The eighteenth century is famous for producing literary satire, primarily in verse (and later prose) form. However, during this period, a new dramatic form also arose of which satire was the controlling element. And like the writers of prose and verse satires, playwrights of dramatic satire claimed that their primary aim was the correction of moral faults and failings. Of course, they did not always succeed in this aim. History has shown a few, however, to have had a significant impact on the ideas and lives of their audiences. This thesis is an attempt to demonstrate how these satiric dramas achieved their reformative aims by tracing the theatrical experience of an eighteenth-century audience through Victor Turner's stages of liminality. Turner explains the different ways in which specific genres of theatre (1) create a performance space that is apart from, but still draws symbolically on, the outside world, (2) invite the participation of their audiences in that space, and (3) urge audiences to act in different ways as they leave the theatre space. By examining plays in these ways, we can see how the plays affected the ideas and outlooks of audience members. Because satiric drama invited a high level of participation from audience members, because it invited them into a very "liminal" space, it frequently served to sway audience members' tastes, and in some cases even helped to revolutionize social and literary institutions.



College and Department

Humanities; English



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satire, satiric drama, Beggar's Opera, Tragedy of Tragedies, Chrononhotonthologos, liminality, eighteenth-century drama, John Gay, Henry Fielding