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"Fit for the reception of ladies and gentlemen" :
b power, space and politeness in Eighteenth-century Anglo-Atlantic playhouses
h [electronic resource] /
by Troy Thompson.
[Tampa, Fla] :
University of South Florida,
ABSTRACT: Eighteenth-century English men and women ventured to the playhouse for a night of festive revelry and entertainment. Despite the raucousness (compared to our vision of a night at the theatre), theatergoing was a polite endeavor and as such equipped with the material pleasantries of bourgeois society. But unlike other spaces reserved for the middle and upper classes, all manner of people could and did attend the theatre. Thus, particular methods of physically and visually separating social classes arose within the eighteenth-century playhouse. In this thesis, I investigate these material phenomena, particularly the ways in which theatre managers, players, as well as audience members interacted with, interpreted, and created the physicality of the eighteenth-century playhouse. Moreover, I show how eighteenth-century theatrical space -- its appearance, its seating arrangement, its lighting -- shaped intensifying class antagonisms, the bourgeois demand for comfort, luxury, and exclusivity, and finally the role of women in public, heterosocial venues. Though not an exhaustive study of playhouse material culture, this work focuses upon those material and architectural attributes of the theatre that reveal subtle yet widespread cultural changes taking place in the eighteenth-century English Atlantic world.
Thesis (M.A.)--University of South Florida, 2006.
Includes bibliographical references.
Text (Electronic thesis) in PDF format.
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Adviser: Philip Levy, Ph.D.
t USF Electronic Theses and Dissertations.
Fit for the Reception of Ladies and Gentlemen: Power, Space, and Politeness in EighteenthCentury Anglo-Atla ntic Playhouses by Troy Thompson A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts Department of History College of Arts and Sciences University of South Florida Major Professor: Philip Levy, Ph.D. Barbara Berglund, Ph.D. Robert Ingalls, Ph.D. Date of Approval: April 6, 2006 Keywords: theatre, material culture, cla ss, entertainment, commercialized leisure Copyright, 2006, Troy Thompson
i Table of Contents List of Figures................................................................................................................ .....ii Abstract....................................................................................................................... .......iii Prologue....................................................................................................................... ........1 Chapter One: Comfort and Luxury....................................................................................12 Chapter Two: Sexual Ambiguities: Polite Ladies, Prostitutes, and the Theatre................24 Chapter Three: A Material Manner of Di stinction: an Object Analysis of Eighteenth-Century Playhouse Spikes.........................................................................39 References..................................................................................................................... .....62
ii List of Figures Figure 1. Dorset Garden Theatre......................................................................................57 Figure 2. Drury Lane.........................................................................................................5 8 Figure 3. William Hogarths The Laughing Audience...................................................... 59 Figure 4. The Fortune Theatre..........................................................................................60 Figure 5. The Cock-Pit in Court.......................................................................................60 Figure 6. Covent Garden...................................................................................................61
iii Fit for the Reception of Ladies and Gentlemen: Power, Space, and Politeness in Eighteenth-Century Angl o-Atlantic Playhouses Troy Thompson ABSTRACT Eighteenth-century English men and wome n ventured to the playhouse for a night of festive revelry and entertainment. Despite the raucousness (compa red to our vision of a night at the theatre), theat ergoing was a polite endeavor an d as such equipped with the material pleasantries of bourgeois society. But unlike other spaces reserved for the middle and upper classes, all manner of peopl e could and did attend the theatre. Thus, particular methods of physically and visually separating social cla sses arose within the eighteenth-century playhouse. In this thesis, I investigate these mate rial phenomena, particularly the ways in which theatre managers, players, as we ll as audience members interacted with, interpreted, and created the phys icality of the eighteenth-cen tury playhouse. Moreover, I show how eighteenth-century theatrical space its appearance, its seating arrangement, its lighting shaped intensifying class an tagonisms, the bourgeois demand for comfort, luxury, and exclusivity, and finally the role of women in public, he terosocial venues. Though not an exhaustive study of playhouse material culture, this work focuses upon those material and architectural attributes of the theatre that reveal subtle yet widespread cultural changes taking place in the eighteenth-century English Atlantic world.
4 Prologue Fit for the Reception of Ladies and Gentlemen: Space, Power, and Refinement in Colonial American Playhouses Before a thin audience, David D ouglasss American Company of players performed The King and the Miller of Mansfield in Annapolis, Maryland on August 30th, 1770. An anonymous critic (self-titled with only the initials Y.Z.) suppose[d] this poor attendance was due to an insufficient acquaintan ce with the general, as well as particular Merits of the Performers. To amend this ignorance, Y.Z. wrote of Mrs. Douglasss striking propriety, Miss St orers fine genius, and Mrs. Harmans perspicuity and strength of memory all of which, he sugge sted, confirmed the worth of Mr. Douglasss company. In his opinion, Douglasss troupe wa s superior to that of any company in England, except those of the Metropolis. But none of the actors impressed this commentator more than Miss Hallam, for she exceeded [his] utmost idea. Such delicacy of manner! Such classical strictness of expression! How true and thorough her knowledge of the character she personate d methought I heard once more the warbling of [Colley] Cibber in my ear. And yet, despite this overwhelming praise, Y.Z. still believed that Miss Hallams melting Vox Liquida as well as her colleagues
5 commendable stage qualities suffered from th e horrid ruggedness of the roof, and the untoward construction of the whole [play]-house.1 The New Theatre of Annapolis, Maryland (t he one to which Y.Z. referred) had stood for just under a decade, opened by Davi d Douglass in early March 1760. Douglas himself conceded the playhouse s material and architectural shortcomings in the stages first prologue; but in so doing, he also highlighted his optimism for the future of this, his most recent theatre. Let no nice Sparks despise our humble Scenes, for though the audience would not hear Garrick[s] thundring or would they see the mechanized Feats of Covent-Garden s Harlequin, Douglass steadfast ly assured his listeners that Athens from such Beginnings, mean and low! Saw Thespis Cart a wondrous Structure grow.2 However, by October 1770, Douglass expe rienced a change of heart and sought to replace the New Theatre, believing the s ituation, size, and aukward construction of the House was a major disadvantage to the performances of the American Company. Douglass further argued that a more commodious theatre and one in a more convenient part of the city would be tter stimulate the audience to a grateful exertion of their faculties.3 Douglass evidently shared th e sentiments of Y.Z., as he considered the playhouses physicality and its ap pearance a critical component of English theatergoing. Douglasss prologue, the comm ents of Y.Z., as well as the theatre 1 Maryland Gazette (Annapolis) 6 September 1770. Colley Cibber was one of Londons most famous comedians in the early eighteenth century, manager of Drury Lane Theatre, and Englands poet laureate in the 1730s. 2 Maryland Gazette (Annapolis) 6 March 1760. 3 Maryland Gazette (Annapolis) 4 October 1770. A tinge of sarcasm cannot be ruled out in Douglasss positive comments of the New Theatres humble beginnings.
