A History of Late Nineteenth Century Drama, 1850-1900 - Vol. 1

A History of Late Nineteenth Century Drama, 1850-1900 - Vol. 1

A History of Late Nineteenth Century Drama, 1850-1900 - Vol. 1

A History of Late Nineteenth Century Drama, 1850-1900 - Vol. 1

Excerpt

With these two volumes is brought to an end the general history of the English drama from the year when Charles II was restored to the throne down to the conclusion of the Victorian epoch. Although A History of Restoration Drama was published in 1923 as a separate volume, it was originally planned as the first of the series of studies which now reaches completion.

Each of these studies has been concerned with a characteristic and distinct manifestation of theatrical activity. Beginning with a thoroughly aristocratic heroic tragedy and comedy of manners, the theatre passed, during the first half of the eighteenth century, into new hands which turned out balladoperas and comedies of a growing sentimental flavour. By the middle of the century, the stage had become definitely bourgeois and extreme forms of sentimentalism flourished alongside incipient romanticism. Once more, in the first half of the nineteenth century, the scene changed; during this time the playhouses became essentially "popular", with noisy audiences taking vivid enjoyment in melodramas and various forms of extravaganza.

Now, in the period 1850-1900, we return to a theatrical atmosphere which is not so markedly restricted to particular classes within the community and which hence exhibits something of that breadth of spirit and wider vision which once animated the stage during the reign of Queen Elizabeth. If the Victorian drama did not succeed in reaching the heights attained three centuries before, the failure is to be traced, not to lack of universality in appeal, but rather to the prevailing materialism of the age -- a materialism that restricted the scope of the playwrights and effectively prohibited that larger utterance from which the characters and . . .

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