity of Salieri’ as main character, narrator, and focaliser as megalomaniac and unreliable.

20 Film noir is a case in point, e.g., Billy Wilder’s Double Indemnity (2012 [1944]) and Sunset Boulevard (2004 [1950]), or Carol Reed’s The Third Man (2006 [1949]). 21 Linda Anderson explains in which ways St Augustine fashions himself as “god-like” in his Confessions (cf. Anderson 2001, 21).


8 From Stories in Drama to the Drama of (Performed) Stories

To conclude, with Amadeus, Shaffer creates a post-modern revisionist history of Viennese Classicism, in which Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is no longer the sole centre of attention but, rather shares the stage with Antonio Salieri. The play is also a version of history rooted not in ‘faithful sources,’ but in rumour and legend. Besides historiography, historiographic genres (autobiography, biography, music history) and the concepts of narration and authorship are questioned, which amounts to, as Linda Hutcheon puts it, a “historical and political act” (Hutcheon 1995, 51) – an act of illustrating, even highlighting, and not concealing these genres’ former usage and their tendency to ideological and political totalisation and normalisation. By making use of various unreliable oral narrative genres on the intradiegetic level (DNL 1), combining narration and focalisation on DNL 2 and DNL 3, and including intermedial kinds of narrative, Shaffer creates what can be called a post-modern Gesamtkunstwerk (cf. also W. Huber and Zapf 1993, 64). Albeit in dramatic form, Amadeus connects to the transmedially present concern with narrative and narration and is part of the large, transgeneric body of postmodern texts that deal with a “crisis of representation” and process “a deeply felt loss of faith in our ability to represent the real” (Bertens 1995, 11). In all of these works, “there is an urge to foreground [. . .] the paradox of the desire for and the suspicion of narrative mastery” (Hutcheon 1995, 64). Amadeus, in analogy to this, does not challenge authorship (and authority) and narrative by ignoring or negating them, but by foregrounding them. Having them performed, using a trinity of protagonist/narrator/focaliser, even an unreliable one, the play highlights those concepts’ contradictions, flaws, and imperialistic ideologies: the unifying characteristics of plots, authors, historiography, and narrative (as well as those of pre-post-modern novels; cf. Hutcheon 1989, 63). To put it in a nutshell: With virtuosity, Shaffer integrates alter-generic modes, especially narrative ones, into his play. Going far beyond the inclusion of an unreliable narrator and elements from epic theatre by using focalisers, staging allegories of historiography and rumour, as well as taking narrative modes from a variety of medial sources (the novel, opera, and film), Shaffer has – the formally heterogeneous, intergeneric, and intermedial – play Amadeus structurally ‘perform’ and practise a generic opposition to the unifying and totalising mono-generic impulses it criticises.

8.2 Making Drama Ex-Centric with Ex-Centric Narratives


8.2 Making Drama Ex-Centric with Ex-Centric Narratives: The Shaking Up and Re-Juggling of Genre Conventions and Naive Worldviews in debbie tucker green’s Drama of Stories, stoning mary One does not need to resort to comparisons with novelists to introduce debbie tucker green [sic], who with her twelve stage plays, her film and radio plays, has become one of the most important contemporary British writers. Yet her work still seems underestimated.22 So: What Zadie Smith is to British fiction, debbie tucker green is to British drama: a brilliant, award-winning,23 firmly established, and important artist. Like Smith’s, tucker green’s work experiments with narrative in complex and varied ways. From the experience of what Smith herself has termed a “personal multiplicity” (Smith; quoted in Ramazani and Stallworthy 2012, 3057), one that springs from the privilege of having more than one cultural background, both writers’ oeuvre tends to unite diversity, on the one hand, and explore fissures between different cultures and experiences of difference, on the other. Although tucker green’s work has so far been much less critically considered and examined than Smith’s, the dramatist’s oeuvre, too, attests to the “postwar demographic change in Britain” (Ramazani and Stallworthy 2012, 3057) and the resultant diversity in British culture and literary production. In the spirit of earlier playwrights, who started to question normalising narratives and historiography with their post-modern works (e.g., Peter Shaffer, cf. Sect. 8.1), the post-post-modern tucker green challenges notions of homogeneity and unity – albeit with different means and goals. While Shaffer’s Amadeus scrutinised history and narrativity, tucker green’s stoning mary shows dissects hegemonic concepts of narrative and nation.

