Henry Fielding Drama Analysis
In a period of only nine years, Henry Fielding wrote and staged more than twenty plays. Such a sustained outburst recalls the careers of Elizabethan dramatists Thomas Dekker and John Fletcher, who in the early 1600’s turned out three or four scripts a year to feed London’s voracious appetite for new plays. The decade of the 1730’s was another theatrically hungry period. Five theaters competed for reputation, audience, and income; their managers vied for the best authors, plays, and actors. The pressure of competition added farces, burlesques, operas, pantomime, and even puppet shows to the repertory of drama by standard playwrights. In the struggle to keep up and get ahead, authors and companies freely borrowed material from the French and Italian theaters and readily used singers, dancers, jugglers, and anything else that attracted customers. Innovative theater often brought quick profits, but it challenged many dramatic conventions (especially notions of genre) and often sacrificed dramatic quality to gain immediate impact.
Though Fielding’s plays are diverse in method and form, they are alike in motivation. Fielding used the stage as early eighteenth century writers used every literary genre: as a forum for the discussion of current events. With journalistic promptness and intensity, Fielding (like other dramatists of the 1730’s) built plays around current events in London: examples of private morality and immorality, political issues and...
(The entire section is 5713 words.)
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