Novel Minds pp 58-91 | Cite as

Behn: Romance from the Stage to the Letter

  • Rebecca Tierney-Hynes
Part of the Palgrave Studies in the Enlightenment, Romanticism and Cultures of Print book series (PERCP)


Drama and dramatic theory played a central role in setting the stage, so to speak, for the late seventeenth-century novel. The two most important English novelists of the 1690s, Aphra Behn and William Congreve, were also two of the most important dramatists, Behn of the Restoration, Congreve at the turn of the eighteenth century. Theories of drama in the late seventeenth century were heavily dependent on notions of the hierarchy of literary forms inherited from the ancients — epic and tragedy followed by comedy — and such formal rules as the pseudo-Aristotelian ‘Unities’ of time, place, and action. They had also, however, shifted in the Restoration to encompass the tastes of a court-influenced audience that encouraged representations of sexual transgression, and were shifting again in the late 1680s and early 1690s under the new domestic influence of William of Orange and Mary II and the revival of anti-theatrical puritanism, championed most famously by Jeremy Collier in 1698.1 The focus of dramatic theory was largely on the effect of the drama on its audiences, and the political unrest associated with theatrical audiences before the Civil Wars was again a source of serious concern in the late seventeenth century.2


Eighteenth Century Female Character Personal Idea Late Seventeenth Passionate Expression 
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© Rebecca Tierney-Hynes 2012

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  • Rebecca Tierney-Hynes

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