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"Forget Scotland": Plays by Scots on the London Stage, 1667-1715 Adrienne Scullion Willie, you must forget Scotland, and conform yourself to the Customs of England—David Crawford, Courtship à-la-mode The 1660 reopening of the playhouses brought little hint that the Scottish theater could soon win new and popular life. Religious opposition and municipal bureaucracy restricted theater and other public entertainments in Scotland to a significant degree ; at least in terms of repertoire and—as far as may be deduced—personnel, such theater as existed was an extension of the London stage. Further, it at best operated erratically. Individuals ambitious of a career in the drama had to travel south— perhaps picking up work with the provincial companies scattered across England or travelling on to London where a rich professional theater culture was flourishing. Several Scots chose this option, and the turn of the century saw a number of plays by Scots being produced on the London stage. However, with few models of Scottish dramaturgy to draw upon, these new playwrights turned for inspiration to the generic conventions of the London stage and wrote social comedies within the vernacular of the contemporary Restoration stage. Their plays were not only written to appeal to metropolitan audiences but—perhaps more significantly—also made no attempt to develop or display a particularly Scottish sensibility. Locked in a series of dramaturgical and linguistic orthodoxies and operating within a cultural climate determinedly pursuing national stability and even unity, it is understandable that the codes of representation which these writers employed were fully Anglocentric. In fact (and this is, perhaps, a point of crushing predictability as well as of crucial importance), where a non-Shakespearean Scot does appear on the London stage during this period it is in the minor role of the comic servant. In Scotland the audience for theater evolved slowly: drama existed mostly in closet form, with plays like Marciano; or, The 105 106"Forget Scotland"; Plays by Scots Discovery by Edinburgh lawyer William Clerke (1663) and The Assembly (1695) and Tollerators and Controllators (c.1703) by Alexander Pitcairne being circulated as printed texts in the capital's taverns and coffee- and chocolate-houses.1 These indigenous plays did not use the vernacular any more than was the case in the plays by the "London-Scots," though they did deal with issues and institutions (the Church of Scotland and Edinburgh 's Faculty of Advocates, for example) of topical significance at home but of less immediacy outside Scotland. These "Scottish" plays tended towards a highly-localized, politicallymotivated satire that was missing from the London plays, which largely adhered to the Restoration idiom of social and manners comedy. Circulated within a small Edinburgh coterie, the plays of Clerke and Pitcairne were thus of limited popular influence when compared to the financial and cultural potential of a successful London premiere. In contrast, Thomas St. Serfe (or Sydserf), David Crawford (printed "Craufurd"), and Newburgh Hamilton sought to produce their work in the south: their witty social satires, designed for the highly professional companies of Drury Lane and Lincoln's Inn Fields with their strict hierarchies of players, tight production schedules, and knowledgeable—if occasionally fickle—audiences, responded to and met with the particular demands of the London stage. St. Serfe led the wave of "London-Scots" plays with Tarugo's Wiles; or, The Coffee-House, staged by the Duke's Company at Lincoln's Inn Fields on 5 October 1667.2 St. Serfe was the son of a bishop of Galloway, had served under the Marquis of Montrose, and, from 1661, had published the Mercurius Caledonius (or Caledonian Mercury), the first indigenous Scottish newspaper. Tarugo's Wiles, his only dramatic work, was the first play written by a Scot to be played in London, and the only play written by a Scot performed in the metropolis before 1700. Its source is Agustín Moreto y Cabana's intrigue comedy No puede ser, which was also imitated by John Crowne in Sir Courtly Nice.3 The diarist Samuel Pepys was turned away from a full house on the first night, saw it on a subsequent night, but judged it "the most ridiculous, insipid play that ever I...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 105-128
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-05
Open Access
No
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