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Shadwell, Thomas

(circa 1640-1692) UK poet and playwright, Poet Laureate from 1688 until his death. Of his plays – which are now better esteemed than for the centuries after his death – The Tempest, or The Enchanted Island [for subtitle see Checklist below] (performed 1674; 1690 chap) is of some interest, though its attempts to present the fantastic in terms of spectacle now seem lame. Of greater sf interest is The Virtuoso: A Comedy Acted at the Duke's Theatre (first performed 1676 Duke's Theatre, London; 1676), which uses a wide range of Restoration Comedy devices to create a Satirical portrait of the Royal Society and its early Scientists, its main target being Robert Hooke (1635-1703) as Sir Nicholas Gimcrack, the virtuoso of the title. A variety of Proto SF Clichés are mocked, including an implausible voyage to the Moon, whose peoples are constantly at war, blood transfusions between lunatics and sheep, and discussions of human flight. The Industrial Revolution is adumbrated by Gimcrack's Invention of an engine-driven loom. [JC]

Thomas Shadwell

born Weeting, Norfolk: circa 1640

died Chelsea [now London]: 19 November 1692

works (selected)


Entry from The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction edited by John Clute, David Langford, Peter Nicholls and Graham Sleight.
Accessed 20:34 pm on 3 August 2020.