Rachel Willie
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Reinventing the masque
Shirley’s and Davenant’s protectorate entertainments
in Staging the revolution
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Although the theatres officially remained closed between 1642 and 1660, from 1656, William Davenant staged entertainments, first at his home in Rutland House, then at the Cockpit theatre in Drury Lane. Chapter three shows how Davenant, a prominent writer and producer of court masques in the 1630s and 1640s, reinvented the Stuart court masque to make it fit for the protectorate stage.

Through his protectorate entertainments, The Cruelty of the Spaniards in Peru (1658) and The History of Sir Francis Drake (1659), Davenant celebrates Cromwellian foreign policy and provides a counter-narrative to the image of Cromwell as the scheming politician that is present in many contemporary play pamphlets. The chapter also addresses James Shirley’s Cupid and Death, performed for the Portuguese Ambassador in 1653. By drawing on John Ogilby’s royalist translation of Aesop’s Fables (1651), Shirley writes a masque that is ambivalent about kingship and mediates much of the royalist bias present in Ogilby’s text.

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Staging the revolution

Drama, reinvention and history, 1647–72


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