This article explores the significance of the figures of folly in four plays by Margaret Cavendish: The Matrimonial Trouble, published in her first volume of drama, Playes, in 1662, and The Presence, The Bridals and The Convent of Pleasure from the 1668 Plays, Never Before Printed. An author of considerable breadth and some influence in her day, Cavendish, who also published poetry, natural philosophy, essays and a plethora of other genres, wrote at a time when the literature of folly, immensely popular only a few decades earlier, fell out of favour. After close consideration of the ways artificial fools are used in the four aforementioned plays, Cavendish’s decision to include these fools – so far largely passed over in criticism – is interpreted as an example of her creative appropriation of early modern folly as a discursive phenomenon which was, at its height in the works of Erasmus, Shakespeare, Rabelais and others, employed as a way of questioning the knowledge of the ostensibly reasonable world.
Margaret Cavendish, early modern comedy, fools, folly, Shakespeare,humanism
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