This collection provides a representative set of theatrical performances popular on the nineteenth-century British stage. All are newly edited critical editions that account for variant sources reflecting the process of rehearsal, licensing, and production. Detailed introductions and extensive notes explain the texts’ relationship to repertoires, the circulating discourses of intelligibility that constantly recombine in performance. The plays address the topical concerns of slavery, imperial conquest, capitalism, interculturalism, uprisings at home and abroad, modernist aesthetic innovation, and the celebration of collective identities. Adaptations from novels, travelogues, and other plays are discussed along with the theatrical history that sustained these works on the stage.
“This outstanding collection will change how we think about nineteenth-century theatre. Tracy Davis’s beautifully edited and footnoted selection ranges from monologues to minstrels, musicals to melodrama, military drama to the New Women problem play. But this edition is something more, for Davis asks her readers to abandon the progress narrative of theatre history, in which innovation and originality are privileged over continuity and convention. She helps us make the leap from reading a play to seeing and hearing it. I know of no better introduction to the lavish, witty, foolish, and romantic plays of the period; the range of subject matter and the exuberant music and acting will astonish and delight readers. Nineteenth-century drama, at last, comes alive in this brilliant collection.” — Martha Vicinus, Eliza M. Mosher Distinguished University Professor Emerita, University of Michigan
“This anthology is probably the most thorough and at the same time the most imaginative attempt ever made to bring new readers, performers, and students into contact with the amazing riches of the nineteenth-century stage. The all-new selection is backed by sophisticated new theorisation of ‘the repertoire’ inspired by recent performance theory. Its arrangement, progressing through the century and also through the genres of performance, offers a sense of the innovation and variety of one of the richest periods of stage life there has ever been in Britain.” — Jacky Bratton, Royal Holloway, University of London
“Davis’s aim in this anthology is to use careful contextual editing to fill in th[e] blanks [in order to make these performances comprehensible to a contemporary audience], to recover the lingua franca out of which these scripts were composed but which has since been lost. By providing the information that writers, performers and audiences would automatically have had to hand, she brings us closer to these performances as they would have been experienced in their own time.” — Matthew Kaiser, from review in the Times Literary Supplement