Acts of desire: women and sex on stage 1800-1930 by Sos Eltis

By Sos Eltis

From seduced maidens to adulterous other halves, bigamists, courtesans, stored girls and streetwalkers, the so-called 'fallen lady' was once a ubiquitous and enduring determine at the Victorian and Edwardian level. Acts of Desire strains the theatrical illustration of illicit girl sexuality from early nineteenth-century melodramas, via sensation dramas, Ibsenite sex-problem performs and suffrage dramas, to early social realism and the well-made performs of Pinero, Jones, Maugham, and Coward. This research finds and analyses enduring plot traces and tropes that proceed to persuade modern theatre and movie. Women's illicit wishes grew to become a theatrical concentration for anxieties and debates surrounding gender roles, women's rights, sexual morality, classification clash, economics, eugenics, and feminine employment. The theatre performed a imperative position in either constructing and hard sexual norms, and plenty of playwrights exploited the ambiguities and implications of functionality to degree disruptive spectacles of woman wish, supplier, strength, and resourcefulness, utilizing ingenuity and ability to steer clear of the regulate of that ever watchful kingdom censor, the Lord Chamberlain.

Covering an staggering variety of theatrical, social, literary, and political texts, this examine demanding situations the forex and validity of the usual serious time period 'the fallen woman', and establishes the centrality of the theatre to cultural and sexual debates in the course of the interval. Acts of Desire encompasses released and unpublished performs, archival fabric, censorship documents, and modern reports to bare the extraordinary continuities, advanced debates, covert meanings, and exuberant spectacles which marked the historical past of theatrical representations of girl sexuality. enticing with well known and 'high paintings' performances, this examine additionally unearths the important connections among theatre and its sister arts, tracing the alternate of affects among Victorian drama, narrative portray and the radical, and displaying theatre to be a very important yet missed aspect within the cultural heritage of women's sexuality.

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Additional resources for Acts of desire: women and sex on stage 1800-1930

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Further, as Bratton has observed, alternative systems of moral value are brought into play by the range of voices within the drama. Bratton notes of the moment in Buckstone’s version of Victorine when the fallen heroine learns that her keeper is rejecting her and she exclaims ‘Ruined! 75 The downward spiral of a sexually fallen woman may thus be read less as a product of ineluctable natural forces than as the incidental result of one woman’s ineptitude and over-developed conscience. One strand of the play can imply the need for greater male protection and constraint for frail and vulnerable women, while another strand suggests the value of worldly wisdom and sexual awareness for women, who are well capable of fending for themselves.

The sexual energy of Hackabout is erased; Fanny is a repentant victim of her own shame, too aware of her ignominy to face her father, while innocent of taking lovers on the side, plying her trade, or acting as a highwayman’s moll. Fitting the same punishment to a far lesser crime, Haines gleefully acknowledges the harshness of his moral in a verse epigraph to the prison scene: Misfortune oft, crime’s punishment may bear, But search will prove some seed of error there, To thinking minds this lesson this makes plain, The slightest step from virtue brings its pain.

29 Initiative and resourcefulness were the very last attributes allowed to the seduced heroine, who was called upon to display an extraordinary degree of passivity. Her vulnerability and helplessness frequently bordered on the semi-conscious. The crisis in which Lost in London’s Nelly Armroyd leaves her domestic hearth provides a model of such behaviour. Cursing her own vanity and resolving to reject her tempter, the accidental entry of her lover Gilbert rather than her husband determines Nelly’s fate: nelly: Leave him!

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