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Volume :10 Issue : 38 1990      Add To Cart                                                                    Download

Rebellion And Repentance in James Shirley's The Lady of Pleasure

Auther : Ali Ahmad Mohmoud

This paper argues that, in constructing his realistic comedy, The Lady of Pleasure (1635), Shirley employed a dramatic technique in which rebellion and repentance form the two poles of a stanchion, and in between these poles the main characters move to and fro in a semi-antiphonal movement. Those of the characters who rebel are liable to repent, and their repentances are usually private and motivated either by strong appeals made to their inherent goodness, or by didactic pleas of chastity made by virtuous women. Rebellion, on the other hand, is presented as deviation from reason and decency.

Two sets of values are juxtaposed in the play, namely frugality, virtue and the old traditional way of life, on the one hand-prodigality, libertinism and a dissipated fashionable fife, on the other. The former is recommended, and the latter condemned. For the playwrights stance ranges between that of the satirist or the sentimentalists ; since rebellion usually evokes social or moral satire, while repentance elicits a sympathetic, or even a sentimental, response. In both cases, however, Shirley has a didactic function to achieve.

The main contribution made by Shirley, in The Lady of Pleasure, is that he could strike a vein of dramatic expression that combines what he learned from the great Elizabethan playwrights with what he himself observed around him in his contemporary world. These rich, inspiring sources-modified by Shirleys excellent dramatic abilities and his own personal good nature and diligence-made of The Lady of Pleasure one of the most delightful plays of the Caroline age.

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