The Entertainer


The Entertainer was a periodical that was released weekly every Wednesday. It ran from November 6, 1717, all the way to August 27, 1718. Based on the name itself, it could be perceived as a piece that covers the many intricacies and news dealing with the theatre world and various plays going on. However, it is actually a critique piece that is based on opinionated pieces about different issues going on within the government and society.

The very first issue gives a comforting tone to the readers, as even though it is an opinion piece, the authors state that they do not believe that they are above everyone else in regard to status. What is important about this section is the acceptance and general sense of belonging it conveys to the readers. Through this manner, The Entertainer is able to attach itself to various types of people on the premise that it is the paper for everyone.

The best way to sum up the periodical would be with a direct quote from its first issue.

“The politer and honester part of mankind are those to whom we shall appeal.”

The technique by The Entertainer is a tactful one. From the very first issue, the reader would be enthralled by a paper that is honest and straightforward to its audience. Even more so, it creates an illusion that those who read it would be the “politer and honester part of mankind” that the paper is supposed to appeal to. It is a brilliant pre-yellow journalism technique that The Entertainer used to capture the reader’s attention for future issues.

There were a few advertisements every few weeks or so that stretch across many different topics. Some of the interesting ads deal with the type of quack science discoveries that are passed on to misinformed readers. In the November 13, 1717, issue, there is an ad for a necklace that cures “all diseases external or internal,” while in the August 20, 1718 issue, there is an ad for a cream that rids the user of all facial blemishes.

The two main themes the periodical hit on were government and the virtues of the people. In some cases, religion was included but for the most part, it surrounded the former two topics.

The November 27, 1717


This issue, portrays both of the former points along with religion all in two pages. The whole issue deals with religion, government, virtues, and punishment, all within two pages. The Entertainer points out the fallacies with religion being bound to government in that it is ineffective. Since not everyone is the same religion, it is unfair to those who do not believe in Christianity since they can be punished for their beliefs.

This leads to their next topic, which are punishments. When it comes to punishing people for religious crimes, The Entertainer notes that they must either “forsake their God, or deny their allegiance to that government under which they were born.” The argument by The Entertainment also ties into virtues as it questions the consciences of the executioners who take part in this action.

The November 27th issue showcases the moral compass that The Entertainer plays. Instead of catering solely to one group of people, they provide a resistance to the common laws in their society. This is a glance at the government interest portion of the periodical. The Entertainer was able to provide insight on the wrongdoings in the government. This would at least allow those who were being affected know that at least someone is aware of what was going on. The Entertainer did more than just government commentaries to show they were aware, as they also included reader response sections.

Reader Response


Although it was an opinion paper, The Entertainer allowed reader response and even responded to reader’s suggestions or opinions. Akin to questionnaires in magazines or newspapers in modern society, The Entertainer was also in touch with its readership.

Calling them the “Candid Readers,” The Entertainer would print a letter from one of their readers followed by their own response.

The letters varied in subject month by month, but generally asked for either advice or input from The Entertainer. For instance, the January 1st issue provided a scenario the reader witnessed and she was looking for insight from The Entertainer. On the other hand, the June 18th issue featured a widow looking for advice about her son’s fortune.

To stay in touch with the people, The Entertainer did more than just touch on government policies and religious subjects. It also provided guidance for its readers.

Guidance


The Entertainment provided was consistent and not constrained only to the reader response issues. Case in point would be its May 7th issue which focused on ambition.

The Entertainer used ambition as a catalyst to help inspire people to make changes in their lives. The goal was to give its readers an appetite for ambition. In other words, the goal was to uplift. In this issue, The Entertainer pointed out what would happen to people if they lack ambition as it would make them “sluggish.” On the other hand, those full of ambition would be able to go after “great and noble undertakings” that they regularly would not be able to endure.

References


One thing to note about The Entertainer is the amount of references it makes to convey its points. These references range from Biblical references to historical references like Alexander or Achilles.

The Entertainer uses these references for two reasons.

1. Clarity through comparisons.

The February 12th issue uses multiple references to display the distinct differences between different nation’s customs. The references span from Euripides to Socrates, as The Entertainer explains what they did in their societies that make them unique from one another.

2. To motivate through example.

As stated earlier, the May 5th issue covers the use of ambition. To further press the notion of why it is needed, The Entertainer briefly mentions both Achilles and Alexander along with their accomplishments. With this, they are able to show what someone can achieve through hard work and dedication with real world examples.

The references are used as tools and only tools. With every reference seen within the periodical, there is a comparison to be made. At no point does The Entertainer use a reference for the sake of using a reference. Everyone has a purpose.

Overall, The Entertainer really is for the people. It provided an alternate look that strayed away from general monthly news by providing different perspectives on current situations. It also provided an outlet for people to express concerns about their own situations or situations within their government. Last but not least, it supported its readers with inspirational advice and what they needed to be happy.

