Thomas Southerne (1659-1746) Irish dramatist and his famous works

Thomas Southerne (1659-1746) was an Irish dramatist. He was educated at Trinity College, Dublin. Then he traveled to London to study law but found success as a playwright. He wrote prologues and epilogues for several of his friend John Dryden’s plays, whose Cleomenes he revised and completed.

He wrote his first play The Persian Prince, or The Loyal Brother (1682) to pay honour to the Duke of York, later James II and satires Shaftesbury and the Whigs like Thomas Otway’s Venice Preserv’d . His best plays were composed when the Orange dramatists had come to the limelight. He wrote several comedies but is chiefly remembered for his two highly successful tragedies, The Fatal Marriage or the Innocent Adultery (1694) and Oroonoko (1695), both based on novels by Aphra Behn. The Fatal Marriage is based on Aphra Behn’s The History of the Nun, with the addition of a comic underplot. It was frequently revived, and in 1757 was altered by David Garrick and produced at Drury Lane. It was known later as Isabella or The Fatal Marriage. His comedies are feeble in the exposure of sentiments and cynically inelegant.

His other plays include The Wives’ Excuse (1669), The Disappointment, or the Mother in Fashion (1684), The Maid’s Last Prayer,  The Fate of Capua (1700); The Spartan Dame (1719), and Money the Mistress (1726).

Jonathan Swift, John Dennis, Colley Cibber, and other friends testified to his good nature, but little is known of his life. He is regarded as a successor to Otway in the art of pathos, and as a link between the Restoration tragedy and the sentimental tragedies of the 18th century.

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