Performing Libertinism in Charles II's Court: Politics, Drama, Sexuality examines the performative nature of Restoration libertinism by reading reports of libertine activities and texts of libertine plays within the context of the fraternization between George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, Sir Charles Sedley, Sir George Etherege, and William Wycherley. Webster argues that libertines, both real and imagined, performed traditionally secretive acts, including excessive drinking, sex, sedition, and sacrilege, in the public sphere. This eruption of the private into the public challenged a Stuart ideology that distinguished between the nation's public life and the king's and his subjects' private consciences. Although this eruption was contained by the early 1680s, the libertine performances this book analyzes nevertheless played an important part in the history of English radicalism.
"Performing Libertinism is a well-written and thoroughly researched study that makes a genuine contribution to our understanding of libertinism at the Stuart court between 1660 and 1685. By discussing the performative aspect of the lives and literary careers of figures such as Rochester, Buckingham, Etherege, and Wycherley, Professor Webster offers an original and useful analysis of the ways in which the theater, politics, and social life intersect in the 1660s and 1670s. In emphasizing the complex ways in which libertine literature both challenged and reinforced the sociopolitical prerogatives of the court, Professor Webster has written an important study that will be required reading for scholars in the field." - Robert Markley, University of Illinois
"Webster shows how the libertine was gradually pushed from the center of court life to the margins, and he explains why King Charles may have felt it necessary to distance himself from these men who had been his friends. This is a fascinating study that helps to make sense of one of the most challenging periods of English dramatic history. I think it will transform our understanding of the libertine and explain the contradictions that have confounded scholars for so long." - George Haggerty, University of California, Riverside