22 Unlike Zadie Smith and in spite of her work’s originality, quality, and importance within British literature, tucker green is often only discussed in the context of ‘Black British Literature’ (cf., e.g., D. Osborne 2011a) and not British literature in general. Unlike Smith, she has not (yet) been included in the Norton Anthology of English Literature. On the Continent, too, her work is underrepresented in handbooks and encyclopaedias. While most of Zadie Smith’s novels are discussed in the 2009 version and the online version of Kindlers Neues Literaturlexikon, only one of tucker green’s plays has been included. This does not only attest to persistent valuation of fiction over drama, but also to the notorious underestimation of tucker green’s experimental plays, which even resist their classification as such (cf., e.g., Abram 2004, 114). 23 For her play born bad (2003), she received the 2004 Olivier Award for ‘Most Promising Newcomer’ (cf. Abram 2004, 115).


8 From Stories in Drama to the Drama of (Performed) Stories

The political playwright, who exercises social criticism even with the spelling of her name and plays,24 tends to cross borders with and in her work – both culturally and generically speaking. Her plays are unconventional in at least three ways. They, firstly, partake in renewing British drama and, with it, British culture from a point of view which was long pushed to the margins (cf. Rippl and Straub 2013, esp. 115–118): namely, from the perspective of those with a history of migration. Secondly and despite its accomplishments, tucker green’s work, even though part of British drama, struggles to overcome the obstacles posed by the British theatre market, which is still very much dominated by “white-led cultural production” (D. Osborne 2007, 223) and characterised by institutionalised racism.25 Thirdly, and luckily for this study, tucker green’s works tend to lean towards hybridity. That is, they are progressive in terms of genre: plenty of alter-generic modes inform her plays, so that someone trying to match them to contemporary macro-schemata of drama struggles to frame tucker green’s works as ‘prototypically’ dramatic. The author and play to be studied here, stoning mary (2005), are said to belong to a distinct body of British dramatic works, one for which genre transgression and experiment is not an exception, but the rule. Having been developed in the wake of pivotal works such as Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot (2011 [1953]) and John Osborne’s Look Back in Anger (1978 [1956]), these plays have arguably established a new dramatic tradition, one that came to be called ‘new writing’ (cf. Middeke et al. 2011a, ix). Plays of that tradition are conceived of as contemporary in their language, contemporary in their subject matter and often contemporary in their attitude to theatre form (all experiments in dramatic structure implicitly question the past forms of theatrical storytelling). [. . .] They are usually distinguished from other new plays [. . .] by their seriousness of purpose and occasionally by the difficulty of their writing. (Middeke et al. 2011a, ix–x)

tucker green, too, questions traditional dramatic form as well as hegemonic narratives of the society she lives in by way of a dramatic storytelling that,

24 By insisting her name and plays be unconventionally spelled, in exclusively lower-case letters (cf. Lindner 2009), the playwright with African-Caribbean roots points to normalised societal conventions as well as hierarchies and criticises their tacit acceptance. 25 Cf. also Oliver Lindner (2010, 212), who regrets that in spite of some plays’ tremendous success, Black British drama has so far remained ‘niche drama’: “Der beachtliche Erfolg einiger Stücke kann [. . .] nicht darüber hinwegtäuschen, dass das Black British Drama noch immer weitestgehend ein Nischendasein fristet.”

