Playing Out the Empire: Ben-Hur and Other Toga Plays and Films - A Critical Anthology

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Playing Out the Empire provides a unique introduction to the 'toga play', a genre of theatrical melodrama which flourished in the late nineteenth century and re-emerged in silent cinema and later 'epics', and which sheds important new light on British and American social and cultural history. The volume brings together the most important playscripts and film scenarios of the genre. Set in the post-Republican Roman Empire, toga plays and films presented Roman and Jewish heroes, Christian virgins, seductive 'adventuresses', insane Emperors, savage lions, and racing chariots. But, as David Mayer shows in his lively critical introductions, the plays also ventured clandestinely into issues of class, gender, religion, immigration, and imperialism. Among the restored scripts and scenarios included here - all of which are previously unpublished and generously illustrated - are those of Claudian (1883); the most popular of all Victorian melodramas, The Sign of the Cross (1895); and the stage spectacular Ben-Hur (1899), together with its earliest cinematic version (1907). D. W. Griffith's first toga film, The Barbarian Ingomar (1908) is represented by a lengthy selection of film stills. At a time of growing interest in the relationship between Victorian popular theatre and early cinema, this ground-breaking book reveals a highly significant - but critically neglected - theatrical and cinematic genre.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780198119906
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 2/28/1994
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 5.75 (w) x 8.75 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

University of Manchester
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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Introduction 1
The Music of Toga Drama 23
Claudian 30
The Last Days of Pompeii 90
The Sign of the Cross 104
Ben-Hur (play) 189
The Charioteers 291
Ben-Hur (film) 298
The Barbarian Ingomar 300
Afterword 312
Select Filmography 315
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