"marvellous and surprizing conduct": The "Masque of Devils" and Dramatic Genre in Thomas Shadwell's The Tempest - hprints.org Access content directly
Journal Articles Restoration: Studies in English Literary Culture, 1660-1700 Year : 2019

"marvellous and surprizing conduct": The "Masque of Devils" and Dramatic Genre in Thomas Shadwell's The Tempest

Claude Fretz


Whereas most scholarly work on Restoration adaptations of Shakespeare's works has focused on textual changes, on the plays' political contexts, or on their musical settings, this article uses the example of the "Masque of Devils" in the 1674 Enchanted Island to show how Thomas Shadwell and his collaborators hybridized dramatic genre through spectacle. Furthermore, it argues that the integration of semi-operatic spectacle and generic innovation in the "Masque of Devils" was not purely a Restoration invention, but something that Dryden, Davenant, and Shadwell—with their aesthetic nous and political awareness—developed from Shakespeare's original Tempest. Rather than being a Restoration addition to the play, Shadwell's "Masque of Devils"—like Dryden and Davenant's shorter equivalent masque in the 1667 version (published in 1670)—is in fact a subtle iteration of a moment in 3.3 of Shakespeare's play, where Ariel appears as a harpy, accompanied by thunder and lightning. 3.3 marks one of the most generically indeterminate episodes in The Tempest, because even though it belongs to a play that the 1623 folio identifies as a comedy, it relies heavily on devices derived from tragedy. This article sets out to explore how Shadwell and his collaborators used a combination of spectacle and textual as well as musical revision to expand the original play’s tragic-comic dynamics. Uniquely, the article does not just draw on textual analysis, but also considers how genre hybridization manifests itself in performance. To achieve that, it takes into account likely staging conditions in the Restoration playhouses, before drawing on contemporary performance-as-research as a means of deepening our understanding of the generic category of “dramatick opera” and of the Restoration-era processes of revision that culminated in Shadwell’s Enchanted Island. The article’s final section incorporates observations made during a practice-based workshop on Shadwell’s 1674 adaptation of The Tempest that was held on 10–13 July 2017 at the Globe’s Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, an indoor space based on Restoration-era drawings of an unknown playhouse, possibly by John Webb. By examining the connections, rather than the textual differences, between The Tempest and The Enchanted Island, this article also challenges the misperception that the Civil War and the subsequent resumption of theatrical activity marked a somehow radical break with pre-war dramatic activity. Despite the fact that a successful Restoration production of Shakespeare usually entailed substantial rewriting—Shakespeare was viewed as raw material that needed to be refined in terms of both language and dramaturgy—Restoration theatre in many ways marks a continuation of creative developments around spectacle, musicality, and genre that had begun in the Jacobean and Caroline eras.


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hprints-03437606 , version 1 (20-11-2021)



Claude Fretz. "marvellous and surprizing conduct": The "Masque of Devils" and Dramatic Genre in Thomas Shadwell's The Tempest. Restoration: Studies in English Literary Culture, 1660-1700, 2019, 43 (2), pp.3-28. ⟨10.1353/rst.2019.0010⟩. ⟨hprints-03437606⟩
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