The French Revolution and the London Stage, 1789-1805

By George Taylor | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 7
Theatre and alienation

When trying to recapture a past time, its events, experiences, thoughts and feelings, historians used to conjure up a Spirit of the Age. This romantic concept has since been replaced by the more objective analysis of belief systems and their expression as ideology and culture. Within a generation of the Revolution, Marx posited a causal relationship between the social realities of economic power and the conceptual superstructure of politics, law, religion and art. This simple equation of base and superstructure has long been problematised, but it would be extremely foolish to reject Marx's essential argument about the dialectical relationship between cultural production and economic circumstances: 'Men are the producers of their conceptions, ideas, etc., … Developing their material production and their material intercourse, [they alter], along with this their real existance, their thinking and the products of their thinking. Life is not determined by consciousness, but consciousness by life'. 1

Yet the idealist thesis, the subject of Marx's attack – that concepts determine progress – was precisely that which had inspired the Enlightenment, and had been adopted by the Romantics in their belief that the individual imagination can encompass all possible experiences. I have endeavoured throughout this book to argue for the influence of circumstance over agency and that the process of Revolutionary events was far from what had been originally envisaged by those involved. Indeed, there was a very disturbing disjuncture between good intentions and evil effects. This was partly because real power was not in the hands of those politicians and artists who believed they were responsible for the events and for the rhetoric and images of the period, and partly because those with the power - capitalist entrepreneurs and military leaders - followed a different agenda, even though they professed, and perhaps thought

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The French Revolution and the London Stage, 1789-1805
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgements viii
  • Note on the Text x
  • Introduction 1
  • Chapter 1 - England and France in 1789 15
  • Chapter 2 - The Revolution 42
  • Chapter 3 - From the Federation to the Terror 68
  • Chapter 4 - Dramatising (the) Terror 97
  • Chapter 5 - Performance and Performing 127
  • Chapter 6 - The Shadow of Napoleon 156
  • Chapter 7 - Theatre and Alienation 188
  • Reflections Towards a Conclusion 220
  • Notes 226
  • Bibliography 249
  • Index 257
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