Caught in a Contract: Congreve, Farquhar and Contractarian Masculinities

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This essay analyses the inscription of manliness through the mechanics of contract-making in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Irish dramas. The works of William Congreve and George Farquhar are ‘full of contracts’, effectively dramatising a moment in history when contracts appear to replace hierarchical obligations as a medium of social exchange. Analysing comedies such as The Way of the World through the lens of contract theory, this chapter argues that their plots and character types dramatise the uneven distribution of agency within, as well as across, genders. Building on the work of Bridget Orr, this chapter argues that contract’s function as a gendered index of marginal or mainstream political status provides a context to discuss these authors’ problematic place within cultural histories of Irishness.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationIreland and Masculinities in History
EditorsRebecca Anne Barr, Sean Brady, Jane McGaughey
Place of PublicationBasingstoke
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-030-02638-7
ISBN (Print)978-3-030-02637-0
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Ireland
  • Gender
  • congreve
  • Farquhar
  • Drama

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Caught in a Contract: Congreve, Farquhar and Contractarian Masculinities'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Profiles

    No photo of James Ward

    James Ward

    Person: Academic

    Cite this

    Ward, J. (2019). Caught in a Contract: Congreve, Farquhar and Contractarian Masculinities. In R. A. Barr, S. Brady, & J. McGaughey (Eds.), Ireland and Masculinities in History (pp. 19-38). Palgrave Macmillan.