Tyranny in India

David Francis Taylor

in Theatres of Opposition

Published in print February 2012 | ISBN: 9780199642847
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191738869 | DOI:
Tyranny in India

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  • Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights)
  • Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)


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This chapter offers a detailed examination of Sheridan’s much-celebrated speeches during the impeachment of Warren Hastings, former governor general of India, in 1787–8. It begins by reading the letters of Sir Gilbert Elliot, one of the junior managers of the trial, as well as the caricatures of William Dent, as a means of considering the ways in which the impeachment’s spectators and media framed and assessed Sheridan’s oratorical body and voice as distinctively tragic. The chapter then turns to the speeches themselves, arguing that Sheridan harnessed theatrical forms—quoting from Hamlet and drawing upon the tropes of eighteenth-century sentimental tragedy—in order to render the difficult issues of race, gender, and imperial agency legible for his metropolitan audience

Keywords: Warren Hastings; Sheridan; trial; impeachment; oratory; tragedy; Shakespeare; body; voice; India; empire

Chapter.  19716 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights) ; Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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