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  • Print publication year: 1991
  • Online publication date: March 2007

‘The Duke my Father’s Wrack’: The Innocence of the Restoration Tempest


‘What care these roarers for the name of Duke?’ exclaims Trincalo, the Boatswain in The Enchanted Island, Dryden and Davenant’s adaptation of the Tempest; ‘to Cabin; silence; trouble us not’ (1.1.22). The temptation to see this as one of the absurdities of restoration royalism is strong. Driven by the desire to expunge any critique of monarchy from the plays of an earlier generation, the adaptors replaced the name of king with the name of duke. The ocean’s ‘roarers’ no longer suggest a crowd resentful of divine right claims, and the Boatswain is guilty of a certain rudeness to a duke but not of the more frightening crime of lèsemajesté. The duke’s notion that his ‘name’ might still the storm becomes itself absurd; only the name of king can match the force of nature. And it is a name that is not spoken in Dryden and Davenant’s play.

The traumas of civil wars, regicide, and restoration seem to have locked the theatre into a state of denial, at least until the 1680s, when opposition voices would again be heard in Parliament and (briefly) upon the stage. Heroic dramas indeed concentrated upon conflicts of allegiance and impossible divisions of loyalties, but did so in exotic settings, where an Amurath might succeed an Amurath, never a Harry a Harry, or a Charles a Charles.

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Shakespeare Survey
  • Online ISBN: 9781139053204
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