Reference > Cambridge History > The Age of Dryden > The Restoration Drama > Their Enduring Popularity
  The Orphan and Venice Preserv’d Nathaniel Lee  

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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume VIII. The Age of Dryden.

VII. The Restoration Drama.

§ 11. Their Enduring Popularity.


The Orphan and Venice Preserv’d were extremely popular, and were played with some frequency down to the middle of the nineteenth century. Both plays are full of opportunities for effective acting, and the principal characters in them continued to be among the greatest triumphs, not only, when first produced, of the Bettertons and Mrs. Barry, but, also, of their most distinguished successors. Mrs. Siddons and Miss O’Neill were famous Belvideras and Monimias; Pierre was one of John Kemble’s most signal successes; and Garrick many times played Pierre, Jaffier and Chamont.  8    16
  The Atheist, or The Second Part of The Souldier’s Fortune completes the list of Otway’s plays. It was produced in 1684 and is as unsatisfactory as his previous efforts in comedy. In addition to the plays mentioned above, Otway wrote some poems and translations of no great importance. The most ambitious of the poems are The Poet’s Complaint of his Muse (1680), which is full of curious autobiographical touches; and Windsor Castle, published posthumously in 1685, a panegyric on Charles II. He also wrote, according to the fashion of the day, a few prologues and epilogues for his fellow-dramatists. He died, in 1685, in the utmost want and misery—one account says of actual starvation.   17
Though Otway failed as an actor, he possessed a strong sense of dramatic possibilities; and it is the combination of this sense with an original and individual genius, that will preserve his two chief efforts from oblivion.  9 

Note 8Venice Preserv’d was revived at Sadler’s Wells, in 1845, with Phelps as Jaffier and Mrs. Warner as Belvidera, and, as recently as 1904, the play was acted in London by the Otway Society. [ back ]
Note 9. For Hazlitt’s criticism of these two plays see his Lectures on the Dramatic Literature of the Age of Elizabeth, L. VIII (Collected Works, edd. Waller, A. R., and Glover, A., vol. V, pp. 354–5). In his first lecture (ib. p. 181) Hazlitt declares that “with the exception of a single writer, Otway, and of a single play of his (Venice Preserv’d) there is nobody in tragedy and dramatic poetry … to be compared to the great men of the age of Shakespeare and immediately after.” [ back ]

CONTENTS · VOLUME CONTENTS · INDEX OF ALL CHAPTERS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
  The Orphan and Venice Preserv’d Nathaniel Lee  
 
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