Dramatic Histories and Party Politics, 1719-1745

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Early eighteenth-century politics were dominated by the rise to power and fall from grace of Sir Robert Walpole. This thesis examines varied responses to the Walpole regime from opposition Whig, Tory, Jacobite and pro-government writers. The discussion focuses on history plays from the period 1719-1745 and considers the role of these texts as vehicles for political comment and propaganda. Of key concern throughout the thesis is the rhetoric of patriotism. Patriot ideology pervades the texts and crosses conventional party boundaries. Alongside patriotism other themes pertinent to political commentary of the period are discussed. In chapter one, 'Ancient Britons and Liberty' texts appropriating Saxon and Celtic history are discussed in relation to contemporary concerns for maintaining the political liberty of the British nation. In chapter two, 'Kings, Ministers, Favourites and Patriot Rhetoric' plays that focus on favouritism are examined alongside contemporary criticism of Walpole as 'favourite' of the Hanoverians. In chapter three, 'Gender and Party Politics in Adaptations of Shakespeare's Histories' the updating of Shakespeare to suit contemporary taste and the impact of these alterations are reflected in a repoliticisation of the plays for party agendas. In chapter four, 'Britain, Empire and Julius Cæsar' representations of Cæsar that suggest positive interpretations of the Emperor conflict with contemporary opinion regarding his contribution to the fall of the Roman republic. Implications for Britain’s own colonial endeavour are also considered in chapter five, ‘Religion and the Ideology of Empire in Turkish History Plays'. This chapter examines plays in which the Scanderbeg history is appropriated to offer a model of British colonialism. Reflecting on Britain's past glories or, past failings, the plays discussed in this thesis offer not only comment on contemporary politics but also representations of an idealised Britishness. By demonstrating what Britons had once been these texts suggest what modem Britons should be. Now available in revised text entitled, 'National Myth and Imperial Fantasy: Representations of Britishness on the Early Eighteenth-Century Stage', (Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan, 2008).
Date of Award24 Nov 2003
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Aberystwyth University
SupervisorPaulina Kewes (Supervisor) & Sarah Prescott (Supervisor)


  • history plays
  • Whig
  • Tory
  • Walpole

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