chapter  9
22 Pages

‘An Old and Unfashionable Building’

Cowley’s Dramatic Writing and Rewriting
WithStefania Crowther

Stephania Crowther turns the spotlight on Cowley’s dramatic output. Cutter of Coleman-Street was, as we have seen, among the most popular of Restoration plays. Its original incarnation, The Guardian, was published by John Holden in 1650; the revised version sets the story in 1658 (as opposed to 1641) and, thanks to the major political upheavals between these two dates, scholars have for the most part concentrated on the play’s topical and political references. Crowther, however, considers the practicalities of staging, including the use of music, scenery and lighting, demonstrating how these were in keeping with other Restoration dramas, and how Cowley’s play influenced Restoration and eighteenth-century playwrights. The chapter also analyses in depth the development of the female characters of Cutter, which were among the first roles to be performed by women on the professional London stage. Crowther shows how Cowley’s revisions responded to the presence of women on stage: roles are flattened, affording female characters less agency and less opportunity to express their thoughts and feelings. The chapter concludes by questioning assumptions about the responsibility for the adaptations to the play, arguing that they were probably not made by Cowley in isolation, but in consort with the theatre company.