David Garrick and the Development of English Comedy: A Study of Adaptation on the Eighteenth-Century Stage

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David Garrick was an assiduous reader and collector of older English, and to some extent French plays and we can see him looking backwards, searching out and buying extant play collections offered for sale. Some of these plays he remodeled and imitated for his company. Looking forward, beyond him, we can see that his work was in turn admired, read, and subsequently translated and imitated. Garrick the reader became Garrick the read. He forms, therefore, a bridge in the movement and development of comedy in the eighteenth century.

Alan Swanson brings his considerable knowledge of theater and linguistic talent to bear on tracing a genealogy of four adaptations, or imitations of a single play over a span of 120 years. He examines not only how the play has been transformed, but why, and in doing so provides insight into evolving cultural change and public tastes.


“The author’s enthusiasm for his subject is infectious, and he seems the ideal person to write on such witty civilized pieces of theatre. He is perfectly at home with this kind of material. In sum, this book offers perceptive literary insight coupled with profound historical scholarship. Most engagingly, it is written in an elegant and engaging style – one which matches the elegance of the plays themselves. In my opinion, this will be found to be a most valuable study, and I trust that it will soon appear in every respectable library.”
Prof. Alasdair A. MacDonald,
University of Groningen

“For me, the details on who the principle figures were, from authors to companies, from actors to directors, creates a panoply of material that would be useful and fruitful in further explanations.”
Prof. Bertil van Boer,
Western Washington University
“Alan Swanson brings his considerable knowledge of European theater and history not to mention considerable linguistic talent to bear in tracing the genealogy of a series of four adapatations, or imitations of a play over 120 years. David Garrick, wine merchant, actor, playwright, and theatrical entrepreneur is the pivot of this study. His acting was praised everywhere and his plays were much translated. These plays also describe an interesting social trajectory, enmeshed with the decorum of the day.”
Prof. Susan Brantly,
University of Wisconsin

Table of Contents

Foreword by Susan Brantly
Chapter One – Originality and Imitation
Chapter Two – Variation on a Theme
Chapter Three – Imitation and Translation
Chapter Four – A Gustavian Civil Servant, An Excursus
Chapter Five – New Variations on an Old Theme
Chapter Six – Change and Continuity

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