The Bad Taste of the Town? : The Popular Shift in Early Eighteenth-Century English Theatrical Culture



Year of publication 2022
Type Appeared in Conference without Proceedings
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Description Early eighteenth-century London theatrical scene was characterised by growing theatre competition which, in turn, led to growing commercialization and popularization of theatre programmes. Gone were the post-1660 close association with the court and prominently elite (well-off and upper-class) audiences. Instead, experimenting with new genres, opening of new theatres, and a growing differentiation of the theatre programme into mainpieces, entr’acte entertainments and afterpieces significantly transformed the established cultural hierarchies of the period. Numerous critics of the time complained about the fact that wit and sense had been replaced on the English stage by musical spectacle and frivolous entertainment, and the theme of theatre degradation became a trope reiterated by critics and playwrights alike. By employing the theory of the theatrical public sphere, this paper will focus on the growing concern of early 18th-century writers about the effect of the low entertainments on the quality of the English drama and then explore the various modes of theatre’s engagement with the popular culture of the period.
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