6 managers later pleas for elite patronage and subscription (to build a new theatre) reflected a bourgeois need for politeness and refinement in the Anglo Atlantic. Yet this middle and upper class desire for aesthetically pleasing, leisurely a nd polite environments frequently clashed with the expectati ons of working class theatre patrons. From Kingston to Charleston to the rustli ng northern cities of Philadelphia, New York, and Boston, men and women in Englands eighteenth-century colo nies ventured to the playhouse to laugh, to hiss, to see and be seen. Yet this polite endeavor was more than a popular form of leisurely entertainment; theatre was also a means by which Englishmen and women (either in America, Jamaica, Barbados, Ireland, or England) communicated with one another and participat ed in the Anglo-Atlantic World. This permeable world, as Bernard Bailyn descri bed it, of cohesive trade networks and migration included the actors, plays, sets, prop s, and architectural pr actices colonists saw, heard, and felt in American and Caribbean playhouses.4 Y.Z.s comments reflect as much in his references to English actor Co lley Cibber as well as his assumption that American colonists were familiar with the materiality of Londons more famous theatres. Though it was often associated with local di version, annual festivit ies, and political gatherings (especially in the British colonies ), the Anglo theatre remained a focal point for the transatlantic trends of fashion, consumption, and ge nteel behavior and, as such, 4 Bernard Bailyn, Atlantic History: Concept and Contours (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2005), 83.
7 was equipped with the material pleasantrie s of a commercial and increasingly polite bourgeois society.5 However, the eighteenth-century pla yhouse was a contested space where varying socioeconomic groups clashed over the theatre s decorum and play content. Surprisingly, this culture war seldom led to open conflagrations of cla ss-based violence (like that which occurred during the As tor Place Riots in 1849).6 Instead class, gender, and racial tensions emerged within a comp lex material dialectic, a discour se of objects that visually and physically separated the heterogeneous th eatre audiences of co lonial America and Georgian England. Though most of these objects and architectur al practices were 5 On the theatre as a crucial site of cultural discourse see Lisa A. Freeman, Characters Theater: Genre and Identity on the Eighteenth-Century English Stage (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2002). I see the eighteenth-century Anglo-Atlantic World as one of continuous contact and cohesive communication. Oceanic currents, favorable wind patterns, as well as vigorous trade and migration (forced or voluntary) carried ideas and cultural trends quickly and frequently across the o cean. The Anglo-Atlantic World, therefore, was economically and culturally inte rconnected. For a theoreti cal discussion of this historical phenomenon see David Armitage, Three Concepts of Atlantic History in Idem. and Michael Braddick eds., The British Atlantic World (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002); and Bailyn, Atlantic History 6 For a discussion of the cultural implications of the Astor Place Riots see Robert Allen, Horrible Prettiness: Burlesque and American Culture (Chapel Hill: University of No rth Carolina Press, 1991), 5861; Richard Butsch, American Theater Riots and Class Relations, 1754-1849, Theatre Annual 48 (1995): 41-59; John F. Kasson, Rudeness and Civility: Manners in Nineteenth-Century Urban America (New York: Hill and Wang, 1990), 223-229; and Lawrence Levine, Highbrow/Lowbrow: The Emergence of Cultural Hierarchy in America (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1990), 64-68
8 inspired by what Richard Bushman has cal led a beautification campaign (ornate chandeliers, impressive entryways, cush ioned seats, and commodious boxes), others explicitly segregated the audience and threat ened violence to those who transgressed social boundaries (a third-tier gallery and sharp iron spikes).7 Some of these material tactics theatre managers borrowed from othe r commercialized spaces of bourgeois leisure (coffee houses, bathhouses, pleasure gardens, and mansions), while others were hybrid blends of prisons, private gardens, and city stre ets. Yet despite their very different social and geographic environments, theatre mangers employed these spatial practices of social stratification with a remarkab le transatlantic consistenc y. Moreover, Londoners and colonists alike understood the playhouses unspoken messages and the meanings imbued in its materiality.8 The semiotics of theatrical space were multiple, overlapping, and often commonly acknowledged, with managers, patrons, and the theatres critics infusing the material and spatial practices of the eighteenth-century pl ayhouse with meaning. I argue that these person-object relationships re veal complex cultural construc tions of gender, class, and race. Moreover, managers and patrons interact ions with the artifacts and architecture of 7 Richard Bushman, The Refinement of America: Persons, Houses, Cities (New York: Vintage Books, 1993), xiv. 8 On the class tensions and ambiguities caused by th e rise of bourgeois refinement see Ibid.; Miles Ogborn, Spaces of Modernity: Londons Geographies, 1680-1780 (New York, The Guilford Press, 1998); and Robert Blair St. George, Conversing by Signs: Poetics of Implication in Colonial New England Culture (Chapel Hill: University of No rth Carolina Press, 1998).
