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Title: Bellicose passions in Margaret Cavendish’s Playes (1662)
Contributor(s): Barnes, Diana G  (author)orcid 
Publication Date: 2019
DOI: 10.4324/9780429446245
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Abstract: When Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle, employed emotional terms to justify her decision to publish, rather than stage, her Playes (1662), she positioned her contribution within a pressing political and philosophical debate. In ‘The Epistle Dedicatory’ to her husband William Cavendish, Duke of Newcastle, she identifies the risks of performance: ‘If Envy did make a faction against them, they would have had a publick Condemnation; and though I am not such a Coward, as to be afraid of the hissing Serpents, or stinged Tongues of Envy, yet it would have made me a little Melancholy to have my harmless and innocent Playes go weeping from the Stage’ (my italics). Here Cavendish distinguishes her volume from the kind of public discourse that incites the emotions that fuel faction, and breed civil war. As Stephen Zwicker (1993, p. 1) reminds us, in the years immediately following the restoration of monarchy in 1660, ‘the memory of that lamented translation from language to arms remained vivid and potent’. The whole historical period should be seen in these terms: David Armitage (2017, p. 11) stresses that ‘slaughter on such a scale scythes through families, shatters communities, shapes nations. It can scar also imaginations for centuries to come’. All literary genres carried the collective emotional scars of war but, as Cavendish and her contemporaries recognised, this was particularly true of drama. The public theatres were closed by Parliament after the outbreak of civil war in 1642, and reopened after the restoration of monarchy in 1660. By 1662 when Cavendish’s Playes were published, drama was a literary genre, and the theatre a cultural institution, deeply implicated in the recent experience of civil war. In choosing to print rather than stage her dramatic works, Cavendish does not shy away from politico-literary polemic. In post-civil-war Britain tears, print drama and the fear, envy, shame and melancholy Cavendish associates with them had a collective political significance as the terms of what Alexandra Bennett (2009) calls the ‘theatre of war’. Cavendish’s Playes is an ideal focal point for considering the relationship between war and emotion. She theorises the relationship between civil war, emotion and theatre in the prefatory materials, while Bell in Campo, parts 1 & 2, and Loves Adventure, parts 1 & 2, directly concern war, specifically women’s emotional roles within it.
Publication Type: Book Chapter
Source of Publication: Writing War in Britain and France, 1370-1854: A History of Emotions, p. 127-144
Publisher: Routledge
Place of Publication: Oxon, United Kingdom
ISBN: 9781138219168
Field of Research (FOR): 200503 British and Irish Literature
HERDC Category Description: B1 Chapter in a Scholarly Book
Series Name: Themes in Medieval and Early Modern History
Appears in Collections:Book Chapter
School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences

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