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Victorian Poetry, Drama and Miscellaneous Prose 1832–1890$
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Paul Turner

Print publication date: 1990

Print ISBN-13: 9780198122395

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198122395.001.0001

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(p.387) 19. Drama
Victorian Poetry, Drama and Miscellaneous Prose 1832–1890

Paul Turner

Oxford University Press

‘A Slough of Despond in the wide well-tilled field of English Literature’. That was how one of the period’s best playwrights, Henry Arthur Jones, described Victorian drama up to 1891. For him plays were primarily pieces of literature, and ‘the worst and deadliest enemy of the English drama [was] — the English theatre’. For a history of literature this seems an appropriate criterion. All the plays mentioned in this chapter acted well enough to succeed in the theatre: the only question asked will be how well they read. To start with ‘theatrical rubbish’, a popular melodrama in the 1830s was Maria Marten; or, the Murder in the Red Barn. This anonymous dramatisation of a real-life murder illustrates two of the most pervasive influences on early Victorian drama: those of William Shakespeare and of an illiterate, working-class audience.

Keywords:   Henry Arthur Jones, drama, plays, melodrama, literature, theatre, William Shakespeare

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