Colley Cibber Biography


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Colley Cibber was the son of Jane Colley and Caius Gabriel Cibber, a master sculptor from Flensburg, Schleswig. Cibber’s father had intended his son for the Church, but Cibber became stagestruck at an early age and in 1689 joined the Theatre Royal as an unsalaried apprentice. Even though his early years were not marked by financial success, in 1693, Cibber married Katherine Shore, the daughter of Matthias Shore, who held the post of Sergeant Trumpet at court.

Discouraged by the poor roles he was assigned, Cibber wrote a play (Love’s Last Shift) with a role for himself. Sir Novelty Fashion was not the main character in the play, but the part gave Cibber a chance to demonstrate his comic abilities. Shortly after the play’s premiere in 1696, Sir John Vanbrugh wrote The Relapse: Or, Virtue in Danger as a sequel to Love’s Last Shift. Cibber’s performance as Lord Foppington (the new title for Sir Novelty) in Vanbrugh’s play confirmed his success in Love’s Last Shift and established him as one of the leading comedians of his day. As a playwright and an actor, Cibber did not limit himself to comedy, but it was in this genre that he enjoyed his greatest successes. In addition to writing and acting, Cibber became increasingly involved in the administration of Drury Lane, eventually becoming one of the triumvirate of actor-managers who ran the company.

The 1720’s were marked for Colley Cibber by...

(The entire section is 483 words.)


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

ph_0111207684-Cibber.jpg Colley Cibber Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Colley Cibber (SIHB-ur) is in the unfortunate position of being remembered mainly as the chief target of ridicule in Alexander Pope’s Dunciad—to be immortalized as the King of Dullness is a poor sort of fame. Although Cibber’s name would not have been immortal but for Pope, he was far from being dull. He was, in fact, a remarkable actor, a playhouse manager, and a competent, though unoriginal, playwright who had the misfortune to make the best writers of England his enemies: Cibber suffered not only from the verbal assaults of Pope but also from the wit of Henry Fielding and Samuel Johnson. His Whig politics helped him in his career but also made him a ready butt for the Tory satirists.

Colley Cibber was the eldest son of Caius Gabriel Cibber, a popular Danish sculptor. Born in London on November 6, 1671, he left school at sixteen and in 1688 enlisted with his father in the Devonshire volunteers to support the cause of William of Orange. In 1690, he joined Thomas Betterton as an actor at the Drury Lane Theatre. Not able to find his niche within the company, Cibber wrote the successful Love’s Last Shift to tailor-make the role of Sir Novelty Fashion, an ignorant but essentially good-hearted fop, for his specific talents. This play about a rakish husband who reforms when he finds out how much his wife loves him broke the Restoration tradition of libertine comedy and helped initiate the new taste for sentimental comedy that was to...

(The entire section is 533 words.)