Hannah Cowley’s most popular plays were her domestic comedies. These engaged so deeply with the dramatic and literary traditions of her predecessors and contemporaries that she was sometimes accused of plagiarism. However, her goal in writing her plays as they address national issues was to reinforce national traditions through her arts and stir pride for them in her plays. Simultaneously, her themes and characters demonstrate that England’s future strength as a center of empire depended upon the talents of those formerly marginalized—in particular, provincials and women artists. This essay examines three of Cowley’s strategic domestic comedies: The Runaway (1776); The Belle’s Stratagem (1780); and The Town Before You (1795). Through these plays, we see the playwright participating in a late eighteenth-century revival and transformation of the georgic mode as she places women, provincials, and other perceived outsiders at the heart of the expanding empire.

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