Specimens of English Dramatic Criticism, XVII-XX Centuries

By A. C. Ward | Go to book overview

'THE BEGGAR'S OPERA': 19TH CENTURY

THE BEGGAR'S OPERA was acted at Covent Garden last night, for the purpose of introducing Miss Stephens in the character of Polly. The play itself is among the most popular of our dramas, and one which the public are always glad to have some new excuse for seeing acted again. Its merits are peculiarly its own. It not only delights, but instructs us, without our knowing how, and though it is at first view equally offensive to good taste and common decency. The materials, indeed, of which it is composed, the scenes, characters, and incidents, are in general of the lowest and most disgusting kind; but the author, by the sentiments and reflections which he has put into the mouths of highwaymen, turnkeys, their wives and daughters, has converted the motley group into a set of fine gentlemen and ladies, satirists, and philosophers. What is still more extraordinary, he has effected this transformation without once violating probability, or 'o'erstepping the modesty of nature'. In fact, Gay has in this instance turned the tables on the critics; and by the assumed license of the mock-heroic style, has enabled himself to do justice to nature, that is, to give all the force, truth, and locality of real feeling to the thoughts and expressions, without being called to the bar of false taste and affected delicacy. We might particularly

____________________
1
Talfourd said that this criticism 'restored The Beggar's Opera, which had long been treated as a burlesque appendage to the Newgate Calendar, to its proper station'. --ED.

See also ante, pp. 69-83 and post, pp. 273-5.

-93-

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Specimens of English Dramatic Criticism, XVII-XX Centuries
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgements ix
  • Introduction 1
  • London Theatres in the 1660s 21
  • Betterton's Benefit 44
  • Thomas Betterton 46
  • Garrick's First Performance in London 60
  • Mr. Partridge Sees Garrick 63
  • 'the Beggar's Opera': 18th Century 69
  • Mrs. Siddons 84
  • Others--And Mrs. Siddons 89
  • 'the Beggar's Opera': 19th Century 93
  • Kean as Richard the Third 96
  • On Actors and Acting 101
  • On the Artificial Comedy of The Last Century 112
  • Phelps at Sadler's Wells 123
  • At the Pantomime 130
  • 'Caste' 132
  • On Natural Acting 142
  • Ellen Terry 154
  • Ellen Terry 159
  • Irving in Shakespeare 162
  • 'Ghosts' 182
  • 'Arms and the Man' 190
  • 'trilby' 198
  • Donkey Races 203
  • Forbes Robertson's Hamlet 208
  • 'trelawny of the "Wells"' 218
  • F. R. Benson's Richard II 222
  • Dan Leno 231
  • The Wild Duck' 237
  • 'the Playboy of the Western World'1 248
  • P. D. Kenny 254
  • Granville Barker's Production Of 'twelfth Night' 260
  • 'the Pretenders' 264
  • 'A Bill of Divorcement' 282
  • The Search for the Masterpiece 290
  • 'Peer Gynt' at the Old Vic 294
  • Marie Lloyd 297
  • 'the Way of the World' 302
  • 'Hamlet' in Modern Dress 307
  • A Creator 312
  • Biblical 'tobias and the Angel' 316
  • 'twelfth Night' at the Old Vic 321
  • 'Murder in the Cathedral' 326
  • 'As You like It' at the Old Vic 329
  • Editor's Note 331
  • Descriptive Index 333
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