By Sos Eltis

From seduced maidens to adulterous other halves, bigamists, courtesans, stored ladies and streetwalkers, the so-called 'fallen lady' was once a ubiquitous and enduring determine at the Victorian and Edwardian level. 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 finds and analyses enduring plot traces and tropes that proceed to persuade modern theatre and movie. Women's illicit wants grew to become a theatrical concentration for anxieties and debates surrounding gender roles, women's rights, sexual morality, type clash, economics, eugenics, and feminine employment. The theatre performed a vital function in either constructing and difficult sexual norms, and lots of playwrights exploited the ambiguities and implications of functionality to degree disruptive spectacles of woman wish, supplier, power, and resourcefulness, utilizing ingenuity and talent to avoid the regulate of that ever watchful nation censor, the Lord Chamberlain.

Covering an striking variety of theatrical, social, literary, and political texts, this learn demanding situations the foreign money and validity of the common severe time period 'the fallen woman', and establishes the centrality of the theatre to cultural and sexual debates in the course of the interval. Acts of Desire encompasses released and unpublished performs, archival fabric, censorship files, and modern experiences to bare the miraculous continuities, advanced debates, covert meanings, and exuberant spectacles which marked the background of theatrical representations of lady sexuality. enticing with well known and 'high paintings' performances, this examine additionally finds the very important connections among theatre and its sister arts, tracing the trade of affects among Victorian drama, narrative portray and the unconventional, and displaying theatre to be an important yet missed aspect within the cultural background of women's sexuality.

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Example text

Dicks’ No. 468, III, ii, 17. 27 Watts Phillips, Lost in London. First performed Theatre Royal Adelphi, 1867. LCP, BL Add MS 53057G, II, i, 22. For further discussion of melodramatic depictions of the city see Katherine Newey, ‘Attic Windows and Street Scenes: Victorian Images of the City on the Stage’, Victorian Literature and Culture (1997), 253–62. 18 Acts of Desire the title is stated so often that ‘lost’ and ‘London’ begin to sound like synonyms. They close the play when Job finally pronounces them over the freshly expired corpse of his adulterous wife: job: She ha’ left us.

Watts’s Found Drowned (1867).

30 Next discovered on dreary moorland, wrapped in a shawl, Nelly wishes to return home but Gilbert declares it too late, picks her up and forces her off to a waiting chaise, just as her friend Giddy Dragglethorpe rushes breathlessly into view. Nelly’s physical helplessness and the repeated failure of a last-minute rescue combine not only to blur the lines between abduction and seduction, but also imply that the responsibility for safeguarding a tempted woman lies outside her own inadequate hands.

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