9 the Anglo-Atlantic playhouse shaped and were shaped by discourses of power and consumption. 9 The material culture of the eighteenth-century theatre was distinct from its Shakespearean and Court predecessors as we ll as its fragmented nineteenth-century counterparts. Though it shared similarities wi th each, it possessed its own idiosyncrasies that differentiated it from ear lier and later versi ons. What set the Georgian playhouse apart was its liminal status, as it was in be tween the rigid cultural and (I would contend) spatial hierarchies of the nineteenth century a nd the inclusive, more fluid forms of leisure in the seventeenth century. Behind many of the new and experimental eighteenth-century ma terial tactics of the theatre lay changing conceptions of th e bourgeois public sphere, particularly the social ambiguities surrounding the presence of women in public, the rising clamor of democratic rhetoric, and the ever-more in tricate tenets of middle and upper-class manners. As argued by historians Peter Stal lybrass and Allon White self-regulation, the suppression of the carnivalesque as well as the removal of the grotesque collective body became the great labour of bourgeois cu lture. Stallybrass and White continue: 9 For the implications of theatrical space and meaning see Gay McAuley, Space in Performance: Making Meaning in the Theatre (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1999), 5; and David Wiles, A Short History of Western Performance Space (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge Un iversity Press, 2003). My theoretical conception of pe rson-object relationships is informed by Dell Upton, Form and User: Style, Mode, Fashion, and the Artifact in Gerald L. Pocius, ed., Living in a Material World: Canadian and American Approaches to Material Culture (St. Johns, Newfoundland: Ins titute of Social and Economic Research, 1991).
10 The flux and heterogeneity of the theatr e audience in consuming mood must be discharged elsewhere where it will not contaminate culture This is no mere matter of refinement. It is a transformation of certa in material conditions of theatre-going which had been largely, if sometimes grudgingly, accepted and even enjoyed in an unremarked way until the emergence of a bourgeois public sphere and its increasingly phobic relation to the grotesque collective body. Under the increasing threat of democratic promis cuity the channels of communication and the circuits of reception w ithin which culture and ra tionality now flowed had to be sealed off. Manners and poli tical distinctions become interfused.10 Also at issue was a more pervasive cons umerism, which challenged the rank-based deference of previous generations. And fina lly, intensifying class and racial antagonisms made it increasingly difficult for the rich a nd poor to convivially engage in recreational activities. Though these eighteenth-centur y Atlantic World phenomena continued and even strengthened in the nineteenth century, th ey did not fracture theatrical space into the brothel, the burlesque, the saloon, or the opera house as that which occurred in the early to mid-1900s. Instead, for a period of tim e (circa 1670 to 1830s), theatre managers offered differing forms of entertainment, fo r varying tastes, all under the same roof. Indeed, the Georgian playhouse, open to wo men, servants, slaves, artisans, the middleclass, and even royalty, was an uneasy and increasingly impossible spatial compromise. 11 10 Peter Stallybrass and Allon White, The Politics and Poetics of Transgression (New York: Cornell University Press, 1986), 93. 11 For descriptions of the sixteenth-century stage see John H. Astington, English Court Theatre, 1558-1642 (Cambirdge, U. K.: Cambridge University Press, 1999); E.K. Chambers, The Elizabethan Stage Vol. 2 (Clarendon Press: Oxford, 1923); Andrew Gurr, Playgoing in Shakespeares London 3rd ed. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 14-57; W. J. Lawrence, The Elizabethan Playhouse and Other Studies Second Series (Stratford-UponAvon: Shakespeare Head Press, 1913), 93-118; Richard Leacroft, The Development of the English Playhouse (Ithaca, New York: Corn ell University Press, 1973), 25-50. For the nineteenth-century fragmentati on of theatrical entertainment and the emergence of manners as an
11 By the mid-nineteenth century, the once heterogeneous theatre audiences, the loud and rambunctious pit and gallery patrons, and the cavalcade of pantomimes, dances, adlib, musical interludes, and encores had all but disappeared from the legitimate playhouse. Yet this process of bourgeoi s exclusion, refinement, and cultural secularization was slow, taki ng generations to complete.12 In the interim, theatre managers tried to appease their wealthier patr ons (most subscribers) with moral plays and lavish surroundings. Though theatergoers evalua ted the materiality of colonial theatres indicator of social status see Allen, Horrible Prettiness ; Kasson, Rudeness and Civility ; and Levine, Highbrow/Lowbrow For the widespread effects of consumerism in the Anglo-Atlantic world see T.H. Breen, The Marketplace of Revolution: How Consumer Politics Shaped American Independence (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004); and Cary Ca rson, The Consumer Revolution in Colonial British America: Why Demand? in Cary Carson, R onald Hoffman, and Peter J. Albert, eds., Of Consuming Interests: The Style of Life in the Eighteenth Century (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1988),483-697. On changing perceptions of comfort in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries see John Crowley, The Invention of Comfort: Sensibilities & Design in Early America, Modern Britain & Early America (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001) On the soldification of class and emergence of class consciousness in the eighteenth century see Peter Linebaugh and Marcus Rediker, The Many Headed Hydra: Sailors, Slaves, Commoners, and the Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic (Boston: Beacon Press, 2000); and Gary Nash, The Urban Crucible: Social Change, Political Consciousness, and the Origins of the American Revolution (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1979). Stallybrass and White contend that the process of the social separation of the rich and poor began with the bourgeois repression of the medieval carnival; see Politics and Poetics 12 Levine, Highbrow/Lowbrow 1-9.
