© 2016

Partial Histories

A Reappraisal of Colley Cibber


Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-ix
  2. Elaine M. McGirr
    Pages 1-22
  3. Back Matter
    Pages 189-210

About this book


This book explores the multiple portrayals of the actor and theatre manager Colley Cibber, king of the dunces, professional fop, defacer of Shakespeare and the cruel and unforgiving father of Charlotte Charke. But these portraits of Cibber are doubly partial, exposing even as they paper over gaps and biases in the archive while reflecting back modern desires and methodologies. The Colley Cibber ‘everybody knows’ has been variously constructed through the rise of English literature as both a cultural enterprise and an academic discipline, a process which made Shakespeare the ‘nation’s poet’ and canonised Cibber’s enemies Pope and Fielding; theatre history’s narrative of the birth of naturalism; and the reclamation and celebration of Charlotte Charke by women’s literary history. Each of these stories requires a Colley Cibber to be its butt, antithesis, and/or bête noir. This monograph challenges these partial histories and returns the theatre manager, playwright, poet laureate and bon viveur to the centre of eighteenth-century culture and cultural studies.


theatre history Eighteenth-Century Literature Shakespeare cultural studies Charlotte Charke playwright theatre manager poet laureate reappraisal canon

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Drama and TheatreRoyal Holloway, University of LondonEghamUnited Kingdom

About the authors

Elaine M. McGirr is Head of Drama at Royal Holloway, University of London, UK.  She is the author of Heroic Mode and Political Crisis, 1660-1745 (2009) and Eighteenth-Century Characters (2007) as well as chapters and articles on Shakespearean adaptation, the novels of Samuel Richardson, the politics of Aphra Behn, and the authority of actresses.

Bibliographic information


“Partial Histories does usefully prod us to consider and reject the many dismissive and derogatory verdicts on Colley Cibber, who was an actor, manager, and theater historian of both importance and distinction.” (Robert D. Hume, Eighteenth-Century Life, Vol. 43 (3), 2019)