8.2 Making Drama Ex-Centric with Ex-Centric Narratives


indeed, has often been regarded as difficult to understand.26 With plays like stoning mary, the playwright partakes not just in ‘rewriting the nation’ (cf. Sierz 2011), but in performing and, thus, reforming conservative notions of British drama and the British nation. How she does this shall be discussed after a look at drama and narrative as they meet in the literary and cultural context of the 1990s and 2000s.

stoning mary in Its Narrative Contexts The preoccupation with narrative, which had been a major issue of deconstruction after World War II (cf. Sect. 8.1), has remained a defining factor since the turn of the twenty-first century – both within the system of literature and beyond it, i.e., in the cultural context in which stoning mary was penned and first performed. In contrast to the criticism of narrative in the 1960s and 1970s, exemplified by Shaffer and the context in which Amadeus emerged, there seems to have developed a renewed trust in narrative and an eagerness to work with it across sectors, e.g., medicine, psychotherapy, law, and politics. Even if, in general, this tendency is registered with pleasure by many narratologists, it, too, must be regarded critically. Narrative returned with in force in the 1990s and 2000s, and it shaped the time in which stoning mary was written in at least three ways. The following takes a brief look at narrative in late-twentieth and early-twenty-first-century cultural practice, drama in general, and the oeuvre of debbie tucker green in particular. Interdisciplinary narratological research on the role of storytelling in the literature and culture of the past ten years, such as Cultural Ways of Worldmaking (V. Nünning et al. 2010),27 Unreliable Narration and Trustworthiness (V. Nünning 2015), Wahrheit und Erfindung (Koschorke 2012), and Storytelling in der Romania (Krauss et al. 2014) prove that, since the 1990s, narratives have been on the rise across cultures and in various cultural, academic, and industrial sectors. Transnationally, stories have been used as instruments of politics, journalism, scientific

26 With regard to her latest play, a proudly (2017), which starred novelist Meera Syal and which, like the plays before, bars easy access, one critic states that he felt “frustrated both by the staging and by the lack of specificity” (Billington 2017). Another critic, intrigued by the play’s experimental character, regrets that “that [it] will have traditionalists walking out of the theatre and many of the more patient audience members will be frustrated at the densely poetic script” (Brooks 2017). 27 Cf. especially the third section, which examines in which ways and to which extent narratives can be framed as constitutive of perception and the establishment of multiple ‘worlds.’


8 From Stories in Drama to the Drama of (Performed) Stories

discourse, legal practice, as well as advertising and public relations. While the power of narrative, in the 1960s and 1970s, was largely a topic for exclusive, intellectual circles, since the last decades of the twentieth century, storytelling’s potential to shape mind-sets, guide perceptions, and make (or destroy) reputations has been recognised – and used – in a variety of fields, and not always to laudable ends. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, wars have been instigated, populisms awakened, and elections dubiously won with tales later proven false or misleading. In correspondence to the cultural developments across different extraliterary sectors, there has been a significant increase of storytelling in literature and in drama, too – both in postcolonial playwriting worldwide (cf. Borowski and Sugiera 2010) and in British drama. As Merle Tönnies and Christina Flotmann observe for contemporary drama in English, “one observes a notable rise in both the frequency and the centrality of narrative structures in contemporary English-language theatre and drama across a wide range of dramatic genres” (2011a, 10). The treasure trove of articles they reference in the ensuing sections impressively substantiate their claim. In addition to these, one must mention plays by Tom Stoppard, particularly Arcadia (1993) and Indian Ink (1995; cf. Lusin 2014a), which display narrative topics and modes, or by Sarah Kane, especially Crave (1998; Kane 2001) and Psychosis 4.48 (2000), which dissolve dramatic form and character, entail (fragmentary) stories, allude to (narrative) inter-texts (cf., e.g., Diederich 2013), and explore mental spaces by way of dramatic focalisation. Dramatic works which exploit focalisation and involve unreliable narratives, such as Anthony Horowitz’s Mindgame (2006 [2000]; cf. A. Nünning and Schwanecke 2015), Martin McDonagh’s The Pillowman (2003; cf. Redling 2014a), or Jules Horne’s Gorgeous Avatar (2006; cf. Schwanecke 2017a) can be counted as much among those plays as David Hare’s monodramas Wall and Berlin (2009a), which consist of single monologues diegetically rendered by a narrator. Last but not least, the proliferation of storytelling in transnational post-dramatic performance and the performative inclusion of personal, real-life narrative documents attest to the importance of narrative in contemporary performative arts (cf., e.g., Horstmann 2018; Tecklenburg 2014; Schwanecke 2017b). Finally, the microcosm of debbie tucker green’s work itself has to be looked at for its position at the intersection of drama and other, especially narrative modes. A writer of film and TV scripts, radio plays, and drama, tucker green works transgenerically, a fact that informs her dramatic work in general and stoning mary in particular, in which intermedial modes of narrative play as important a role as modes traditionally linked to the novel. She, moreover, partakes in reframing real-life news narratives, such as those that routinely associate black men with “gang affiliation, drug offences and public violence” (D. Osborne