12 according to different, less severe standards, even English colonists considered the playhouses appearance an important f acet of the evenings entertainment.13 In chapter one of this thesis, I investigat e the artifacts of comfort that wealthy and middle-class patrons saw and interacted with when they entered an Anglo-Atlantic playhouse. Evidenced by the financial records of theatre managers such as David Garrick and Colley Cibber, the fineries of the pla yhouse amounted to a considerable expense. Lighting alone accounted for a significant portion of playhouse budgets.14 Yet, candles and chandeliers had significance beyond the n eed to illuminate th e stage as bright lighting signified wealth and bourgeois comfort.15 Similarly, upholstery, carpets, and cushioned seats demonstrated the influence of middle and upper class efforts of social refinement and beautification. Though soft to the touch and pleasan t to the eyes, these symbols of bourgeois exceptionalism exacer bated class antagonisms and initiated a process of lower-class exclusion. The second chapter discusse s the social and moral am biguities surrounding the presence of women in the eighteenth-centu ry playhouse. Playhouses were gendered 13 For example, in a review of an eighteenth-century play in Maryland, the critic commented upon the ways in which the horrid ruggedness of the roof and the untoward construction of the whole [play]house sullied the otherwise fine performances of the company. See Maryland Gazette (Annapolis) 6 September 1770. 14 E.L. Avery, Critical Introduction in W. Van Lennep, ed., The London Stage, 1660-1800: a Calendar of plays, entertainments & afterpieces, to gether with casts, boxreceipts and contemporary comment. Compiled from the playbills, newspapers, and theatrical diaries of the period 5 vols. (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1960-68), 2: xlviii-xlix; 15 Bushman, Refinement 125-6.
13 spaces where particular behaviors corresponded to certain sections. The theatres boxes were passive, feminine, and on display, wher eas the pit and gallery were vociferous, rowdy, and masculine spaces.16 Indeed, middle and upper cl ass women violated social protocol if they sat in the pit. Despite its gendered divisions, social critics still decried the playhouse as a lascivious site of ge nder transgression and assignation. However, moral opprobrium did not focus upon women on stage (as it did with burlesque performers in the nineteenth century), but upon the indiscriminate, promiscuous mixture of lower-class women and prostitute s in the gallery, pit, and boxes.17 Although the thirdtier would later become the reserved domain for madams and their ladies, the eighteenthcentury did not yet mark out a partic ular, exclusive space for prostitutes.18 And lastly, I analyze a seemingly cont radictory material phenomenon of the refined Anglo-Atlantic theatre: spikes. In th ese spaces of leisure and enjoyment, a row of sharp iron spikes lined the stage and the lowe r tier boxes of the thea tre, conveying threats of violence for any who dared transgress th ese boundaries. Ostensibly, the spikes protected the players and the middle cla sses from the unpredictable and sometimes 16 On the social uses of gender roles see Mary Beth Norton, Founding Mothers and Fathers: Gendered Power and the Forming of American Society (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1996), 4-9; and Joan Scott, Gender and the Politics of History Rev. Edition (New York: Columbia University Press, 1999). For discussion of the gendering of the nineteenth-century theatre and the feminization of the pit see Allen, Horrible Prettiness 63-5; and Richard Butsch, Bowery Bhoys and Matinee Ladies: The Re-Gendering of Nineteenth-Century Theater Audiences, American Quarterly 46, No. 3 (Sep., 1994): 374-405. 17 For a discussion of the social threat nineteen th-century burlesque reformers posed see Allen, Horrible Prettiness 18 Ibid., 50.
14 hostile patrons in the pit and ga llery. Yet, I argue that th e spikes also revealed the ingrained anxieties of an in creasingly consumer-driven gentry, attempting to make its own discrete public identity through fashion (d ress, architecture, dishware, etc.), genteel behavior, and space (the city, coffeehouses, sa lons, pleasure gardens, and bathhouses). Thus, spikes reflected a middle step in a ma terial and architectural process whereby the bourgeoisie excluded its public, leisurely activit ies from the working classes.
15 Chapter One Comfort and Luxury On September 15, 1752, Mr. Rigby stood upon the stage of Williamsburgs recently refurbished playhouse, gathered his composure, and prepared the audience for the evenings performances. Rigbys prologue recounted the virtuous qualities of the stage, thanked the audience for their atte ndance, and pleaded for their applause. Moreover, it reflected a feeling of pride fo r the comedians triumph over gloomy minds and other vociferous critics of the theatre, most notably members of Virginias ruling council.19 The council could not ignore the public demand for theatre. In this politer Age, Rigby argued, on British Ground The brilliant Stage with vast applause is crownd.20 Rigbys opening remarks reflected th e players larger strategy to convincingly portray theatergoing as a pol ite, genteel endeavor. Though Williamsburg had enjoyed periodic theatrical entertainment for nearly forty years, Virginians had yet to 19 The Hallam Company most likely held opening night on September 15, but there are two extant accounts which refer to two different dates. I have referenced both of them: John Singleton, Prologue spoken by Mr. Rigby (September 5, 1752) in Montrose J. Moses and John Mason Brown eds., The American Theatre as Seen by its Critics, 1752-1934 (New York: Cooper Square Publishers, 1967), 21-22; and Virginian Gazette (Williamsburg), 22 September 1752. 20 Singleton, Prologue, 21-22.
