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|I think you are correct ,Mandy
Written by JulieW
(8/22/2004 7:25 a.m.)
in consequence of the missive, Two comments on history and a tragedy play., penned by Mandy N
And, I am sure you are quite correct, Mandy. This play( which is, IMHO, laughable) was just the type of serious tragedy that she would have enjoyed for very perverse reasons.
Let’s take a look at the author.
Nicholas Rowe was born in 1674 at Little Burford in Bedfordshire. He was the son of a lawyer.
He was a King’s Scholar at Westminster School and it was intended that he follow his fathers footsteps and train as a lawyer. With this intent he entered the Middle Temple in 1690.He inherited £500 on his father’s death in 1692, continued with his studies and was called to the Bar in 1696, but, having qualified, decided to abandon the law and turned his sights on the theatre. Not the first, not the last lawyer so to do ;-)
He favoured writing historical dramas, writing a version of Tambourlane in 1700.This was a favourite with the court and was performed regularly on 5th November for many years in honour of King William III, who admired it.
He tried his hand at comedy, writing domestic comedies, The Ambitious Step Mother and The Biter(?) in1704. But these plays were not a success. He returned again to heroic themes and wrote Ulysses in 1705.
He then turned to writing and publishing poems complimenting the Royal family. Which obviously worked as he intended, as he received several ducal appointments and was eventually made Secretary of State for Scotland in 1709. Flattery does indeed get you everywhere. This strategy continued to flourish, and he also received posts in the Customs Office( lucrative) and was made Poet Laureate in 1715; noticeably, he was awarded this very prestigious post after he had written The Tragedy of Lady Jane Grey which, though a historical drama was very complimentary to the ruling House of Hanover. Obviously it made sense to appoint a poet laureate who could be relied upon to support the ruling regime.
He married Anne Devenish in 1715, was friendly with many of the famous actors of the time including Colley Cibber, and also Steele and Addison ( of the Spectator fame) .He was still interested in the classics and translated Ovid before he died in 1718.He was buried in Westminster Abbey. Not a bad career.
He had, before his success with the play Lady Jane Grey, concentrated on Shakespeare’s works and , indeed, edited an edition of his plays .This is what inspired him to write his Tragedy of Jane Shore written in imitation of Shakespeare’s style.It was to become his most popular and most performed play.
This is the type of historical melodrama that the Austen family appeared to dislike. Remember that in their private theatricals at Steventon they only ever performed one tragedy :Matilda written by Dr Thomas Franklin. This is a rather dreary play set at the time of the Norman Conquest, and tells the tale of tow brothers feuding over the love of Matilda, the daughter of a Norman Lord.
The Tragedy of Jane Shore follows in somewhat of the same vein. It was a very popular play( and as it was written before 1735 could be performed by professional troupes with ease, as it was not subject to the censorship of the Lord Chamberlain. This really does explain why some of these plays survived. Not only because of their initial popularity, but when that could have been expected to wane, they were revived by theatre managers who were assured that the play would not fall foul of the Lord Chamberlain’s rules.)
Jane Shore was first performed on 2nd February 1714 at Drury Lane ( the same year Mrs Centlivres The Wonder, another Steventon favourite ,was premiered).
The play tells of the attempted rape of Jane Shore by Lord Hastings, and also the humiliating treatment she received at his hands, when he engineered her penance, for her “crime” of being a harlot , having been the mistress of Edward IV. The character of Jane Shore is , despite her reputation as a fallen woman , portrayed as a noble , dignified and , eventually a repentant woman. Before she inevitably dies she obtains her cuckold of a husband’s forgiveness…and the curtain falls. You get the picture , I am sure.
The role was a favourite of Mrs Siddons and also Mrs Pope who was Henry Austen’s neighbour in London.
Here is one of Jane’s most famous speeches form the play:
Why should I think that man will do for me
The play was still being performed up to 100 years after its debut. Indeed I have found a reference to it being played at Covent Garden on Thursday 7th November 1800. Mrs Pope’s performance as Jane was unfavourably commented upon in the Dramatic Censor as follows;
Mrs Pope’s whole soul seems to be engrossed wit the study of attitudes and postures; how to display to the best advantage a genteel shape…Her very looks are artificial and betray and excess of female vanity.”
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