Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


College of Humanities and Social Sciences



Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

W. C. Nielsen

Committee Member

Catherine Keohane

Committee Member

Jeffrey Miller


In this thesis, I examine Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s plays The Camp (1778), and The Glorious First o f June (1794), and Pizarro (1799), and how they dealt with the British invasion crisis of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. I investigate how Sheridan’s theatrical works confronted and presented British fears of national/racial annihilation and in turn how society used these plays to understand them. In particular, I want to consider the ways Sheridan’s works attempted to influence the audience members’ feelings about participating in the military to defend the British nation. Although Sheridan’s play Pizarro is often examined in regards to how British national identity shaped ideas surrounding British colonial activities as well as the invasion crisis, I take a broader look at Sheridan’s works and the ways they dealt with the interactions of national identity, class, and gender within the defense of the British nation during this period.). I argue that, for Sheridan, the problem of who was left to defend the British nation was ultimately an issue of the lack of male members of the middle-class taking part in the military in a defensive capacity in Great Britain. Sheridan’s military plays are marked by their problematic portrayal of middle-class characters who involved in the fight to defend their homeland; despite the level of class-consciousness in the plays there is a dearth of middle-class characters over all. The ones that are present are marked by corruption and greed, and more often than not problematize national defense rather than support it. Sheridan’s plays call for increased, active male middle-class participation in the defense of the British nation at a time in which the primary concern of the nation, regardless of class or political affiliation, was its military defense. Sheridan’s choice to use theatrical performance along with his political position to achieve these goals shows the power and dexterity of the stage to influence public opinion and even an audience’s ways of identifying and understanding its own national and racial selfhood.

File Format