Henry Fielding - Plays, Volume III, 1734 - 1742

Henry Fielding - Plays, Volume III, 1734 - 1742, (Wesleyan Edition of the Works of Henry Fielding); JoAnn Taricani (Editor) and Thomas Lockwood (Editor), Oxford University Press; 2012
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This is the third and final volume of plays representing the only modern edition of Fielding's dramatic works. Most have not appeared in print for a century, and never previously in fully-edited form. Fielding is best known as a novelist but, like his great model Cervantes, he came to novel-writing from an important first career in professional theatre. He wrote twenty-eight plays, including comedies, satiric extravaganzas, and ballad operas. He was the leading playwright of his generation, an experimentalist and entrepreneur of dramatic form who sometimes also brought contemporary politics and public figures onto his stage with results even more dramatic off stage.

This volume presents nine plays from the final and most controversial years of his theatre career. The first, Don Quixote in England, is a ballad opera homage to Quixotic idealism played out against rustic English opportunism. Two other plays, including the long-running favourite The Virgin Unmask'd, were written as star vehicles for Fielding's brilliant colleague Catherine Clive. The Universal Gallant is another of Fielding's ventures in serious social comedy, but the heart of the volume, as of this concluding period of Fielding's dramatic career, is the group of audacious satirical plays he wrote when he was running his own makeshift company at the Little Haymarket Theatre, including Pasquin and The Historical Register. Audiences flocked to these productions to see the cultural and political life of the moment ridiculed in Aristophanic explicitness, notoriously in one case (Eurydice Hiss'd) including a mocking stage caricature of the prime minister himself. That unamused minister, Sir Robert Walpole, shortly after saw through the 1737 Licensing Act which put an end to unsanctioned playhouses and plays, and to Fielding's own career in theatre.

The plays are given in critical unmodernized texts based on careful collation of the original editions, with explanatory notes and commentary on sources, stage history, and critical reception. All music is included, with appendices giving complete accounts of textual variation and bibliographic history for each play.

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