By Sos Eltis
From seduced maidens to adulterous other halves, bigamists, courtesans, saved girls and streetwalkers, the so-called 'fallen girl' used to be a ubiquitous and enduring determine at the Victorian and Edwardian degree. Acts of Desire lines the theatrical illustration of illicit lady 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 examine unearths and analyses enduring plot strains and tropes that proceed to persuade modern theatre and picture. Women's illicit wishes turned a theatrical concentration for anxieties and debates surrounding gender roles, women's rights, sexual morality, classification clash, economics, eugenics, and feminine employment. The theatre performed a relevant function in either developing and not easy sexual norms, and plenty of playwrights exploited the ambiguities and implications of functionality to level disruptive spectacles of girl wish, employer, power, and resourcefulness, utilizing ingenuity and talent to stay away from the keep watch over of that ever watchful kingdom censor, the Lord Chamberlain.
Covering an magnificent diversity of theatrical, social, literary, and political texts, this research demanding situations the forex and validity of the original serious time period 'the fallen woman', and establishes the centrality of the theatre to cultural and sexual debates through the interval. Acts of Desire encompasses released and unpublished performs, archival fabric, censorship files, and modern reports to bare the marvelous continuities, advanced debates, covert meanings, and exuberant spectacles which marked the heritage of theatrical representations of girl sexuality. enticing with well known and 'high paintings' performances, this examine additionally unearths the very important connections among theatre and its sister arts, tracing the trade of impacts among Victorian drama, narrative portray and the unconventional, and displaying theatre to be a very important yet ignored point within the cultural background of women's sexuality.
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Extra info for Acts of desire: women and sex on stage 1800-1930
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.
Notably, the Dicks’ edition of the play uses precisely this scene to advertise the script (Fig. 7). The prints are thus reproduced within a framework which seeks to rewrite their meanings, while simultaneously referencing the original series. Notably, contemporary reviewers disagreed over the moral nature of Haines’s play. The reviewer for the Morning Chronicle praised Haines’s drama of sexual ruin, remorse and death as ‘in its language and general tone . . ’82 The critic for the Odd Fellow was considerably more cynical, both about the moral inﬂuence of such dramas and their intent.
Yet Haines’s Fanny is an anguished and passive victim. She is tricked into visiting London by the promise of employment to save her family from penury, whereupon she is raped by Chartres and handed on by him to a rich moneylender, who soon grows tired of her tears and repentance and throws her out. Drugged and carried unconscious to a highwayman’s crib, she is unjustly arrested and, once released, dies of no apparent physical cause beyond misery and shame. Hogarth’s social satire is carefully excised.
Acts of desire: women and sex on stage 1800-1930 by Sos Eltis