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Politeness in eighteenth-century drama: A discursive approach


Jucker, Andreas H (2016). Politeness in eighteenth-century drama: A discursive approach. Journal of Politeness Research: Language, Behaviour, Culture, 12(1):95-115.

Abstract

Fictional texts constitute complex communicative acts between an author and an audience, and they regularly depict interactions between characters. Both levels are susceptible to an analysis of politeness. This is particularly true for early eighteenth-century drama, which – in the context of the age of politeness – established new dramatic genres to educate and edify their audiences. Characters were used to demonstrate good or bad behaviour as examples to be followed or avoided. Early eighteenth-century drama was a reaction against what was considered to be the immorality and profanity of Restoration drama of the seventeenth century. Two plays serve as illustrations and a testing ground for an analysis of fictional politeness that considers both communicative levels; the play itself and the interactions within the play. Richard Steele’s sentimental comedy “The Conscious Lovers” (1722) gives an example of good behaviour by being exceedingly polite to the audience in the theatre through characters that are exceedingly polite to each other; and George Lillo’s domestic tragedy “The London Merchant, or the History of George Barnwell” (1731) shows the “private woe” of everyday characters in order to warn the younger generation against wrongdoing and to propagate middle-class virtues and moral values.

Abstract

Fictional texts constitute complex communicative acts between an author and an audience, and they regularly depict interactions between characters. Both levels are susceptible to an analysis of politeness. This is particularly true for early eighteenth-century drama, which – in the context of the age of politeness – established new dramatic genres to educate and edify their audiences. Characters were used to demonstrate good or bad behaviour as examples to be followed or avoided. Early eighteenth-century drama was a reaction against what was considered to be the immorality and profanity of Restoration drama of the seventeenth century. Two plays serve as illustrations and a testing ground for an analysis of fictional politeness that considers both communicative levels; the play itself and the interactions within the play. Richard Steele’s sentimental comedy “The Conscious Lovers” (1722) gives an example of good behaviour by being exceedingly polite to the audience in the theatre through characters that are exceedingly polite to each other; and George Lillo’s domestic tragedy “The London Merchant, or the History of George Barnwell” (1731) shows the “private woe” of everyday characters in order to warn the younger generation against wrongdoing and to propagate middle-class virtues and moral values.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > English Department
Dewey Decimal Classification:820 English & Old English literatures
Uncontrolled Keywords:literature, plays, sentimental comedy, domestic tragedy, Richard Steele, George Lillo, politeness, historical pragmatics
Language:English
Date:2016
Deposited On:16 Feb 2016 13:33
Last Modified:08 Dec 2017 18:52
Publisher:De Gruyter
ISSN:1612-5681
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1515/pr-2015-0027

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