Indian Characters

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Introduction to Character Type

Indian characters occur infrequently in this collection's plays; curiously, all the plays that contain Indian characters premiered in 1774. These plays portray Indian characters more or less sympathetically. The dialects of these characters do not follow a standard pattern.

Samuel Foote's The Cozeners (1774; published 1778) portrays Marianne, an enslaved Indian girl, as an idiot. A marriage has been arranged between Toby Aircastle, a country squire's son and Marianne, who is supposed to be a Nabob heiress; however, the young man refuses to go through with the match when he realizes that his fiancée is not white. Marianne repeats "iss" for "yes", calls a clock a "tick-tick" and does not understand the degree of subterfuge required for her dealings with Toby Aircastle. She is intended to be amusing, although the effect is more pathetic than comic.

Bussora, the Indian servant in Hugh Kelly's The Romance of an Hour (1774), is portrayed more sympathetically; although he has the most difficulty in communicating with the other characters, he serves as a touchstone to the follies of British values: "Ah! Mr. Brownlow, wrong ting one place, right ting another. Wrong ting in India lady no to love husband; very right ting for English lady to hate husband heartily" (Kelly 8). Bussora's willingness to speak the truth leads to the play's successful conclusion. The play contains another Indian character, the heiress Zelida, whose Muslim father and English mother have educated her in the Western tradition. Zelida is treated with the same reverence as any English heiress in the collection and her speech does not distinguish her from her English friends and lovers.

Finally, the eponymous Mogul of Elizabeth Inchbald's The Mogul Tale (1774; published 1788) is an English character in all but his name and his seraglio: his language is nearly perfect (save for a grammar error typical of English characters in other parts of the collection), and, despite his pretensions of cruelty, he is kinder to his English visitors than they have been to residents of his own country.

The Indian characters in this collection do not follow a set speech pattern or a recurring character type.

Works Cited:

Kelly, Hugh. The Romance of an Hour. London: G. Kearsley, 1774. Literature Online. 11 August 2008.

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List of Plays

The Cozeners (Foote)

The Mogul Tale (Inchbald)

The Romance of an Hour (Kelly)

The School for Scandal (R.B. Sheridan)

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©2008 Arden Hegele