13 October 2015
The Distaste for the English Stage
In the excerpts from Jeremy Collier’s pamphlet, “A Short View of the Immorality, and Profaneness of the English Stage,” it is obvious that he is criticizing the works of many playwright’s. His criticism, is led by various theatrical performances such as, The Man Of Mode by George Etherege, The Rover by Aphra Behn, and The Country Wife by William Wycherley. Collier, and specifically exposes the sexist view point that is conveyed upon women within these comedic plays, especially by the central male characters who are often viewed as intelligent, or “witty,” as the playwrights like to call them.
In the play The Man Of Mode by George Etherege, the leading character Dorimant sees women more as a tool, or an object. He longs for his love Harriet and yet he’s in an affair between two gentlewomen; Mrs. Loveit, and Belinda. This is primarily based on his sexual needs and reputation. This theater piece, out of the many, is an impeccable example to why Collier condemns such behavior, which he clearly states in his pamphlet, “Obscenity in any company is a rustic uncreditable talent; but among women it is particularly rude.”
However, Collier further states that even though this sexist perspective exists, the women themselves are not that virtuous as the audience may have expected. In Etherege’s piece, one of the two gentlewomen; Belinda, deliberately speaks to Mrs. Loveit about Dorimant to provoke her emotions. And the cruel reality about Belinda conversing this topic to Loveit is that she knew about Dorimant and Mrs. Loveit’s ongoing relationship. For Collier, he ridicules this behavior by asking these two questions; “ Do women leave all the regards of decency and conscience behind them when they come to the play-house? Or does the place transform their inclinations, and turn their former aversions into pleasure?” With these questions, Collier is also obviously belittling the traditions of the English Stage.
The constant repetition of the “wit” taking an advantage of the women is glorified in an theatrical sense, instead, Collier perceives that glorification negatively. Referring to Etherage’s character Belinda, she is what Collier would call an “ill used,” woman because she is also seen as an object, specifically a sex object by Dorimant, who manipulates her to think that she is someone significant to him when in fact he is trying to get to every female that he can. Dorimant’s control over Belinda is exactly why Collier has stated, “It supposes their imagination vicious, and their memories ill furnished: that they are practiced in the language of the stews, and pleased with the scenes of brutishness,” in his pamphlet. Collier could also be arguing that these male “wits” will only get wittier and the females will only get outwitted regardless of how cautious or educated they are.
With the objectification of these female characters on the English stage, Collier sees the theater as an “invective” venue. His argument being, that there is no point in praising an awful and sexist play that mocks an individual based on their gender. Collier addressed that not only is it upsetting, but it is also inconvenient to have these women be “practiced in the language of the stews, and pleased with the scenes of brutishness.” Collier argument clearly claims his distaste of manipulation and greed that are put upon these females, and that the English stage is nothing but rude when it comes to the subject matter of sex.