It was an interesting mix of topics that gave The Entertainer a distinct difference from other periodicals. It was not constrained to any rules and throughout did not show bias. In fact, it attacked its own government and questioned many actions and ideals the government had.

What is most interesting about this periodical is how modern it seems. Many of its inclusions are apparent in magazines, newspapers, and especially blogs, today. The critiques on government and political commentary would fit right in with society today.

The Inquisition


The Inquisition: A Farce, was written by John Phillips and performed in the Child’s Coffee House. The play goes over conflict between the Whigs and Torries along with a brief critique of problems within the Church of England.

The origins of how religious laws were made is gone over in this play, as the disagreements between Protestants and Catholics is brought into question. One of the main characters, Christian, delves into the errors in religious practice by those who force their beliefs into another person’s conscience.

Zeal and Christian have a conversation about the current state of the Church of England. This is where the conflict between church and state is brought up. On one side, there is the argument that government belongs in church to prevent “confusion and anarchy.” On the other, is the argument that the “rewards and punishments” are to be handled by Christ, as he established the church’s power.

Why this is an important play is because the issues it addresses. Separation of church and state was a conflict that was apparent in the eighteenth century in that the church had a hand in what happened in politics. Because of this, Phillips is pointing out how people can use the power of the church to manipulate things to go their way. In this case, Zeal points out that government and the church being in the same bed benefits only those who hold power and takes power away from the only one who should hold it, Christ.

The name Inquisition is used because Zeal is arguing with those who want to contain governmental power within the church. Being a comedy, the Inquisition is seen as a farce because they are stripping power away from Christ and using it as their own.

1718 Theatre Plays


Theatre during 1718 was strong with the features of mainly two types of plays; tragedies and comedies. One of the main playhouses would be the Theatre Royal in Drury-Lane. A variety of plays were held here including The Twin-Rivals (a comedy), The Fable of Orpheus and Eurydice, and The Non-Juror. The Theatre Royal often held performances done by the King’s servants as opposed to London stage actors. In contrast, the Little Lincoln’s-Inn-Fields Theatre had performances primarily done by actors or comedians.

Being that there were a lot of comedies in this year, one of the themes that were a part of these plays was pointing out fallacies in the world. The Non-Juror, for example, was a response to the uprising of the Jacobites and Catholics in the area. Colley Cibber used the play as a patriotic gesture to the monarchy, signifying his allegiance to the Hanoverian monarchy.

Although they are often labeled as comedies, they also made political statements. Theatre was not solely based on entertaining but also pointing out inconsistences in government or mocking the way a certain party carries themselves. These comedies were an important part of theatre history in that they rose social and political awareness.

Three of the most prominent playwrights of this year would be Colley Cibber, Christopher Bullock and Susanna Centlivre.

Cibber worked on the famous play, The Non-Juror, which was frequently performed at the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane. Bullock wrote The Traytor with James Shirley which saw performances at The Little Inn Fields Theatre along with The Per-Juror. Centlivre worked on A Bold Stroke for a Wife, a comedy that was acted in five parts. At times, these playwrights worked together, including Cibber’s and Centlivre’s comedy, The Double Gallant: or, The Sick Lady’s Cure.

1718


The year 1718 was a year of raised awareness. Although The Entertainer did not address theatre plays to a great extent (only brief mentions), it had a similar modus operandi. The Entertainer was used to bring up topics that were relevant to every person in the state. It hit on use of religion and the power it held, along with topics concerning the political nature of the world. Overall, it was an attempt to raise its reader’s mind state and get them active and aware to what was going on. The stage plays did the same thing, through a different method. Instead of being told what was going on, it was acted on stage. The comedies were used for more than making people laugh, but to give people an entertaining example of fallacies within their government and state.

England was going through a period of religious battles within its own borders. Having these modes of communication, plays and periodicals, the people were able to put together their own opinions on the situations and make change. As history has shown, the change was not dealt with right away, nor was it picked up by the majority of English citizens. But The Entertainer and theatre in 1718 at the very least attempted to increase political activity among its people and have them think for themselves, not just follow their higher ups and believe everything they were told.

Works Cited

News, “The Entertainer.” London, November 6, 1717 - August 27, 1718.

Philips, J. (John). The inquisition. A farce. As it was acted at Child's Coffee-House, and the King's-Arms Tavern, In St. Paul's Church-Yard. Wherein the controversy between the Bishop of Bangor and Dr. Snape, is fairly stated, and set in a true Light. By Mr. J. Philips. London, 1717. Eighteenth Century Collections Online. Gale. University of Maryland College Park.

“The London stage, 1660-1800; a calendar of plays, entertainments & afterpieces, together with casts, box-receipts and contemporary comment.” Carbondale, Southern Illinois University Press, 1960-1968.