This chapter sets out the centrality and popularity of plays about illicit female sexuality from 1800 to the present day. Plots, tropes, and narratives endure across the centuries, being revised and adapted by successive playwrights to produce ‘intertheatrical dialogues’ and meanings which formed an essential element in audiences’ understanding of the plays. This chapter argues that theatre has long been neglected in studies of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century attitudes to and literary depictions of female sexuality, and that the study of the dramatic representations of ‘fallen’ women from 1800 to 1930 reveals far greater complexity, multiplicity, and licence than has previously been acknowledged. It also argues that the theatre exercised a powerful influence on public discourses on prostitution, and engaged in close dialogue with other artistic media
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