Date of Award
The subject of sentimentalism in the British drama has claimed the attention of some of the most eminent students of the theatre. However, most of them have confined their research to the sentimental play itself, which appeared around the beginning of the eighteenth century and which declined around 1740. It is true that Allardyce Nicoll, in his British Drama and in his Restoration Drama; George Nettleton, in his English Drama of Restoration and 18th Century, 1642-1780; and Ernest Bernbaum, in his Drama of Sensibility discuss various aspects of early approaches to the drama of sensibility. Nicoll, however, primarily interested in the works of the Restoration, discusses only briefly and generally some of the works of Mrs. Behn and their contribution to sentimentality, listing several other plays that present a moral problem. Nettleton sees in Otway and Southerne the forerunners of the actual period of sentimentalism. But he merely mentions these two men in relation to early attempts at sentimentality. Neither Nicoll nor Nettleton analyzes any plays exhibiting sentimentality written prior to the period of sentimentalism is evident. In his discussion of plays disclosing traces of sentimentality written prior to 1696 he gives a thorough analysis of Mrs. Behn's The Town Fop and of Southerne's The Fatal Marriage. However, these are the only plays which Bernbaum treats in detail. He lists several other plays of his nature by Restoration authors buts fails to evaluate or analyze the sentimentality found in them. It would seem, then, that no study of sentimentality from 1633 to 1696 has been upon examination of a number of plays sufficient to permit conservative generalization. =520 \\$aThis thesis, therefore, attempts to study certain plays of the 1663-1696 period that anticipate the eighteenth century drama of sensibility. Its chief purpose will be to present in some detail evidence that Bernbaum, Nicoll and Nettleton either omitted altogether or treated in an incomplete manner. The selection of plays to be discussed was necessarily limited by the availability of the desired texts. However, a number sufficient for conservation generalization has been examined The treatise will be divided into three chapters, the first of which will outline the opinions of Bernbaum, Nicoll, and Nettleton on the drama of sensibility; the second, the philosophy and characteristics of the sentimental play during the period of its ascendancy (during the early eighteenth century); and the last, an analysis of the characteristics of those Restoration plays that are precursors to the sentimental drama of the eighteenth century.
Bell, Helen Caffey, "Certain precursors to the drama of sensibility between 1663 and 1696" (1939). ETD Collection for AUC Robert W. Woodruff Library. EP17345.