The Art of the Victorian Stage: Notes and Recollectionsby Alfred Darbyshire
IT is a curious and interesting fact that the two great periods of English histrionic art, are marked by the reigns of two great queens. The age of Elizabeth produced the greatest dramatist the world has ever known; and the age of Victoria has given the greatest value to his works by stage illustration. It is a
An excerpt from the beginning of the first chapter:
IT is a curious and interesting fact that the two great periods of English histrionic art, are marked by the reigns of two great queens. The age of Elizabeth produced the greatest dramatist the world has ever known; and the age of Victoria has given the greatest value to his works by stage illustration. It is a source of pride and high satisfaction that the immortal works of Shakespeare have in our own time been given to the world on the English stage free of academic conventionality, and with the result that their author dreamed of and hoped for when he wrote them.
Although the Elizabethan era will ever be held in respect and reverence as having given birth to the world's greatest dramatist, the Victorian era will also be respected and honoured in historic annals for having given truthful and beautiful stage expression to the Shakespearian creations.
Although honour was done to Shakespeare by the cultured people of Queen Elizabeth's reign, it is to Queen Victoria (almost from the moment she ascended the throne) we owe the fact that the stage of the nineteenth century became the medium of the true and beautiful method of expression of the Shakespearean drama. Queen Victoria instituted the Windsor Theatricals, superintended by Charles Kean; and for years afterwards patronized the theatre when Shakespeare was given to the public through the medium of the stage.
It is interesting to review the history of the exposition of the drama comprised in the period of three hundred years, between the reigns of England's two great queens. This, however, would require a volume different in scheme and object from this modest effort of "Recollections." In order, however, to substantiate what I may hereafter say on the art of the Victorian stage, it is necessary to summarise the history of histrionic art from the time it was exhibited in the theatres of the Elizabethan period to its representation on the stage of the Victorian era.
When we contemplate the adverse conditions under which Shakespeare wrote and produced his plays for the Blackfriars playhouse and the Globe on the Bank Side, we should, I think, congratulate ourselves that we live in an age in which it is possible to do full justice to his works ; and that although the reign of the great Elizabeth can boast the production of our Poet's genius, the reign of another great queen has produced the men whose high intellectual qualities have helped to enshrine that genius in the hearts of the English people by making it understood and appreciated through the art of the Victorian stage.
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