Graduation Year

2006

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.A.

Degree Granting Department

History

Major Professor

Philip Levy, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Barbara Berglund, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Robert Ingalls, Ph.D.

Keywords

theatre, material culture, class, entertainment, commercialized leisure

Abstract

Eighteenth-century English men and women ventured to the playhouse for a night of festive revelry and entertainment. Despite the raucousness (compared to our vision of a night at the theatre), theatergoing was a polite endeavor and as such equipped with the material pleasantries of bourgeois society. But unlike other spaces reserved for the middle and upper classes, all manner of people could and did attend the theatre. Thus, particular methods of physically and visually separating social classes arose within the eighteenth-century playhouse.

In this thesis, I investigate these material phenomena, particularly the ways in which theatre managers, players, as well as audience members interacted with, interpreted, and created the physicality of the eighteenth-century playhouse. Moreover, I show how eighteenth-century theatrical space -- its appearance, its seating arrangement, its lighting -- shaped intensifying class antagonisms, the bourgeois demand for comfort, luxury, and exclusivity, and finally the role of women in public, heterosocial venues.

Though not an exhaustive study of playhouse material culture, this work focuses upon those material and architectural attributes of the theatre that reveal subtle yet widespread cultural changes taking place in the eighteenth-century English Atlantic world.

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