By Sos Eltis
From seduced maidens to adulterous better halves, bigamists, courtesans, stored ladies and streetwalkers, the so-called 'fallen lady' was once a ubiquitous and enduring determine at the Victorian and Edwardian degree. Acts of Desire lines the theatrical illustration of illicit woman sexuality from early nineteenth-century melodramas, via sensation dramas, Ibsenite sex-problem performs and suffrage dramas, to early social realism and the well-made performs of Pinero, Jones, Maugham, and Coward. This research unearths and analyses enduring plot strains and tropes that proceed to persuade modern theatre and picture. Women's illicit wishes grew to become a theatrical concentration for anxieties and debates surrounding gender roles, women's rights, sexual morality, type clash, economics, eugenics, and feminine employment. The theatre performed a vital position in either developing and hard sexual norms, and plenty of playwrights exploited the ambiguities and implications of functionality to degree disruptive spectacles of woman hope, enterprise, strength, and resourcefulness, utilizing ingenuity and talent to avert the keep watch over of that ever watchful nation censor, the Lord Chamberlain.
Covering an brilliant diversity of theatrical, social, literary, and political texts, this learn demanding situations the foreign money and validity of the original serious time period 'the fallen woman', and establishes the centrality of the theatre to cultural and sexual debates in the course of the interval. Acts of Desire encompasses released and unpublished performs, archival fabric, censorship files, and modern reports to bare the marvelous continuities, complicated debates, covert meanings, and exuberant spectacles which marked the historical past of theatrical representations of girl sexuality. attractive with well known and 'high paintings' performances, this examine additionally unearths the important connections among theatre and its sister arts, tracing the trade of impacts among Victorian drama, narrative portray and the unconventional, and exhibiting theatre to be a vital yet missed aspect within the cultural historical past of women's sexuality.
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Extra resources for Acts of desire: women and sex on stage 1800-1930
They are well aware of each other’s sexual practices but their consciences remain untroubled— as does their uneventful course in the background of the play. It is Kate, rendered sensitive by an education which has ‘expanded my mind and reﬁned my perception’, who is pained even by the suspicion of sexual irregularity, unlike her laxer peers (I, ii, 4–5). 70 In seduction dramas where the fallen heroine ﬁnally marries her seducer, the main plot itself has a problematic relation to the melodramatic conventions of poetic justice.
Ibid, 7. 33 J. B. Buckstone, Agnes de Vere; or, The Wife’s Revenge. First performed Theatre Royal, Adelphi, 10 November 1834. Dicks’ No. 805, III, 15; Lost in London, III, i, 32. 34 W. Travers, A Poor Girl’s Temptations; or, A Voice from the Streets (City of London Theatre, 1858), LCP, BL Add MS 52972 H, III, iv, 24. 35 Quoted in Trevor Fisher, Prostitution and the Victorians (Sutton: Stroud, 1997), 14. 32 20 Acts of Desire a sign of the degree of anxiety surrounding prostitution. A wide range of publications on the subject appeared in the 1840s, from clergymen, doctors, and laymen, declaring the reluctant necessity of investigating such a distasteful but socially urgent issue.
980, II, v, 15. 25 Dion Boucicault, The Poor of New York. First performed Wallack’s Theatre, New York, December 1857. Dicks’ No. 381, V, iii, 21. 26 J. T. Haines, The Life of a Woman; or, The Curate’s Daughter. First performed Surrey Theatre, 20 April 1840. Dicks’ No. 468, III, ii, 17. 27 Watts Phillips, Lost in London. First performed Theatre Royal Adelphi, 1867. LCP, BL Add MS 53057G, II, i, 22. For further discussion of melodramatic depictions of the city see Katherine Newey, ‘Attic Windows and Street Scenes: Victorian Images of the City on the Stage’, Victorian Literature and Culture (1997), 253–62.
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