Type / Thesis

Spectacles of Colonial Empire: Imagining the Aboriginals in British Early Modern Operas

I-Chun Wang

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The construction of spectacles for entertainments can be referred to the Greek and Roman periods when the public spectacles were intended for political purposes. During the European Age of Exploration, exploration initiated by the maritime powers brought up the culture of curiosities and the construction of the foreign on the stage. The spectacle culture was a mechanism for courtly entertainment and political propaganda during the period of Queen Elizabeth I and especially of King James I of Britain. With material culture as a fashion, operatic performances in the late seventeenth century and the eighteenth century cultivated a spectacle culture that brought in ethnography of aborigines as well as colonial discourses. Exploring the major playwrights in early modern Britain, this paper explores the spectacles of aboriginals in operas written by Purcell, D’Avenant, and Coleman and analyzes the visual representation of ethnic tribes as a part of colonial discourse in the formation of the British empire.

Keywords : spectacle, John Dryden, William D’Avenant, George Coleman the Younger, early modern operas
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