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19th Century Theatre

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Essay title: 19th Century Theatre

The nineteenth century was a very important time in plays and playwrights throughout the world. Many playwrights were taking new directions in their plays and there were also many new playwrights taking their chances at writing great plays. Women were starting to make appearances also as playwrights in the theatre. In this paper I'm going to discuss some of the nineteenth century playwrights and what they did.

Just as the eighteenth century was coming to an end, there were many political and social events that brought huge changes to the European theatre. The events of the French Revolution helped the dying of the aristocratic tradition in the theatre. Also because of the new industrial age, cities were beginning to fill up as people from the countryside poured into town to find jobs. In many of the big cities, new theatres were built so that the now huge working-class audience could enjoy in the theatre also. New playwrights such as August von Kotzebue and Guilbert de Pixerecourt introduced the melodrama genre of theatre. Romantic drama and revivals of the classics were also popular hits at the new theatres.

One of the major changes in theatre in the nineteenth century was the transition from a more Shakespearean and Elizabethan stage over to a Victorian style. The Elizabethan style consisted of the writer to make certain actors give speeches to the audience. So these plays were filled with more speeches and less acting. Eventually this style changed some, but still consisted of speeches. But these speeches were more along the lines of being romantic and very artificial. Things that these actors would say on stage were far from what was in the everyday conversation of men and woman. Playwrights of mid-nineteenth century prided themselves on this so it was seen in the theatre a lot. Having actors give speeches on romantic themes. The problem with this was that the playwrights were, instead of looking to the future and moving forward in the theatre world, were slowly changing back to the Elizabethan stage. Finally the stage started to transform to have a more real look instead of looking like a picture. Doors and windows actually opened and things such as a desk looked like one that would actually be in use.

About midway through the Victorian period, T. W. Robertson started to lead the English stage back to nature and real things. After many failures, his first success was Society in 1865. But even a larger success for him was Castle. This style still consisted of having actors give speeches. Robertson was more about comedies though as in one of the scenes in this play shows. One of Polly's speeches shows just how mid-Victorian Robertson was. "There is obvious exaggeration in the amusing scene in which old Eccles steals the baby's coral to pawn it for drink, and equally obvious melodrama in Esther's speech which follows close upon it."

Towards more of the end of the century, British playwrights took kind of a different aim in writing their plays. One example of a British playwright would be

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