Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Hyde Park

Hyde Park. Large public park in central London. As the central backdrop for acts 3 and 4 of James Shirley’s play, the park combines an atmosphere of natural beauty with the presence of sports—especially horse racing—that provides a diversion for most of the cast in act 4. The park also offers private paths where the lovers can carry on their courtships and quarrels. An additional touch of rural atmosphere is provided by a milkmaid who carries a pail of fresh milk. Clearly the park’s atmosphere of freedom and release from inhibition is central to the play’s effect.

An old tradition suggests that Shirley’s comedy was written in order to commemorate the opening of the park to the public in 1632.

Mrs. Bonavent’s house

Mrs. Bonavent’s house. Large London mansion belonging to the supposedly widowed Mrs. Bonavent. This structure is the home and arena for two major women characters and the scene of Carol’s initial pert assertions about the follies of men and the joys of living a single life. Though dominated by Mrs. Bonavent and Carol, the house is the setting both for ensemble scenes, such as the final festive celebration of Mrs. Bonavent’s wedding, and for relatively intimate courtship scenes, including Carol’s final battle of wits with Fairfield, where the two reach a truce in their struggle for dominance in the relationship and agree to wed. In contrast to her behavior in the neutral area of the park, where she is unable to manage events as she intends, Carol exerts more control over her relationship with Fairfield on her home ground, Mrs. Bonavent’s house.

Hyde Park Bibliography

(Great Characters in Literature)

Levin, Richard. “The Triple Plot of Hyde Park.” Modern Language Review 62, no. 1 (January, 1967): 17-27. Demonstrates that Shirley achieves thematic unity and maintains continuity in his play through three analogous plots. Shows how the Hyde Park setting functions figuratively as well as dramatically.

Lucow, Ben. James Shirley. Boston: Twayne, 1981. An overview of Shirley’s varied and prolific career. Starts with a brief biographical section and turns to a chronological analysis of Shirley’s works. An authoritative introduction that reflects mainstream critical judgments.

Nason, Arthur Huntington. James Shirley, Dramatist. New York: Benjamin Blom, 1967. Includes extensive summaries of the plays. There is a minimum of critical analysis, but the brief comments are illuminating and not at all dated.

Shirley, James. Hyde Park. New York: Methuen, 1987. Includes the text of the play and commentary by Thomas Trussler that covers stage history, structure, and thematic matters.

Wertheim, Albert. “Games and Courtship in James Shirley’s Hyde Park.” Anglia 90 (1972): 71-91. Focuses upon the plot elements (primarily games, trials, and tricks) that unify the play. Shows how language and imagery not only reinforce the three plots but also tighten the overall structure.