Rethinking Reform Comedies: Colley Cibber's Desiring Women

Elaine M. McGirr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Against the critical consensus, this article argues that reform comedies are significant aesthetic and ideological works, dramatically coherent and expertly crafted, with a clear moral and satirical intent. Focusing on Colley Cibber, and especially his The Careless Husband (1704), I demonstrate that a detailed examination of these comedies, and especially of their stagecraft, challenges long-held critical beliefs about the eighteenth century stage and its representation of women. Cibber’s satires are not misogynistic attacks on woman’s supposedly natural hypocrisy, but rather moral comedies of manners and performative social behaviours that allow women to gain their ends and satisfy their desires
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)385-397
Number of pages12
JournalEighteenth-Century Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • Cibber
  • sentimental drama
  • women in theatre

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