16 see a performance by a professional London company.21 As early as June 1752, the Virginia Gazette informed the public of the impending arrival of Lewis Hallams London Company of comedians. To further stir curiosity, the announcement went on to mention that the scenes, cloaths ( sic ), and decorations [were] all entirely new, extremely rich, and finished in the highest taste. T he best hands in London had painted the backdrops. Furthermore, the actors were perfe ct in all the best play s, operas, farces, and pantomimes. Truly, Virginian ladies and gentlemen could depend upon being entertaind in as polite a manne r as at the theatres in London.22 In this chapter, I argue Hallams promise of polite entertainment referenced complex and fluid discourses of eighteenth-century genteel iden tity and class tension. During the late seventeenth and eigh teenth century, elites increasingly distinguished themselves through fashion, conversation, and polit e manner; but such performances of gentility required spatial settings and more importantly audiences.23 Consequently, theatre managers provided elegant and comfortable surroundings to accommodate the upper and middle class need for conspicuousness and leisure. However, the theatre differed from other eighteenth-century spaces of bourgeois sociability. Unlike the private parlor, ballroom, or salon the playhouse was a commercialized public space, open to anyone of the lower classes who could afford a 21 Odai Johnson and William Burling, The Colonial American Stage, 1665-1774: A Documentary Calendar (Cranbury, NJ: Associated Un iversity Press, 2001), 55. 22 Virginian Gazette (Williamsburg), 21 August 1752. 23 Carson, Why Demand, 521; and David Shields, Civil Tongues and Polite Letters in British America (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1997), xix.
17 gallery ticket (which was usually one third to as little as one fi fth the price of a seat in the boxes).24 Also, the theatre shared few sim ilarities with coffeehouses, as these establishments had clearly posted rules of conduct and served only men (who mostly conversed about political, so cial, and economic matters).25 What therefore distinguished the thea ter were not only it s patrons varying manners and socioeconomic statuses but also the audiences power to alter programming and create havoc in an otherwise polite and luxurious environment. Moreover, disorderly behavior yelling, fighting, throwing food, or rioting could be seen and heard by all attendees. Despite this, class divisions remained distinct and readily interpreted (though not necessarily obeyed) by eighteenth-century Englishmen and women. Through seating arrangements and objects such as chandelier lighting, seat cushions, and lush fabrics theatre managers set elites and the middle cl asses apart from servants and workers. These demonstrations of wealth and luxury re created and reinforced the social hierarchy within the playhouse. However, signs of elite privilege and exclusivity were also permeated with class tension a nd hostility. Thus, the person -object relationships of the playhouse were embedded with struggles over the limits of consumer rights, the enactment of social deference, and the di ssemination (particularly to the lower middle classes and skilled laborers) of manners. In ot her words, the unique characteristics of the 24 Harry William Pedicord, The Changing Audience in Robert D. Hume, ed., The London Theatre World, 1660-1800 (Carbondale: Southern Illinois Press, 1980), 243. 25 E.J. Clery, The Feminization Debate in Eighteenth-Cen tury England: Literature, Commerce and Luxury (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004), 13-18.
18 Anglo-Atlantic theatre conditioned the audi ences presence, action and discourse.26 To understand the power of politeness, we theref ore need an awareness of the architecture and materials with which theat ergoers interacted. Ornately decorated interiors were typical in Londons first Restoration playhouses. Indeed, baroque excessiveness ofte n clashed with the audiences ability to view or listen to the performance. George Saunders, an eighteenth-century architectural historian, claimed Englands first playhouses paid no attention to the voice and were as careless with respect to the vision.27 Opened in 1703, the Queens Theatre in Haymarket perhaps best illustrated how ostentatious form could sacrifice the stages function. The structures cavernous interior and obstructive Corinthi an pilasters made it nearly impossible for the actors to be seen or heard by all attendees.28 Colley Cibber considered the playhouse a vas t triumphal piece of architect ure, complete with vast columns and gilded cornices; but t his extraordinary and superfluous space 26 Henri Lefevbre, The Production of Space trans. by Donald Nicholson-Smith (Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 1991), 57. My discussion of theatrical space is also informed by Wiles, Short History 7-9. On the phenomenological impli cations of space see Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life trans. by Steven Rendall (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988), xvii. 27 George Saunders, A Treatise on Theatres (London: J. Taylor, 1790; reprinted New York: Benjamin Blom, Inc., 1968), 26. 28 David Thomas, ed., Restoration and Georgian England, 1660-1788 Theatre in Europe: a documentary history (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1989), 73,75-76. The designer of the Queens Theatre, Sir John Vanbrugh, intended the playhouse to be a center for opera, which may explain the buildings ornateness. However, the theatres first residing company, Thomas Betterton troupe, performed plays.
19 occasioned such an undulation from the voice of every actor that generally what they said sounded like the gabbling of so many people in the lofty aisles in a cathedral.29 Cibbers analogy of the Queens Theatre to a grand pl ace of religious aut hority suggested an uncomfortable, phenomenological association of leisured enjoyment and careless revelry with sacredness and spiritual awe. For Ci bber and Saunders, highlig hting the play and the stages spectacles were central to good theatre design. However most middle and upper class consumers sought commercialized sp aces which mirrored and thus reaffirmed their material and behavioral refinement.30 The late seventeenth century marked a period of steady compromise in playhouse architecture, as the middle and upper cla sses demand for aesthetically pleasing environments and comfort did not necessarily fetter actors or pit and gallery patrons need for clear views of the stage and improved auditory. As a central architect in this process, Sir Christopher Wren and his two London playhouses, Dorset Garden (1671) and Drury Lane (1674), demonstrated both the c onflicts and negotiations within the cultural conceptions of Anglo theatrical space. Cele brated by his English contemporaries for the church of St. Stephen (1681), St. Pauls Cathedral (1710), and nu merous other public edifices, Wren had a knack for building impre ssive structures that conveyed wealth and 29 Colley Cibber, Colley Cibber describes Vanbrughs playhouse, in Restoration 75. The theatres acoustic flaws led to alterations in 1708. 30 See Miles Ogborns discussion of politeness an d luxury in Vauxhall Ga rdens. He argues eighteenth-century Englishmen and women consumed this commercialized space to celebrate not their own wealth and power but also their countrys; Spaces 116-19.
