victorian theatre


During the Victorian Age it did not exist a proper English drama and most of the plays performed were still belonging to the previous periods.
Actually, there were some innovations, but they concerned the stage as a physical structure, more than the dramas and their contents. The theatres became richer in scenarios and furniture to give more realism to the performances, but as a consequence they were also more expensive, limited the repertoires and changed the meaning of some classical pieces.
The audience was mainly composed of people of low education that asked the theatre entertainment and suspense. For this reason the most successful performances were farces and melodramas.
Besides, the Victorian stage was based on a star system, as there were very famous actors in that period, but it meant high salaries and higher costs for each play.
A new hint came from France with the comedies and melodramas of Eugéne Scribe (1791-1861) and Victorien Sardou (1831-1908).
The former believed firmly that the most important function of the theatre was to entertain people, as the public wanted to escape problems.
Sardou built complex situations with characters superficially drawn and the happy ending for the ones who deserved it. He concentrated on ingenious constructions and effective scenes and wrote some plays for the famous actress Sarah Bernhardt.
The greatest contribution came from more distant countries. Anton Chekhov (1860-1904) and August Strindberg (1849-1912), respectively from Russia and Sweden, inquired into the psychology of men and provided deeper studies of women. But the most influential writer for the English stage was Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906) who changed the usual way of making a drama starting the action from the climax and proceeding with flashbacks or flash in the future and speaking about social problems and attacking the hypocrisy of the middle classes using a realistic language and rejecting the common-place morality.
Both O. Wilde and G. B. Shaw ‘s production were influenced by these innovations-

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