Robert Wild's The Benefice as "Country" Dramatic Satire
Hardin, Richard F.
Edinburgh University Press
Scholarly/refereed, publisher version
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One motive for writing a commentary on a play no one has read is to encourage reading it. Another may be to unearth its contemporary relevance, especially if it represents the viewpoint of a group of angry white males seldom voiced on stage. Robert Wild’s The Benefice,1 almost certainly written in late summer or fall 1641, and neglected by scholars and critics, offers some delightful comedy for the general reader, and even more for those who know something about the religion and politics of the period. The author earned popularity, modest immortality, and some abuse as a verse-writer and satirist in the Restoration era2; his sermons were sometimes admired; but his one play did not see print until 1689, ten years after his death. Specialists in Restoration drama have perhaps neglected it as unrelated to the Zeitgeist, written for an audience of an earlier time, living in a rural community. In its simplicity the play contrasts with the crowded stage and complex plots of Jonson’s comedies (which Wild greatly admired), let alone those of Restoration comedy. Although it is, strictly speaking, “Caroline” comedy, The Benefice does not fit in that slot either. The discussion that follows will offer some information on the life of this unusual “puritan” playwright and will attempt to convey some appreciation ofWild’s play, his message, and his informed sense of comedy and comic tradition as it existed in one of English culture’s starkest periods of transition.
- English Scholarly Works 
Hardin, Richard. "Robert Wild's The Benefice as "Country" Dramatic Satire," The Ben Jonson Journal 19.1 (2012): 23-44
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