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The Edinburgh Companion to Shakespeare and the Arts$
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Mark Thornton Burnett and Adrian Streete

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780748635238

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748635238.001.0001

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Shakespeare and The Victorian Stage

Shakespeare and The Victorian Stage

(p.292) 16 Shakespeare and The Victorian Stage
The Edinburgh Companion to Shakespeare and the Arts

Richard Foulkes

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter reports that by the nineteenth century, the position of Shakespeare as national icon was more firmly established. Yet that alteration in imaginings of Shakespeare was itself the product of concomitant tensions — a desire to keep Shakespearean performance within the capital and a move to extend performance into the provinces. It specifically presents an account of Shakespeare on the Victorian stage. It was ironic that, with both Samuel Phelps' and Charles Kean's managements at an end, the theatrical profession lacked a recognized leader at the time of the Shakespeare tercentenary of 1864. Shakespeare's own theatre had been genuinely popular. The irony was that the Victorian theatre, which differed from it in almost every respect (architecture, scenery, lighting, costumes, casting), had, nevertheless, also succeeded in creating a mass audience for his plays. The audience for Shakespeare's plays fragmented and gone was the genuine popularity of the Victorian decades.

Keywords:   Shakespeare, Victorian stage, theatrical profession, Victorian theatre, mass audience, Shakespearean performance

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