20 power.31 Similarly, Wrens Dorset Garden stir red the patrons visual senses with its ornately decorated boxes, gilded carv ings, and massive columns (Figure 1).32 French traveler Franois Brunet believed the audito rium [was] infinitely more beautiful and well-kept than those in the playhouses of France.33 Yet despite its polite interior, it remained difficult for all those in the audi ence to see and hear the actors. When commissioned by Thomas Killigrew to design the Theatre Royal at Drury Lane in 1672, Wren altered his playhouse form. In place of the baroque conventions, Wren applied architectural principles used in Elizabethan theatres, clearing and then thrusting the stage into the pit. Blending old modes with the la te seventeenth-century consumer demand for spectacle, Wren equipped Drury Lane with ample backstage space for multiple scenic drops. Cibber showered prai ses upon Wrens changes, as all objects were thus drawn nearer to the sense; every painted scene wa s stronger; every grand scene and dance more extended; every rich or fine colour ed habit had a more lively luster.34 While more simplistically adorned, Drury Lane still had an air of elegance, complete with grand entrances, Corinthian pilasters (which did not block views of stag e), chandeliers, and a handsomely engraved ceiling (Figure 2). More over, the side boxes continued to face the pit and galleries, providing elites a platfo rm upon which they could display their 31 The biographical magazine: Containing portraits & characters of eminent and ingenious persons, of every age & nation ( London, 1794), 140. 32 Leacroft, Development 86. 33 Franois Brunet, Franois Brunet describes the interior of the Du kes Theatre (1676) in Restoration 69. 34 Colley Cibber, Colley Cibbers description of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, prior to 1696, in Restoration 72.
21 refinement. Though building size, seating ca pacity, the commodiousness of boxes, side box angle to the stage, and decorative detail vari ed from Wrens design, Drury Lane Theatre served as a template for Englis h playhouses in London and her colonies. Playgoers in the Anglo-Atlantic world thus shared a consiste nt cultural association of object and space to politeness and socioeconomic status.35 Promises of elegant theatr es and polite entertainment abound in advertisements and reviews of English colonial playhouses Refinement within British American theatres, however, did not necessarily center upon grand architecture or ornately decorated interiors. Instea d, descriptions of elegance and comfort within colonial playhouses stressed warmth during cold night s, lighting, adornment to some extent, and ordered division. As in Londons theatres, th e social hierarchy was inscribed in the spatial composition of playhouse seating ar rangements and objects. In describing Annapoliss West Street Theatre (1771), William Eddis remarked, The boxes [were] commodious, and neatly decorated; the pit a nd gallery held a number of people without incommoding each other. These attributes le d Eddis to conclude that the structure [was] not inelegant.36 Other Marylanders more ent husiastically approved of David Douglasss West Street Theatre expressing their greatest sa tisfaction with the House on its opening night. The Maryland Gazette thought the theatre t o be as elegant and commodious, for its size, as any in America.37 Douglasss Church St reet Theatre (1773) in Charleston received similar approbation for its size, decoration, and lighting. The 35 Leacroft, Development 87-92; Thomas, Restoration 71. 36 William Eddis, Another account of the theatre (1771) in Colonial American Stage 394. 37 Maryland Gazette (Annapolis) 12 September 1771.
22 House [was] elegantly finished, and supposed, for the size, to be the most commodious on the continent. The scenes the disposi tion of the lights, all contributed to the satisfaction of the audience.38 Englishmen and women in both the colonies and London considered theatergoing a polite commercial endeavor, even though they begrudgingly experienced this form of leis ure with the lower classes. But this coming together of multiple socioeconomic groups provided elites a forum to showcase their wealth and consumer power not only to their social peers but also to skilled laborers, servants, and footmen.39 The opportunity to be seen by the middle and lower middle class as well as experience spatial distinction in the side boxes persuaded members of the upper class to financially support and politically defend the theatre. English playhouses were spaces of performative display (both in th e audience and on stage) and entertainment. The scenery, sets, music, and costumes comprised a major part of the attraction of a colonial theatrical performance.40 But spectacle was not exclusive to the stage. Historian Lisa Freeman argues, No single controlling gaze regulated the space of performance as the power of performance was routinely shared between the audience and performers. Elites possessed a spatial advantage in this contest as they sat in boxes that began near the stage and ascended along side and then behind the pit. Fu rthermore, the boxes remained 38 Rivingtons New York Gazette (New York) 24 February 1774. 39 For a list of colonial theat res see Johnson and Burling, Colonial American Stage 44-58. On the impermanence and eighteenth-century Amer ican playhouses see Brooks McNamara, The American Playhouse in the Eighteenth Century (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1969), 46-70. 40 Johnson and Burling, Colonial American Stage 36-8.