8.2 Making Drama Ex-Centric with Ex-Centric Narratives


2011b, 186). Taking a political stance, tucker green’s plays provide important counter-narratives to structurally racist forms of media coverage (for instance, random, 2008; cf. D. Osborne 2011b, 185–188). Moreover, there is a conscious, defiant refusal to adhere to genre expectations. Asked about her playwright role models, tucker green declines to name any. Even though authors’ statements on their own work have to be treated with caution, her answer is illuminating when it comes to this study’s interest. tucker green claims she never set out to write plays in the first place; she allegedly started to write without any generic frames in mind: “I didn’t know whether it was a poem, the lyrics to a song or a play” (tucker green; quoted in Gardner 2005). Now that she does write dramatic works, she claims to have been influenced by representatives of a whole host of other genres and media – like rap music – and not at all by dramatists: The people who influence me are the people who do their own thing[.] [. . .] People who don’t look left or right to check if they are doing the right thing, but who write what they think and what they feel. I don’t write for critics. It is written for people who will feel it. It’s for the people who come out saying ‘That’s just like my aunty’ or ‘That’s just like me’. (tucker green; quoted in Gardner 2005)

Finally and in consequence, there has been an endless discussion regarding the generic status of her work. Critics and scholars have been hesitant to classify it as ‘drama’ (cf. Abram 2004, 113); rather, they have tended to compare it to poetry28 and fiction, as tucker green’s plays’ “internal monologues [. . .] [seem] to lay bare the characters’ emotional lives with the kind of psychological complexity that [. . .] [people] expect of a novel but rarely find on the stage” (Gardner 2005). To what extent the British playwright’s dramatic works are actually narrative or lyrical and to which ends is the concern of the following section, which explores stoning mary’s narrativity.

stoning mary’s Text-Internal Narrativity stoning mary arguably belongs to a new dramatic genre characterised by an augmented concern with and ubiquitous use of narrative. It is a ‘drama of stories,’ in which narratives are no longer merely included in form of singular, ‘diegetic spots’ (sensu Brandstetter 1999), but whose form itself is wholly and decidedly narrative (or at least as close to it as it probably gets in drama). This

