Samuel Phelps at Sadler's Wells theatre: 1844-1862

McCourt, Eileen Marie Cameron (2020). Samuel Phelps at Sadler's Wells theatre: 1844-1862. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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During Samuel Phelps’s eighteen-year management of Sadler’s Wells theatre (1844-1862), he revived thirty-one of Shakespeare’s plays, distinguished by relatively full texts, ensemble acting and mise-en-scènes which illustrated rather than drew attention away from the text. Conventionally Phelps’s management has been associated with an agenda designed to educate the working classes. Although it has recently been argued that Phelps was catering for a middle-class audience, demographic profiles constructed from census returns establish Phelps’s local audience was, for the most part, artisans and domestic servants although his legitimate repertoire did attract members of the middle classes. To establish how Phelps catered for his disparate audiences I consider four of his Shakespearean productions: Richard III, which, I argue, deserves better recognition in its contribution to driving Cibber from the stage; Timon of Athens, which contributed to the contemporary debate on its authorship; A Midsummer Night’s Dream, probably the most renowned of his productions; and Pericles, certainly the most spectacular. I have found Bourdieu’s tools of habitus, field and cultural capital offer theoretical assumptions which allow a discussion of the social context of Phelps’s management and the agency of individuals. I conclude that Phelps’s management was successful because it achieved cultural renown welded to popular success.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
Licence: All rights reserved
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of English, Drama and Creative Studies, The Shakespeare Institute
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0441 Literary History


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