23 fully lit thr oughout the evening.41 Both factors assured the elite that the audience could see their material and behavioral fineries at all times. One particularly pretentious elite caught the eye of John Okeeffe and his fe llow patrons in a 1760s Dublin theatre. Seated in the left-hand stage box, this grand gentleman placed himself upon the edge of the box, his legs stretched out at fu ll length, crossing each other, his arms also folded and his shoulder resting against the side of the box. With his prime wish of an ample display fulfilled, the eyes of the audience could take in the elegant refinement of his person. OKeeffe remarked his clothe s were silk and richly embroidered; his hair, tastefully dressed with ringl ets his sword, with a large a nd magnificent silver swordknot. Admiration, however, soon turned to a clamour of mirth when in the very height of this proud and car eless display the gentleman overbalanced himself and tumbled into the pit. Though no bones were broke, OKeeffe was certain that the gentleman had made his last attempt to capti vate the notice of the audience and turn it from the stage, the true point of attrac tion, to his own fine self-admired self.42 This accident and, more generally, the elites tenden cy of showing off their latest fashions in the playhouse incited a discussion of box size and ladies hair. The trend of wealthy women wearing their hair exceptionally high and placing feathers in it attracted the at tention of several eighteenth-cen tury theatergoers in London. At a benefit performance in 1775, one spectat or commented upon the need to enlarge the boxes to accommodate the females of fashi on. These ladies, who had succumbed to the rage for high feathers, found the the roof of the box was rather too low for 41 Freeman, Characters Theater 3-5. 42 John OKeeffe, An exhib itionist spectator (1826) in Restoration 408.
24 them.43 A self-entitled Hater of Monsters claimed that womens heads had of late become so enormous, that, in order to behol d them without disgust, he imagined them so many Patagonians, and consequently that the feet of those in the boxes rest upon the ground on a level with the floor of the orches tra. Such fantasized conversion was a much more tolerable idea than to suppose them dwarfs with giants heads. When the author questioned a brocaded monster as to why she wore hair so, her ladyship responded: it is the fashion.44 Although revolted by upper class womens appearances, this Hater of monsters was drawn to the boxe s. Moreover, how theat ergoing ladies wore their hair signified polite refinement or conversely the absence of wealth.45 Occupying a side box seat was a sign of upper middle or upper class status; however members of the lower middle classes could challenge this spatial effort of class distinction. While critiquing English wastefulness, Mr. Sene x inveighed the impecunious habits of Londons skilled laborers; even the journeyman of a milliners shop will jostle a lady in the side-boxes, to whom he has possibly carried a pair of ruffles in the morning.46 By sitting in the side box, the jour neyman and his companion contested the elites claims of spatial exclusivity within the playhouse. For an evening, this skilled laborer partook in material fineries us ually reserved for the upper class. 43 Virginia Gazette (Norfolk) 23 August 1775. 44 New Hampshire Gazette (Portsmouth) 10 June 1768. 45 Kate Haulman, Fashion and the Culture Wars of Revolutionary Philadelphia, William and Mary Quarterly 3rd ser., 4 (October 2005): 637-38. 46 Boston Chronicle (Boston) 25 December 1769.
25 The lighting, the cushions, and the decora tive detail of side boxes appealed to bourgeois consumers of commercialized spa ce. Upon entering th e Anglo-Atlantic playhouse, the middle and upper classes encoun tered an increasingly necessary attribute of refined eighteenth-century hous eholds: a well-lit interior. But this charac teristic of elegant space became a requisite of profitable eighteenth-centu ry theatres. As historian Richard Bushman contends, The need fo r light was more than practical. Ornamented chandeliers and multiple spermace ti candles filled the playhouse with visual and olfactory cues for polite sociability and en tertainment. Likewise, the soft feel of cushioned seats and the rich adornment of box interiors in stilled in elite patrons a phenomenological sense of social di stinction and cultural exclusivity.47 The sensory experiences of being placed above the pit, illuminated by candles, and framed by engraved columns conditioned genteel behavior and at the same time infused the elites interaction with these material si gns of wealth with class tension.48 Thus, person-object relationships with th e Anglo-Atlantic theatre revealed lower and lower middle class challenges to the mate rial diffusion of politeness. A coachman, named Francis Cooke, made such an affront to one refined object of Covent Garden in 1737. After assaulting the se ntry who had the care of His Royal Highnesss box, Cooke attempted to have sex with a women he had picked up. However, his efforts of 47 Bushman, Refinement 126 and for the upholstering of church pews see 178. On furniture shaping human behavior and the tenets of politeness see Mimi Hellman, Furniture, Sociability, and the Work of Leisure in Eigh teenth-Century France, Eighteenth-Century Studies 32.4 (1999): 415-445. 48 On the use of cushioned pit benches in eighteenth-century Holland see James Ralph, The Case of our Present Theatrical Disputes, Fairly Stated (London: printed for Jacob Robinson, 1743), 40.
26 transforming the Princes chair into a bawdy house were thwa rted by the whips of three adamant sentry men.49 Cookes daring interactions w ith the Princes chair demonstrated a lower class desire to spoil the objects of wealth and upper class ex clusivity. This lower class urge to damage or wreck the materi al symbols of social refinement surfaced violently during Londons 1763 Half Price Riots. At Drury Lane, rioters shattered the glass lustres, which caused the lighted candles to fall to the ground. Moreover, the benches [were] torn up, the sconces broke[n], the actors pelted, the chandeliers destroyed, and all is anarchy and confusion.50 Through choice of object, rioting patrons contested upper class conceptualizations of co mmercialized space as well as the material manifestations of polite sociability. Refinement permeated the Anglo-Atlantic theatres of the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. As consumers tastes for elegance, comfort, and beauty filtered through to the middling classes, theatre manage rs increasingly needed to refurbish their buildings with the latest tr ends of polite space and fashionable elegance. Without the regulations practiced in more recent commercial entities of leisure, playhouses had to rely on their physicality to recreate and rein force the social order. Therefore, commodiousness and elegance not only referred to size, softness, and light but these descriptors also revealed the class struggle over theat ergoers behavior. 49 The London Daily Post (London) 1 February 1737. 50 The Fitzgiggo Riot at Drury Lane, 25 January 1763 in Restoration 401. On the motives and the medias role in this riot see Heather McPherso n, Theatrical riots and cultural politics in eighteenthcentury London, Eighteenth Century: Theory and Interpretation 43 (Fall 2002): 238.
