The role of the heroines in Restoration and Augustan drama
The heroines in Restoration and Augustan drama traditionally have been divided into the categories of sentimental and witty, with the former quickly dismissed as shallow and unrealistic, and the latter equally dispensed with after being classifies as clever and caustic. Both types of heroines deserve more than a cursory glance, however, because they are complicated, realistic and psychologically plausible characters.The sentimental heroines have never been closely analyzed, so their roles are examined first to establish that they are both realistic and human characters. This analysis is covered in Chapter I: Indiana in The Conscious Lovers by Sir Richard Steele: A Naïve Heroine; Chapter II: Lady Easy in The Careless Husband by Colley Cibber: A Virtuous Heroine; and Chapter III: Jane Shore in The Tragedy of Jane Shore by Nicholas Rowe: A Penitent Heroine. After a summarizing and dividing chapter, a transitional heroine is introduced in Chapter V: Millwood in The London Merchant by George Lillo. Millwood bridges the gap between sentimental and witty heroines. The witty heroines are then analyzed and contrasted in Chapter VI: Harriet in The Man of Mode by George Etherege: A Witty Heroine; and Millamant in The Way of the World by William Congreve: The Ideal Heroine, in Chapter VII. The purpose of the chapters examining the witty heroines is to demonstrate that while both sentimental and witty heroines are realistic, the witty heroines are more likeable, memorable and admirable because they exhibit more positive traits.The order of the plays was chosen for two reasons. The sentimental heroines are presented first because their roles have not heretofore been examined; therefore their explication is of foremost importance. The plays are also presented in ascending order of importance, culminating in the discussion of the ideal heroine of the Restoration and Augustan dramas—Congreve’s Millamant.