Female Playwrights of the Restoration: The Relationship between Society and Writer

Date of Award


Document Type

Honors Thesis



First Advisor

Karl Qualls




“If I must not, because of my Sex, have this freedom, but that you will usurp all to your selves, I lay down my Quill,” wrote Aphra Behn in the Preface to The Luckey Chance (1686). Behn’s defense of her gender and work as a playwright related to the political and gender norms of the Restoration period in England. The restoration of Charles II to the throne in 1660 meant more than just the reopening of the theater. The indelible changes of the Interregnum on English theater proved to be as permanent as the changes in English society and government as Charles II attempted to reinstate order. All of the social, political, and religious changes occurring during the seventeenth century affected the writing of women as they entered the public playwriting profession. The examination of paratexts from plays by Aphra Behn, Mary Pix, Catharine Trotter, and Delarivier Manley reflect the political shift, and subsequent social developments, which occurred in England from 1660-1696. The female playwrights of the Restoration period inhabited a unique social position that allowed them to reflect in a new way as women, on the society they inhabited.

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