A Good Thesis Deserves a Good Dissert.
Posted by Ken on June 04, 1998 at 08:27:39:
In response to Financial concerns?, written by MB on June 03, 1998 at 16:04:42
Laraine ] ] I agree also that "theatre was always low on the literary arts scale"--but isn't that because theater is by nature performed, and performance means pleasing crowds, which means that when serious art comes up against filling the theater, then filling the theater usually wins out. This isn't to say that genius cannot thrive in drama--Shakespeare proved for all time that it can. But the nature of popularity means that drama's in trouble compared to other literature, and it doesn't surprise me that talented people who had something to say were drawn more towards poetry or fiction.
It's more than that, I think, although I wouldn't want to argue cause vs. effect: for centuries, the theatre & players were considered distinctly lowlife & by association, anyone close to them. There were Elizabethan statutes that treated actors the same as gypsies & vagabonds, for example, I think. Also, the English bestseller of the 18th century was Fanny Hill, which should tell you something about the relative merits of different forms of literature vs. their supposed attractions for talented persons. I suppose you could try to save this line by arguing that even though the bestseller was big in 18th century literature, still, a better class of people were reading it, but then you'd have to grovel in the research stacks to see who was going to the theatre vs. who was reading & so on through the mists of literary demography--I leave that to the real scholars (-:
There are other points to consider: the shutdown & monopolization of the theatre after Gay's little needle--that couldn't have given much scope to authors nor much liberty to theatre owners; the safe & trite must have been the only things they could try for decades. I confess, I don't remember when the censor began to loosen up on the English stage; his reign was a long one, however.
MB ] Could it also be that writers could make more money publishing novels (including those that were serialized in newspapers and magazines) and literary criticism than publishing poetry or publishing (and producing their own) plays?
Yes, I think so. Theatres are complex organisms with many mouths to feed at the best of times. Even today, what writers get rich? (Well, not many (-: But of the ones that do, playwrights tend to be conspicuously absent, compared to to novelists. And the blockbuster films that make writers richer come from novels or out of whole cloth, so to speak; they tend not to be films of plays. Musicals, maybe, but not plays themselves. . . .)
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