Anyone for Thesis?
Posted by Ken on June 03, 1998 at 07:54:15:
In response to Earnest and 19th Century drama, written by Linden on June 02, 1998 at 19:03:15
] A puzzle: why was there virtually nothing worth reviving written for the stage between Sheridan and Wilde - over 100 years?
You're talking English drama, right?
] 19th century drama was ghastly.
No argument. But 18th century drama wasn't enormously better, at least in terms of quantity. Congreve, Sheridan, & Gay still get a little play from time to time, but that's not an awful lot to show for one century. If you extend it backward to the Restoration, then you pick up Dryden & a few others, but the whole thing seems pallid after the Elizabethans & Jacobeans.
Actually, the theatre was always low on the literary arts scale, and playwrights weren't considered much better. Reason enough for talent to avoid it, though obviously not the entire reason. The whole theatrical machinery also required considerable investment, so if you were an aspiring author, writing for the theatre would subject you to a variety of checks that writing poetry or fiction would not. (This is still true, BTW: consider how many novels are written each year compared to how many plays. I'd fall off my chair if you could show the former does not vastly outnumber the latter (-: )
Finally, sometimes it ain't time to railroad yet, so we don't get railroads. Translation: in the history of arts & letters, we get genres that languish a century or more from time to time, from country to country. It's not unusual, if you look at the whole history.
] "Earnest" is about the first play that we still think is worth watching (I doubt if the other Wilde plays would be read if they weren't by Wilde). Then, shortly after, we get Shaw.
And then? You don't get anyone of that stature until, um, Pinter. Decent plays were being written, but not of the 1st rank. That's quite a gap of years; it's not just the 19th century showing a lacuna.
] It wasn't for lack of money - thousands of people would go to the playhouse every week: but they watched either junk or revivals of Shakespeare and Sheridan.
Yeah, but the thousands of admissions had to be shared among hundreds of players, theatre owners, workers, etc. Not much left over for playwrights. So the incentive to take chances on an unknown play that didn't exactly fit the run of the mill--financially successful--junk/revivals must have been very low.
] It wasn't for lack of talent, either. This was the age of Austen, Dickens and other great novelists, non-English playwrights like Ibsen & Chekov, and the operettas of Gilbert & Sullivan.
The talent just wasn't attracted to the theatre.
- Great subject line, Ken Laraine 14:52:15 6/03/98 (2)
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