British Drama of the Industrial Revolution by Frederick Burwick

By Frederick Burwick

Among the arrival of the French Revolution and the short-lived good fortune of the Chartist flow, overworked and underpaid labourers struggled to accomplish cohesion and collective bargaining. That heritage has been advised in different bills of the age, yet by no means sooner than has it been informed by way of the theatre of the interval. to appreciate the play lists of a theatre, it can be crucial to check the group which that theatre serves. within the labouring-class groups of London and the provinces, the performances have been tailored to fit the neighborhood audiences, no matter if weavers, or miners, or box employees. analyzing the stipulations and features of consultant provincial theatres from the 1790s to 1830s, Frederick Burwick argues that the that means of a play adjustments with each swap within the functionality position. As contributing elements in that adjust, Burwick attends to neighborhood political and cultural situations in addition to to theatrical actions and advancements in different places.

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To the edict issued at the reopening of the Lyceum in January 1821, that theatre was not permitted to ‘act, represent or perform, any Interlude, Tragedy, Comedy, Opera, Play, Farce, or other Entertainments of the Stage’, Samuel James Arnold, who eleven years earlier had assumed the management of the Lyceum from his father, chose to respond with defiant ‘good humour’. ’ Referring to his company as ‘Their Magistrates’ Servants’ (rather than ‘His Majesty’s Servants’), Arnold goes on to insist that the performers are not conventional actors, but puppeteers, disembodied voices, and talking heads.

In a clever scene in The Ayrshire Legatees, the Reverend Pringle writes to the Schoolmaster Micklewham, admitting that he has attended a performance at Drury Lane, quickly excusing his actions so that the elders do ‘not think that I was there to see a carnal stage play, whether tragical or comical, or that I would so far demean myself and my cloth, as to be a witness to the chambering and wantonness of ne’er-du-weel play-actors’ (Galt, 131). The performance, Pringle explains, was an oratorio, presented with such an ‘edifying exercise of psalmody and prayer’, that the theatre was converted into a church, and the audience became the congregation gathered at a high service before the altar of the stage.

The following night, when she appeared as Rosalind in As You Like It (14 February 1826), a similar disruption was attempted but was quickly hushed. Genest wrote that ‘she was a very pretty woman and a very pleasing actress, but she never would have travelled about as a Star, if it had not been for circumstances totally unconnected with the stage’ (Genest, 9:358–9). Following her performance at Birmingham on 11 March 1831, she resigned from the stage and a month later she married Charles Stanhope, 4th Earl of Harrington.

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