Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Tanya Caldwell - Chair

Second Advisor

Malinda G. Snow

Third Advisor

Stephen B. Dobranski


This study examines ways in which supporters of William III and his opponents used literature to buttress their respective views of government in the wake of the Glorious Revolution. Understanding the polemical character of this art provides more insight both into the literature of the 1690s and into the modes of political debate in the period. As the English people moved from a primarily hereditary view of monarchy at the beginning of the seventeenth century to a more elective view of government in the eighteenth century, the Glorious Revolution proved to be a watershed event. Those favoring James II relied on patriarchal ideas to characterize the new regime as illegitimate, and supporters of the coregent asserted the priority of English and Biblical law to assert that the former king forfeited his right to rule. Chapter one examines three thinkers – Robert Filmer, John Milton, and John Locke – whose thought provides a context for opinions expressed in the years surrounding William of Orange’s ascension to the English throne. In chapter two, John Dryden’s response to James II’s abdication is explored. As the deposed Poet Laureate and a prominent voice supporting of the Stuart line, Dryden sheds light on ways in which Jacobites resisted the authority of the new regime through his response to the Glorious Revolution. Chapter three addresses the work of Thomas Shadwell, who succeeded Dryden as Laureate, and Matthew Prior, whose poetry Frances Mayhew Rippy characterizes as “unofficial laureate verse.” These poets rely on ideas similar to those expressed by Milton and Locke as they seek to validate the events of 1688-1689. The final chapter explores the appropriation of varied conceptions of government in pamphlets and manuscripts written in favor of James II and William III. Focusing on the polemical character of these works from the late 1680s and the 1690s enhances our understanding of the period’s literature and the prominent interaction of politics and writing.