When They Weren’t Doing Shakespeare
Essays on Nineteenth-Century British and American Theatre

Edited by Judith L. Fisher and Stephen Watt


“Handsomely produced and sumptuously illustrated volume.”
Yearbook of English Studies

“In looking beyond the shadow of the Bard and deemphasizing artistic pretensions, this volume offers a valuable exposition of British and American popular theater in the nineteenth century.”
Maryland Historical Magazine

The richness of Victorian theatre has often been neglected because of the era’s most celebrated productions of Shakespeare’s plays. Judith L. Fisher and Stephen Watt present a vigorous collection of eighteen essays covering the vast expanse of this “other” theatre, including social dramas, Christmas pantomimes, and adaptations of Gothic novels such as Guy Mannering and Metamora; or, The Last of the Wampanoags.

Reflecting both the longings and values of the public and the theatrical conventions of the times, Victorian productions could capture audiences with the historical verisimilitude of William Charles Macready’s production of Richelieu or incite a storm of public outrage with the too explicitly fallen woman in Olga Nethersole’s interpretation of Sapho. Playwrights worked at adapting such popular classic works as The Count of Monte Cristo or devising new melodramas such as Rent Day and Luke the Labourer. Pandering to the tastes of an expanding middle-class audience, theatre bills reflected popular fascination with the daily newspapers’ stories of social maladies. Transposed to the stage, “bad” men and women could be punished for wrongdoings in a way that was unlikely or impossible in real life. Emphasizing the variety of stagecraft in the Victorian age, the contributors to When They Weren’t Doing Shakespeare present a composite portrait of the vibrant theatrical worlds that existed in both nineteenth-century New York and London.

Page count: 372 pp.
20 b&w photos and illus.
Trim size: 6 x 9


List price: $29.95

buy button
View Shopping Cart

Judith L. Fisher is a professor of English at Trinity University. She is the author or editor of numerous books including Thackeray’s Skeptical Narrative and the ‘Perilous Trade’ of Authorship and Lives of Victorian Literary Figures. Stephen Watt is a professor of English and associate dean in the College of Arts and Sciences at Indiana University. His most recent books include Beckett and Contemporary Irish Writing and Ian Fleming and James Bond: The Cultural Politics of 007.