Stillness in Motion in the Seventeenth Century Theatre

By P. A. Skantze | Go to book overview

5

Perpetually stilled

Jeremy Collier and John Vanbrugh on bonds, women, and soliloquies

THE ARGUMENT

Where the analogy of gender to forms of production consistently occurs in the writing of all the authors in this book, by the end of the century, marriage, discussions, and representations of it, begins to figure more overtly as a component in the duet of motion and stillness. Though in the works of Aphra Behn there are signs of the social construction of marriage being figured as a device to both control and define, by the end of the century in the work of John Vanbrugh and in the criticisms of the stage wielded by his contemporary Jeremy Collier, the domestic relation of husband and wife offers a basis on which to re-establish values of print and performance, of political relation of subject to ruler, of the behavior of women in marriage and out of it. The value of the still and preservable and that of the moving and ephemeral do not have exact correspondences in the distilled discussions of marriage at the end of the century. Yet the language used to worry over domestic hierarchy and the possibility of allowing for divorce as a choice made by husband and wife does incorporate the terms used throughout the century to determine value for conservation and change. The chapter concludes with a discussion of the use of soliloquies in Vanbrugh’s play The Provoked Wife. The method Vanbrugh uses to stage soliloquies highlights the change in the nature of self representation on stage, taking up a liminal position between the printed and the performed, producing with the audience a set of equations about self and performance, the written and the spoken, the designed and the spontaneous.

At the turn of the seventeenth century, the self-conscious practice of Ben Jonson as author indicated a change occurring in authorship and theatre practice. Both Jeremy Collier’s attack on stage practices (A Short View of the Immorality and Profaneness of the English Stage) and Vanbrugh’s use of those practices give evidence of the different values being ascribed to the technologies of print and performance at the turn of the eighteenth century in England. As we have seen in previous chapters, the ascribing of value to these modes of production entails ascribing value for the still and the

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Stillness in Motion in the Seventeenth Century Theatre
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments viii
  • Introduction 1
  • Prologue 21
  • 1 - Permanently Moving 30
  • 2 - Predominantly Still 59
  • 3 - Theatrically Pressed 82
  • 4 - Decidedly Moving 106
  • 5 - Perpetually Stilled 132
  • Epilogue 154
  • Notes 162
  • Bibliography 187
  • Index 202
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