Windings and Turnings: The Metaphoric Labyrinth of Restoration Dramatic Theory


In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph of the essay follows:

On the fourth of July, 1653, Oliver Cromwell addressed the first meeting of the so-called "Nominated" or "Barebones" Parliament, an assembly of 140 hand-picked Puritan leaders that represented what S. R. Gardiner calls "the high-water mark of Puritanism."1 The Parliament was also a turning point in the progress of the English revolution from commonwealth to protectorate: after its predictable failure and dissolution on 12 December of the same year, Cromwell would add the formal title of Lord Protector to his de facto position as head of state. Yet the text of his speech on 4 July suggests Cromwell's sincere belief that this "assembly of Saints" could be a practical step toward a millennial future. He began by promising to remind his listeners "of the series of Providences wherein the Lord hath appeared, dispensing wonderful things to these nations from the beginnings of our troubles to this very day." But then, in a rhetorical reversal, Cromwell declined to describe or narrate those events because, as he explained:

You very well know, after divers turnings of affairs, it pleased God, much about the midst of this war, to winnow (if I may so say) the forces of this nation; and to put them into the hands of other men of other principles than those that did engage at the first. By what ways and means that was brought about, would ask more time than is allotted me to mind you of [it]. Indeed there are stories that do recite those transactions, and give you narratives of matters of fact: but those things wherein the life and power of them lay; those strange windings and turnings of Providence; those very great appearances of. God, in crossing and thwarting the purposes of men, that He might raise up a poor and contemptible company of men, neither versed in military affairs, nor . having much natural propensity to them . . . how God blessed them, [furthering] all undertakings, by his using of the most improbable and the most· contemptible and despicable means (for that we shall ever own): you very well know.2

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