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David Fletcher


One of the most distinctive features of the changing religious and cultural landscape in England between 1660 and 1720 was the reopening of the theatres, after their closure in 1642. This reawakening generated a rich repertoire of new plays. This thesis seeks to examine how these plays treated religion, broadly conceived, and what they tell us about both drama and attitudes to religious institutions and faith. Literary scholars have analysed these plays for their political, social, and cultural importance, and religion has been reflected to some extent in this work, but the plays have not been studied primarily through a religious lens. Also, historians have researched and written in depth about religion in this period, but drama has only featured in a minor way as one of many sources. Religion was one of the most ubiquitous issues of the period and the stage was one of its most striking cultural representations. This thesis brings together for the first time these two fundamental elements of life in England over the whole of the long Restoration period.

Many new plays of the period engaged with religious issues and included in their cast lists a wide range of religious characters, both clerical and lay. This thesis shows that most of these characters are shown in a negative light. Many of these portrayals were used to attack specific religious groups at particular times of conflict, but the relative absence of positive religious portrayals means that there is no counterbalancing force at work. The remorselessness of these negative portrayals raises the question of the attitude shown in these plays to religion in general. The central argument of this thesis is that, in a society where religion was so deep-rooted and contested, one of its most prominent cultural representations – the stage – projected a negative attitude to religion in general. In some cases, there is evidence of what one of the characters calls ‘a damn'd Atheistical Age’. The thesis ends with a suggestion that further research will be needed to test whether, perhaps, this view went deeper in late Stuart society.


‘A Herd of snivelling, grinning Hypocrites’: Religious Hypocrisy in Restoration Drama in Studies in Church History 60 (2024), 290–311. (Cambridge University Press on behalf of the Ecclesiastical History Society, May 2024).

'The clergy and marriage in Restoration Comedies', in Religion and life cycles in early modern England, eds. Caroline Bowden, Emily Vine and Tessa Whitehouse (Manchester University Press, October 2021).

Bubble Fever. A new audio-play about the South Sea Bubble based on the works of Daniel Defoe. A collaboration between University of Warwick History Department, Warwick Words, and the Loft Theatre, Leamington Spa. The play, plus an introductory essay, is published by Digital Defoe, at


Religion and the plays of Aphra Behn. Aphra Behn and her Restoration, Aphra Behn (Europe) Society's 8th International Conference, Univrsity of Kent, July 2024.

Christians as a minority sect in English drama, 1660-1720. Ecclesiastical History Society Summer Conference, July 2023.

The Atheism Spectrum – forms of atheism in Restoration drama. Rethinking Atheism in the Early Modern World - An Interdisciplinary Workshop, University of Durham, March 2023.

‘Prerogative Royal and absolute power’ – James II’s Declarations of Indulgence. Rule of Law workshop, Warwick, January 2023.

“The Popish Plot in a play” - Anti-Catholicism on the English stage, 1679-1681. Warwick History Postgraduate Conference 2022.

“A Stage-Sermon, or a Pulpit-Play” - Theatricality, and the liminality between the stage and the pulpit, 1660-1714. Pulpit, Playhouse & Page, University of Sheffield, May 2021.

Quaking Dress - representations of Quakers on the English stage, 1700-1720. English Theatre Culture 1660–1737, Online Symposium, Masaryk University, Brno, April 2021; and Disruptions to authority, 1450-1750 Compliance and challenge in early modern society, Royal Historical Society conference, June 2021.

"Enthusiastical or Fanatical Atheists" The Court Wits and Religious Identity. A Warwick PG Podcast with Hannah Straw and Maria Tauber.

Plots about plots in The Lancashire Witches by Thomas Shadwell. Plots, Cabals, and Conspiracies: the sociability of intrigue in the long eighteenth century, Sorbonne-Universite, January 2020.

The Trial of Queen Caroline - a dramatisation. A collaboration between University of Warwick History Department, Warwick Words, and the Loft Theatre, November 2019. An audio recording is now available free on the Loft Theatre website. Free audio recording

The Ballad of Lady Bessy: a new play about women and power in late 15th century England. Performing Power in the Pre-Modern World, University of Warwick, November 2019.

'Hypocritical Religionaries' remembered in Restoration drama. Bangor Conference on the Restoration, July 2019 and Ecclesiastical History Society Winter Meeting, January 2023

Nick them slab-dash with the ceremony’: The Clergy and Marriage in Restoration Comedy. Religion and the Life Cycle, 1500-1800, Queen Mary University of London, July 2018.

'Strangers and pilgrims on the earth’ - The mobility of nonconformist clergy after the 1662 Great Ejection. ‘Parishes and Migration’, Sixteenth Warwick Symposium on Parish Research, University of Warwick, May 2018.


2023 - present: Honorary Research Fellow, Department of History, University of Warwick

2016 - 2023: PhD candidate in History, University of Warwick

2015 - 2016: MA in Religious, Social & Cultural History, University of Warwick

2012 - 2015: Executive Director, National Opera Studio

2004 - 2012: Executive and Finance Director, Rose Theatre, Kingston upon Thames.

2003 - 2021: Trustee of the Young Vic Theatre.

1994 - 2003: Director of Finance and Administration, Royal Shakespeare Company

1982 - 2013: Bachelor of Arts, Open University

David Fletcher