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The Rehearsal


From The Oxford Companion to English Literature,  ed. Margaret Drabble.

The Reharsal, a farcical comedy attributed to George Villiers, second duke of *Buckingham, but probably written by him in collaboration with others, among whom are mentioned Samuel *Butler and Martin Clifford, master of the Charterhouse; printed 1672.

The play satirizes the heroic tragedies of the day, and consists of a series of parodies of passages from these, strung together in an absurd heroic plot. The author of the mock play is evidently a laureate (hence his name 'Bayes'), and *D'Avenant was probably intended; but there are also hits at *Dryden (particularly his Conquest of Granada) and his brothers-in-law, Edward and Robert Howard. Bayes takes two friends, Smith and Johnson, to see the rehearsal of his play, and the absurdity of this work (which includes the two kings of Brentford, entering hand in hand), coupled with the comments of Bayes, his instructions to the actors, and the remarks of Smith and Johnson, remains highly entertaining. Prince Pretty-man, Prince Volscius, and *Drawcansir are among the characters. It was one of the earliest of English dramatic *burlesques, and was much performed during the 18th cent., during which period the genre developed to one of its highest points in Sheridan's *The Critic. The work helped to inspire *Marvell's The Rehearsal Transpros'd (1672; Pt II, 1673).

Drawcansir, a character in Buckingham's *The Rehearsal, parodying Almanzor in *Dryden's The Conquest of Granada; he appears briefly in the last act in a mock-heroic stage battle, and according to the stage directions, 'kills 'em all on both sides'. *Carlyle, in his history of *Frederick the Great, refers to the 'terrific Drawcansir figures' of the French revolution, 'of enormous whiskerage, unlimited command of gunpowder . . . and even a certain heroism, stage-heroism'.

burlesque, from the Italian burla, ridicule, mockery, a literary composition or dramatic representation which aims at exciting laughter by the comical treatment of a serious subject or the caricature of the spirit of a serious work. Notable examples of burlesque in English literature are Butler's *Hudibras and Buckingham's *The Rehearsal.

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