Eighteenth Century Drama: Censorship, Society and the Stage

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The plays and social documents in this resource provide a view of every aspect of 18th century theatre culture and wider society in England, from Walpole’s censorship of the theatres to Garrick’s revolutionary acting style, from the staged triumphs of Greek Gods to slapstick scenes of domestic life. Follow the rise, and changing styles of opera; view the role of women through thirty years of Anna Larpent’s meticulous diaries and the biting social commentary of Hannah Cowley and other female playwrights.

Collections of correspondence provide fascinating insight into the relationships between actors, theatre managers, composers and playwrights; both the supportive friendships and the fierce rivalries.

A unique archive of almost every play submitted for license between 1737 and 1824, and hundreds of documents that provide social context for the plays, featuring:

  • John Larpent collection of plays from the Huntington Library
  • Supplementary documents, including Anna Larpent’s diaries
  • The London Stage, 1660-1800
  • A Biographical Dictionary of Actors, Actresses, Musicians, Dancers, Managers and Other Stage Personnel in London, 1660-1800

Key themes include:

  • Censorship and politics
  • Satire, political endorsement, and social commentary
  • Celebrity culture and fashion
  • The rise and development of the opera in British theatre
  • The business and legalities of theatres
  • Women in eighteenth-century drama and society – very notably, Anna Larpent’s diaries but also actresses, authors, and contemporary women’s issues represented in theatre
  • Key figures in theatre: David Garrick, Charles Fleetwood, Charles Macklin, Charles Dibdin, Handel, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, the Kembles, the Siddons
  • Relationships between theatre managers, producers and the Examiner of Plays and Lord Chamberlain’s office
  • Staging, technology, and performance
  • Representations of conflict, war, race, religion and historical events in drama
  • Representations of domestic, familial and pastoral scenes in drama

Coverage: 1737-1824