28 To Michael Billington (2005), for instance, stoning mary “feels more like an acted poem than a fleshed-out play.”


8 From Stories in Drama to the Drama of (Performed) Stories

‘drama of stories’ is also an ex-centric drama, and this in at least five senses: firstly, these plays cannot be placed easily within the default mental schema of drama; they are not at the core or centre of this schema. Secondly, they are often composed of ex-centric stories, peripheral to the narratives of the white British majority. Thirdly, they introduce ex-centric perspectives from those who have been pressed to the margins of cultural awareness by white elites. Fourthly, they tend to use stories in an ex-centric way, in that they resist normalised reception practices and easy understanding. And, fifthly, they contribute to an image of British society that no longer focuses on dated versions of the ‘mother nation.’ They introduce narratives that stand in contrast to a homogeneous, totalised version of British history and the nation, with an imperial centre and colonial margins, but present the concepts of Britishness in a kaleidoscope fashion: they are put together by a plurality of decentred perspectives and voices. stoning mary is such a ‘drama of stories.’ It is made an ex-centric one, too (again, in its literal, Latin sense), by means of three strategies at the intersection of drama and narrative as it appears in novels, film, and television. First and foremost, tucker green shapes her play’s récit with audio-visual ways of narrating: three at first seemingly unconnected stories are intertwined by means of contemporary, intermedial narrative (i.e., film narrative) and by way of actualisations and subversions of the genre of news narratives. With those stories dominating the play, genre expectations are deliberately defied and hegemonic racial assumptions (and narratives) undermined. Additionally, in tucker green’s dramatic storytelling, dramatic modes are reduced in favour of diegetic ones: i.e., action is removed or merely implied in favour of an excess of speech and its novel-like emplotment (chapter headings on DNL 2 and intrusive, narratorial framings on DNL 1). Finally, the dramatic mode of dialogue is, on DNL 1, either suspended by active silences or replaced by monologues, by diegesis in the style of contemporary performed poetry, i.e., ‘rap,’ as will be shown below. Remarkably, stoning mary’s récit is decidedly marked by narrative: there is not a single plot with only one dramatic arc of suspense. Instead, the play’s diegetic level is a tangle of stories. In sixteen scenes and in a relatively short time span (in performance, roughly sixty minutes), three stories are presented. First, there is the story entitled “The Prescription” (3),29 which takes place during an AIDS pandemic. Here, an infected married couple, Wife and Husband, as well as their alter egos, fight over the one drug prescription they can afford because it can save only one of them. Secondly, there is “The Child Soldier” (10), in

29 Within this section, all not otherwise marked page numbers in brackets refer to tucker green (2014 [2005]).

8.2 Making Drama Ex-Centric with Ex-Centric Narratives


which two estranged and hateful parents, Mum and Dad, think of their son, who has been abducted by terrorists and made a child soldier. Upon his return, the mother feels alienated from him; she even seems afraid of him. In the third story, “Stoning Mary” (e.g., 41), two sisters, Younger Sister and Older Sister, quarrel. The younger, imprisoned one – who happens to be the only character in the play who is individualised by a name, Mary – awaits her execution. All of the stories centre on personal problems within familial relationships and, at the same time, on global problems: a fighting couple and AIDS; an estrangement between parents and children, terrorism and wars which involve innocent children as victims and perpetrators; sibling rivalry and obscure judicial systems that have the death penalty. stoning mary thus presents matters at once familiar and alien to audiences in Europe: after all, nowadays, AIDS, terrorist abductions, child soldiers, and death by stoning seem to be exclusively African or Middle Eastern issues, which, in Europe, are only accessible via TV documentaries and news. In contrast to documentaries, which just focus on the far-away, tucker green’s récit, with its three stories, actualises two opposing grades of familiarity at the same time: selfrecognition of things that are near and known, on the one hand, and an exposure of matters seemingly far away, on the other. stoning mary thus stands in contrast to conventional documentary and news narratives, showing that there are personal stories behind global matters. In terms of reception, the play, unlike TV news, does not allow the ‘news’ or stories to simply wash over the audiences without affecting them. Instead, the play’s récit does something to the audiences or readers: if it does not invite empathy, it leaves, at least, a sense of guilt or unease over usual, normalising responses, e.g., not recognising the familiar in the unfamiliar, the personal in the global, not feeling empathy, not being concerned with other countries’ agonies, or being apolitical. tucker green even goes one step further: with an unexpected dramaturgic trick that counters genre expectations and involves (intermedial) narrative modes, she shows that that which is usually normalised, habitually othered, and/or assigned to developing African countries (e.g., the AIDS pandemic, wars, political unrest, violence, or death by stoning) is actually more part of Britain and Europe than people prefer to see. She indicates that issues like war, violence, and AIDS are global issues; that there are complex political, economic, and cultural interrelations and interests at work between countries – interrelations which are not easily spotted and even less easily comprehended. She, firstly, links seemingly unrelated stories by way of a popular contemporary narrative mode (a cinematic one) and, secondly, connects her récit’s tangle of stories to Britain by undermining genre expectations of conventional news narratives. The play uses the structure of the episodic film, which was arguably first established and popularised by Robert Altman’s classics Nashville


