The West Indian
Indian was first performed at Drury Lane in
1770. Cumberland, with The West Indian, combined
two characters, each a victim of prejudice. He employs
the idea of trail, where the main character's ability
to respond successfully and proves his worth in
the eyes of others. In the opening scene, Stockwell,
who manages affairs for Belcour, is revealed to
tell his clerk, Stukely, that he is actually Belcour's
father. However, he does not wish to reveal this
fact to his son because he believes that he will
discover more of Belcour's character if his identity
was not revealed. Belcour is the product of a secret
marriage of Stockwell and the daughter of a West
Indian planter who is now dead. Forced by circumstances
to introduce their child into the family as a foundling,
Stockwell is hopeful when the planter benevolently
adopts the young man as his own son and made him
heir to his vast Jamaican holdings. As Belcour grows
into a man, he sets sail for England to try out
the civilization of his foster father while still
believing himself a Creole. Belcour leaves Stockwell
to pursue Louisa Dudley, yet instead he sympathizes
for Captain Dudley who is in financial ruin. He
leaves the Captain with two hundred pounds. After
a series of endeavors, Belcour claims Louisa's hand
and Stockwell reveals his identity.
Cumberland's reason for writing The West Indian was to mend the hearts of his audience by delivering them from the vanity and snobbery that impoverished their lives. The audience could feel benevolence for the social outcast without having really compromised their own social position. The author showed what not men were, but what they ought to be.
was a tragedy adapted by Sheridan from a German
play by Kotzbue on the Spanish conqueror of Peru.
A commercial success in its own time, Pizarro
achieved recognition comparable to The Beggar's
Opera. The original German play consists of
numerous characters. The chief characters is Pizarro,
a Spanish explorer who wants to grasp a piece of
the New World; Elvira, his paramour whom he seduced
when she was a novice in a convent; Alonzo, a young
Spanish warrior who discover the cruel acts of Pizarro
and is "married" to Cora; and Rolla, the
chief of the Inca tribe who holds an undying love
for the wife of Alonzo, Cora. The story sets in
the fortress of the Inca tribe, a series of battles
waged by Spanish and Peruvian troops are the main
events. In one battle, Alonzo is captured by Spanish
troops and Rolla risks his life to save him. Rolla
disguises himself as a monk and creeps into the
dungeon where Alonzo is kept for his execution.
He gives Alonzo his personal disguise and on his
own way out, Elvira sees him. She shares her plan
of murdering Pizarro with Rolla. Pretending to agree
to the murder, Rolla goes to the tent of Pizarro.
There, Pizarro wakes but accepts Rolla's challenge
to his magnanimity by setting him free. Meanwhile,
Alonzo returns home to Cora, but Rolla is captured
and sentenced to death. When two Spanish soldiers
have kidnapped the infant son of Alonzo and Cora,
Rolla takes the child from them and escapes by traversing
a bridge over a mountain stream. A bullet from a
Spanish weapon mortally wounds him and he returns
dying to the Peruvian stronghold. There, he places
the child in the arms of Cora and dies.
Sheridan overall follows the basic storyline of the original German Pizarro. However, he softens the character of Elvira to be a high-minded, yet low-fallen heroine. Sheridan also omits the long-winded opening scene and Elvira emerges as a woman with no illusions, taking her passion for Pizarro for what it is but at the same time maintaining her view of the ideal hero and conqueror that Pizarro still has it in him to be. In Act II, Sheridan heightens the heroism of Rolla. He combines a strong instinct for friendship with a sense of unfruitful virtuous love. The last scene is brief yet fiery over the debate of a truly noble man.
work that is considered by scholars to be the best
and richest example of poetic drama of the Romantic
age is The Cenci. Human innocence in Romantic
drama joins with the blameless hero best by calamity
with a new notion of the relationship between art
and life. The Cenci is a drama influenced
by Sophoclean and Euripidean tragedies with a touch
of Elizabethan richness in imagery or a drama with
the idea of Aristotelian pity and terror with a
mix of Italianate five-act structure. The play associates
Christian stoicism with idiosyncratic Platonism
with concepts of Zoroastrain religious thought.
Two also important influences include La Cenci
by Guido and the style of Eliza O'Neill, who made
a deep impression on Shelley.
The play begins
with an introduction to Count Cenci and exposes
to the audience his evil deeds. Next, there is a
description of Beatrice Cenci, who is a living contradiction.
Beatrice is elegant and gentle yet she is tortured
by circumstance that causes her to be violent. She
is persecuted by the Count and can turn to no one
but the priest, Orsino. There is a banquet and there,
the Count hints at the death of Beatrice's brothers.
As a kind of innocent Lady Macbeth, Beatrice begs
the noble guests to not leave and pleads them to
rescue her. In Act II, Shelley builds an even higher
pitch in Beatrice's agony at the abominable fate.
The Count finds her and she tries to escape. In
Act III, Beatrice makes an oath of vengeance and
the entire act is a prepares audiences for the murder
of Count Cenci. She commits a crime whimsically
and murders the Count in Act IV. Here, Shelley presents
two Beatrices, one in a life outside the storybook,
and one in the play whose nature derives from the
act she commits under extraordinary duress. This
is radical innocence, for the crime she commits
seems to be a separate matter to her character and
self. The two remaining scenes set in prison where
she is trailed. In the production of The Cenci
, there was sympathy or Beatrice, which first overwhelmed
audiences, yet soon became the highlight of the
term radical innocence.
Donohue, Joseph W. Jr. Dramatic Character in the English Romantic Age. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1970