Vesalianum, Great Lecture Hall
Englisches Seminar, Uni Basel
A Night at the Theatre: Cultural Practices of Late 18th- and Early 19th-Century Melodrama
George Colman’s Blue-Beard; or, Female Curiosity! is a spectacular Gothic melodrama first staged at London’s Drury Lane Theatre in 1798. It was the talk of the town that year and it remained one of the most successful melodramas throughout the early 19th century. When Dickens refers to it in his last completed novel, Our Mutual Friend (1864–5), he still takes for granted that readers would be familiar with the play. In order to account for the popularity of this melodrama, which is largely forgotten today, we cannot just look at the words on the page of the printed play-text (although I am making this available should you want to read the play beforehand). We need to explore the theatrical event. Going to the theatre in the late 18th/early 19th century was, after all, a significant cultural activity. In my talk, I will reconstruct a single night at Drury Lane, on a Monday in March 1798, in order to discuss what it meant to go to the theatre at that time, how audiences actively engaged with plays, and what role newspapers, censors and the police played in fashioning Blue-Beard’s popularity. This will also bring into focus how melodrama, as a theatrical genre, as a mode, and as a sensibility, was embedded in larger social and political contexts, and the cultural and ideological work that it performed.
If you would like to obtain more information on this guest lecture, please contact: Prof. Dr. Ina Habermann.
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