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 Thomas Shadwell

Thomas Shadwell

Birth
Norfolk, England
Death 19 Nov 1692 (aged 49–50)
Chelsea, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, Greater London, England
Burial Westminster, City of Westminster, Greater London, England
Plot Poets' Corner
Memorial ID 20897 · View Source
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Playwright, Poet. He was England's Poet Laureate from 1689 until his death. An important figure of Restoration drama, he won fame for his rough-humored but sharply observed comedies set in contemporary London. They were influenced by the style of Ben Jonson, whom Shadwell idolized. The finest of them are "Epsom Wells" (1672) and "The Squire of Alsatia" (1688). But he is best remembered for losing a scurrilous war of wits with poet-playwright John Dryden. Shadwell was born in Norfolk, England, and educated at Cambridge University and at the Middle Temple in London. After the Restoration of the English monarchy in 1660 he served as a courtier for Charles II; evidently he was unsuccessful, since his first play, the Molière adaptation "The Sullen Lovers" (1668), satirized the royal court. Shadwell's relationship with Dryden (Poet Laureate from 1668) was friendly enough for most of the 1670s, even if Dryden found his worship of Jonson annoying. This changed with the Exclusion Crisis (1678 to 1681), in which Parliament unsuccessfully sought to remove the Duke of York (the future James II) as heir presumptive to the British throne because he was Roman Catholic. Shadwell favored the Exclusion Bill, stirring up public feeling with his anti-popist play "The Late Lancashire Witches" (1681), while Dryden supported the opposing Tory Party. In 1678 Dryden began circulating in manuscript his brilliant mock-heroic poem "MacFlecknoe", satirizing Shadwell for poetic bad taste and incompetence. The victim eventually learned about the poem and retaliated against Dryden in "The Medal of John Bayes, A Satire of Folly and Knavery" (1682); Dryden replied in the second part of his "Absalom and Achitophel" (1682) with a wicked portrait of Shadwell as the character Og. Soon afterwards an unauthorized edition of "MacFlecknoe" was published and Shadwell's historical reputation was sealed. It directly influenced Alexander Pope's 18th Century masterpiece "The Dunciad". Thanks to his visible role as an Exclusionist and the ascent of James II, Shadwell was unable to get a play produced for seven years. In the preface to his translation of Juvenal's "The Tenth Satire" (1687) he offered a feeble last response to Dryden's mockery. But he enjoyed some satisfaction after James II was deposed in the Protestant-led Glorious Revolution of 1688. He triumphantly returned to the stage with "The Squire of Alsatia", and when Catholic convert Dryden was sacked as Poet Laureate, Shadwell was appointed to succeed him. In this capacity he introduced the annual New Years and birthday odes to the monarch that were obligatory for over a century. Shadwell was notoriously intemperate, his habits exacerbated by the events of the 1680s. Dryden described his fictional counterpart Og as "a drunken mass of foul corrupted matter". Alcoholism and obesity led to his contracting gout, and he grew dependent on opium to relieve the pain. He died of an overdose at 50. Shadwell's gravesite at Chelsea Old Church was destroyed during World War II bombing, but he has a fine memorial in Poets' Corner of Westminster Abbey. His other plays include "The Humourists" (1670), adaptations of Molière's "The Miser" (1672) and Shakespeare's "The Tempest" ("The Enchanted Island", 1674), "The Virtuoso" (1676), "Bury-Fair" (1689), and "The Scowrers" (1690).

Bio by: Bobb Edwards


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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 23 Mar 2001
  • Find A Grave Memorial 20897
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Thomas Shadwell (1642–19 Nov 1692), Find A Grave Memorial no. 20897, citing Westminster Abbey, Westminster, City of Westminster, Greater London, England ; Maintained by Find A Grave .