"Forget Scotland": Plays by Scots on the London Stage, 1667-1715


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

Willie, you must forget Scotland, and conform yourself to the Customs of England - David Crawford, Courtship à-la-mode

The 1660 reopening of the playhouses brought little hint that the Scottish theater could soon win new and popular life. Religious opposition and municipal bureaucracy restricted theater and other public entertainments in Scotland to a significant degree; at least in terms of repertoire and-as far as may be deduced-personnel, such theater as existed was an extension of the London stage. Further, it at best operated erratically. Individuals ambitious of a career in the drama had to travel south - perhaps picking up work with the provincial companies scattered across England or travelling on to London where a rich professional theater culture was flourishing. Several Scots chose this option, and the turn of the century saw a number of plays by Scots being produced on the London stage. However, with few models of Scottish dramaturgy to draw upon, these new playwrights turned for inspiration to the generic conventions of the London stage and wrote social comedies within the vernacular of the contemporary Restoration stage. Their plays were not only written to appeal to metropolitan audiences but-perhaps more significantly-also made no attempt to develop or display a particularly Scottish sensibility. Locked in a series of dramaturgical and linguistic orthodoxies and operating within a cultural climate determinedly pursuing national stability and even unity, it is understandable that the codes of representation which these writers employed were fully Anglocentric. In fact (and this is, perhaps, a point of crushing predictability as well as of crucial importance), where a non-Shakespearean Scot does appear on the London stage during this period it is in the minor role of the comic servant.

Comparative Drama is carried by JSTOR and Project MUSE.