The Seventeenth Century: Major Concepts and Genres

Provider: Marguerite Connor / ±dĽ}´@

Restoration Drama: Types of Male Characters in Comedies

(1) The male lead, and

(2) His friend. The coupling is deliberate. Dorimant and Young Bellair (Man of Mode), Horner and Harcourt (Country Wife), Valentine and Scandal (Love for Love), Belford jun. and Truman (Squire of Alsatia), Sir George Airy and Charles (Busie Body), Don Henrique and Don Carlos (Adventures of Five Hours), Young Jorden and Cleverwit (Citizen Turn'd Gentleman), Colonels Careless and Blunt (Committee) are all paired in this fashion. Very often both wind up married; sometimes only the lead male does (Valentine), occassionally only the friend (Harcourt).

(3) The would-be friend, occasionally just a rival (Sir Novelty Fashion in Love's Last Shift), who is commonly witwoud butt, fop, or coward. (Sparkish in The Country Wife, Sir Fopling in The Man of Mode, Tattle in Love for Love.)

(4) The heavy father. This character is usually the blocking figure who creates the problem which necessities action in the comedy--opposition to marriage, refusal to give needed money. Jordan (Citizen Turn'd Gentleman), Sir William Belford (Squire of Alsatia), Don Henrique--actually a brother playing a father's role (Adventures), Old Bellair (Man of Mode), Sir Sampson Legend (Love for Love), Sir Jealous Traffick (Busie Body).

(5) The dolt or gull. Abel Day (Committee), Belford sen. (Squire)

(6) The humour-butt. Generally less purely a "dupe" figure than the preceding type. Obadiah (Committee), Sir Simon Softhead (Citizen), Pinchwife and Sir Jaspar Fidget (Country Wife), Foresight and Ben (Love for Love)--the latter less of a butt than usual.

(7) The trickster. Often a helper to the romantic lead, but not always (cf. Cheatly in Squire). Cureal and Trickmore (Citizen), Jeremy (Love for Love)--this last a "bright servant."

(8) The foolish servant. Teg (Committee) is a lovable bungler. Jacques (Citizen) and La Mar (Squire) are French valets, a popular subtype. Lolpoop (Squire) is a country simpleton. Diego (Committee) becomes a byword and prototype for the cowardly, amorous, amusing servant.

(9) Professional types: lawyer, parson, doctor. Usually a bit part. Quack (Country Wife), Parson (Squire), Trapland and Buckram (Love for Love). Tradesmen and Justices of the Peace occasionally turn up in this sort of role.

(10) The hypocrite. The pious puritan fraud is an especially popular form; the type is often combined with no. 4 (heavy father) or no. 6 (humour-butt). Scrapeall (Squire) is an instance of the former combination, Mr. Day (Committee) is another; Alderman Gripe (Love in a Wood) is an example of the latter combination.

(11) The Hector or Bully. A bit part (Hackum in Squire).

(12) The lapsed or discontented husband. Loveless (Love's Last Shift), Sir John Brute (The Provok'd Wife), Sir Oliver Cockwood (She wou'd).

Hume, Robert D. The Development of English Drama in the Late 17th Century. New York: Oxford, 1976.

(external) Seminar on Restroation Drama (Spring, 1997) Introduction to Literature, Spring 1999 (Ray);Introduction to Literature: Society and Identity (Kate)