8 From Stories in Drama to the Drama of (Performed) Stories

(1975) and Short Cuts (1993). Like Altman’s stories, tucker green’s are split into parts and presented in alternation; what seems unconnected at first eventually becomes connected by way of character. A character mentioned in one scene or appearing on stage/screen in another is, in the second part of the play, revealed to also be part of another story. The abducted son from “The Child Soldier” suddenly appears in “The Prescription”, for instance, where he ultimately kills Husband and Wife (cf. 35–41). The child soldier is, in turn, killed by the Younger Sister in “Stoning Mary”: OLDER SISTER YOUNGER SISTER OLDER SISTER YOUNGER SISTER Beat. OLDER SISTER YOUNGER SISTER

Buttchu [. . .] you killed a man. [. . .] And I’m gonna be stoned down for it. [. . .] You killed a man who was a boy. . . . That boy was a soldier. That soldier was a child – That child killed my parents. Our parents, ourn. (63; emphasis in original)

In this dialogue from “Stoning Mary”, Mary is revealed to have avenged the death of her parents, the Husband and Wife of “The Prescription”. The Mum of “The Child Soldier” suddenly appears in the execution scene of “Stoning Mary”, where she is shown to pick up the first stone (cf. 73). Adapting narrative strategies of the episodic film, tucker green provides a panopticon of global problems, imposing a wide and holistic view of different pressing issues on her audiences; at the same time, she links the seemingly unconnected in virtuoso ways, literally showing her audiences that global problems are so complexly intertwined that humans can no longer keep track of cause and effect. A (film) narrative emplotment needs to be imposed to make the ties visible again. In addition, tucker green invites a further question. If the seemingly unrelated stories that make up her play are connected by hidden ties, are then, in analogy, those faraway stories with which her European audiences are confronted on TV and the internet, and which they tend to ignore, to ‘other,’ or to quickly forget, invisibly connected with Britain and Europe, too? tucker green, with stoning mary, answers this question with a definite ‘yes.’ She invokes the genre of TV documentary of allegedly ‘African problems’ through her stories’ themes – AIDS, child soldiers, stoning – and, at the same time, refuses to adhere to the conventions of this genre. Contemporary broadcasts on AIDS pandemics, wars, and the stoning of women – if they are regarded as newsworthy at all – tend to be set in African countries and be, accordingly, about black people. tucker green refuses to limit her play to that which – granted – reality brings with it, but which is also, in a sense, a genre convention and expectation. Right in the beginning, on an extra-diegetic, para-textual level, DNL 4, the

8.2 Making Drama Ex-Centric with Ex-Centric Narratives


following statement is to be read: “The play is set in the country it is performed in. | All characters are white.” (2 SD; emphasis in original) These reversed race and genre premises frame the themes of interpersonal conflict, disease, and war as issues of white people and/or of the people in Britain (as this is the primary target audience). On the basis of stoning mary’s dramatic narration and its ex-centric, “genre-refusenik” (D. Osborne 2011a, 445) reversal of real-life news narratives, the play puts forth the following ideas: Firstly, African lives, black lives do matter, in Britain, too. At least, they should. Since the topics of mass disease, poverty, pandemic, and war seem far away and not newsworthy (anymore), pushed at the margins of a Britain-centred awareness, they have to be brought back centre-stage by unexpected reversals of news narratives and tucker green’s ‘drama of stories.’ As the author herself remarks, with Stoning Mary [sic] I was interested in questioning what we don’t see and hear. The stories of people who would be in the headlines every day if what was