The Plays of Colley Cibber - Vol. 1

The Plays of Colley Cibber - Vol. 1

The Plays of Colley Cibber - Vol. 1

The Plays of Colley Cibber - Vol. 1


This volume provides the first new edition of Cibber's plays since 1777, and the first edition ever published that includes all of his known plays and that incorporates his extensive and often complex revisions. This modern-spelling edition features a comprehensive general introduction to Cibber's career, and separate introductions for each play, detailing sources, performance data, and publication history. Annotations and textual notes are included to allow for additional study. Included in this volume are Love's Last Shift, Love makes a Man, Richard III, The Rival Queans, Woman's Wit, and Xerxes.


Boswell: “And [Cibber’s] plays are good.”
Johnson: “Yes; but that was his trade.”

—Boswell, Life of Johnson

Colley Cibber (1671–1757), performer, manager of Drury Lane Theatre, poet laureate, novelist, and playwright created or collaborated on more than two dozen dramatic works, in virtually every genre available to him, such as tragedy, comedy, ballad opera, farce, masque, and even opera. Though a major playwright who wrote several of the most popular and enduring plays of the eighteenth century, he is, ironically, one of the least studied playwrights of his era. the present edition seeks to call attention to this striking omission and to begin to correct it.

An astute judge of theatrical merit, Cibber knew better than most what would please, and his writing career is marked by a long series of successes, from the acclaim for his first play, Love’s Last Shift (January 1696), to his masterful completion of Sir John Vanbrugh’s The Provoked Husband (January 1728). Thus for over thirty years he regularly contributed to the artistic and financial viability of the London stage. Cibber wrote for the stage, not for the literary critics of his own time—or ours. He was, first and last, concerned with how a play would work in performance. While his texts contain numerous passages of excellent dialogue, his fortes were plot construction, stage business, and the creation of vivid characters. As he remarks in the prologue to one of his greatest successes, She Would and She Would Not (1702),

No scene of talk for talking’s sake are shown,
Where most abruptly, when their chat is done,
Actors go off, because the poet—can’t go on.
His first act offers something to be done,
And all the rest but lead that action on;
Which when pursuing scenes i’th’ end discover,
The game’s run down, of course the play is over.

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