Mitford vs. Hemans: Resisting the “Omnipotence of Words” in Dramatic Romance and Romantic Drama

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Romance poetry, drama, and theatrical productions shared common elements in the early nineteenth century, reflecting a hybridization of genres characteristic of Romanticism. In both published and performed work, the verse romances, dramatic poems, and staged historical tragedies of Mary Russell Mitford and Felicia Hemans bear comparison in featuring silence and withdrawal in the parts of lead characters. Mitford's and Hemans's use of antitype characters to represent large-scale national crises reflects their mutual grounding in German theater and drama, particularly that of Friedrich Schiller. Each poet has been associated with liberal idealism in representing corruptions of language as a sign of tyranny, and each poet develops characters who resist and evade the dictums of authority through silence. Nevertheless, Mitford's approach differs from Hemans's in the deployment of silent resistance to test problems with liberal idealism. Hemans emphasizes futility to alter a patriarchal script of destiny so that her resisting characters can only connect with audiences in a future time and cannot affect their own moment, while Mitford brings alternate possibilities within reach of her resisting characters in their time, leaving them to face a tentative future yet to be defined.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)407-420
Number of pages14
JournalLiterature Compass
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • Literature and Literary Theory

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