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  • Print publication year: 2000
  • Online publication date: May 2006

6 - Tragicomedy

Summary

our best poets have differed from other Nations (though not so happily) in usually mingling and interweaving Mirth and Sadness through the whole Course of their Plays, Ben. Johnson only excepted.

Sir Robert Howard, Four New Playes (1665)

This Oleo of a Play; this unnatural mixture of Comedy and Tragedy

John Dryden, An Essay of Dramatick Poesie (1668)

Sometime at the end of the seventeenth century, George Villiers, the second Duke of Buckingham, wrote a play which he called The Restauration: Or, Right will take Place. A Tragicomedy (February 1683). Since the beheading of the English monarch Charles I in 1649, the idea of “Restoration” had obsessed English playwrights – the theme permeates Restoration drama. Not coincidentally, Buckingham's title includes the designation “A Tragicomedy.” To an experienced reader of seventeenth-century drama, the plot of The Restauration sounds very familiar. A usurping king harasses a dispossessed prince, Philander, whose countrymen are waiting to take arms in his defense. A foreign prince has just arrived to marry the princess and thus becomes heir to the throne.