A "Birthright into a New World": Representing the Town on Brome's Stage


Denys Van Renen


While critics emphasize the setting of new suburban developments outside of London in Richard Brome’s The Weeding of Covent Garden (1633) and Sparagas Garden (1635), they largely overlook the way these spaces were imagined as colonial ventures. This essay examines how the establishment of the town, as represented in Brome’s plays, is framed by European models of both internal colonialism and new-world expansion. By dramatizing how developers incorporate foreign architecture, install foreign workers in the town, and construct the town as an overseas territory, Brome lays bare an urban topography that upends traditional social relationships grounded in land ownership. Brome, therefore, suggests that the English developers appropriate the worst aspects of the Dutch economic “miracle,” amassing land for short-term profit and threatening a traditional English society that prioritizes land for the way it orders society and constitutes individual and social identity. While the previous generation of playwrights domesticated their audience by familiarizing them with an urban topography that signified the growing importance of the city, Brome shows how developments that prioritize profits at the expense of local livelihoods have frittered away any chance of a shared social imaginary. Portraying the newly-built precincts as temporarily lawless zones, Brome demonstrates how different political entities conceive of space free from the traditional, if superficial, social relations, that mask the actual conditions within the city—an environment designed to declare at any time a state of (lawless) nature in which the sovereign can declare martial law.

Comparative Drama is carried by JSTOR and Project MUSE.