27 Chapter Two Sexual Ambiguities: Polite Ladies, Prostitu tes, and the Eighteenth-Century AngloAtlantic Theatre On December 10, 1761, the New York Gazette and Weekly Post Boy published a letter in which a Mr. Philodemos questione d the modesty and moral strength of those ladies who regularly attended the playhouse. The theatre, in his opi nion, had too often proved fatal to [womens] reputations, by criminal assignations, and lascivious intrigues. His words, however, did not set tle well with all who read them. One week later, a woman named Amanda replied in prin t to the comments of Philodemos. Since no good write would likely respond to the co mments of such an impudent fellow, Amanda, an avid lover and frequent patron of the theatre, believed that the chore of rebutting Philodemoss scurrilous allegations had befallen her. I imagine his opinion is condemned as a piece too low to merit an answer from the pen of a good write. Nay, should think it unworthy of mine (being one of the female tribe) ha d he not spirited up my resentment to the highest pitch, by the de famatory treatment of my sex. Ought not this [his insinuation], ladies be resente d in the highest manner? Surely all must join me in answering in the affirmative. In the name of all [her] incented females, Amanda asked Philodemos whether [he could] affirm as matter of conscience, that plays in general will so corrupt a female mind, as to make her lose all sense of virtue. Believing no written defense from Philode mos could undermine her logic, Amanda
28 maintain[ed] that plays have not this tendency.51 Amandas assertion would stir an ongoing debate in the winter issues of the New York Gazette and Weekly Post Boy about the playhouses ability to redeem or corrupt the female mind. Though perhaps few of Philodemoss urban contemporaries shared his sentiments, his comments nevertheless echoe d a long-standing, puritanical tradition of defaming the playhouses negative influences. However, Philodemoss concerns stand apart from sixteenth-century criticisms of the stage. Whereas duplicity (the feigned reproduction of Gods divine works or the lowly actors performance of a king) and economic wastefulness (in regard to both the patron s time and money as well as the theatres unproductiveness) lay at the hear t of earlier magisterial and religious opprobrium against the playhouse, Philodemoss anxieties focuse d instead on the mode sty of play-house ladies and the corruptibility of a woma ns character. If you [Amanda] want an instance of plays proving fatal to the reputation of the [female] sex, read the celebrated history of Clarissa Harlowe, and s ee where the ruin of poor Sally Miller, took its rise. But not just plays could undermine a ladys moral education; the theatre itself its spatial and material composition triumphed a womans appearance, her superficiality, over her inner sanctity. In Philodemoss words, I perceive you [Amanda] and your play-house ladies, have been made to believe you are all Goddesses, and proper objects of adoration. A doctrine fr equently taught at the theatre!52 51 New York Gazette and Weekly Post Boy (New York) 17 December 1761. 52 New York Gazette and Weekly Post Boy (New York) 24 December 1761. On religious opposition to the stage see Richard Burridge, A Scourge for the Play-Houses: or the Character of the English-Stage (1702) in Antitheatrical Tracts, 1702-1704 Garland Edition (New York: Garland
29 The eighteenth-century Anglo-Atlantic playhouse was a multifunctional space for different socioeconomic groups of women. Fi rst, the theatre served as a showcase for bourgeois womens latest fashions, polite manner and conversation. In addition, plays could instruct middle and upper class women in the benefits of a moral life and the tragedies of a sinful one. Th e theatre also hosted women wh o did not particularly care for lessons in virtue or an evening of po lite banter. Second, prostitutes and orange wenches frequently roamed the interiors of eighteenth-century pl ayhouses for economical purposes. And finally, the stage permitted actresses to play male roles in breeches, skirting the divide between men and wome n and openly transgressing gender boundaries, often to the delight of male patrons.53 Within the playhouse walls the rich, the up and coming, the poor, and the libidinous came togeth er to see plays, pantomimes, acrobatic feats, and musical interludes. Altho ugh middle and upper class women could mingle with others of similar social standing or observe in drama tic form the consequences of female indiscretion and lasciviousness, the sexual availability of prostitutes in the audience and the cross-dressing of actresse s on stage may have rendered the theatres polite decorum and didactic play content di singenuous. To reconcile this gap between theatre as vehicle for middle-class values and haven for unbridled ribaldry, eighteenthPublishing, 1974); Tom Goyens, House of the Devil: Opposition to the Theater in Colonial America, The Colonial Williamsburg Interpreter 24 (Spring 2003): 8-16; and Edmund Morgan, Puritan Hostility to the Theatre, Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 110, no. 5 (October 27, 1966): 340-7. 53 For example, Peg Woffington was an incredibly popular cross-dressing actress in eighteenthcentury London; see Dror Wahrman, The Making of the Modern Self: Identity and Culture in EighteenthCentury England (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004), 48-58.
30 century managers negotiated the divisions of playhouse space, attempting to appease (or least mollify) all those who entered their respective establishments. With changes in price, seating arrangem ents, or programming often resulting in resistance or even violent reprisals from th e audience, the separation of commercialized sex and male ogling of womens bodies from genteel hetero-soc iability and moral instruction was a long process.54 Yet, the financial allure of middle-class patronage convinced many theatre managers to struggl e for order and sexual propriety in their playhouses; a task complicated by a growing sense of consumer privilege (expressed largely through the gallerys boisterous requests for come dy, music, and spectacle), conflicting conceptions of bourgeois sexual ity, and intensifying class opposition. Managers therefore took incremental steps to ensure the theatres pl ace in the leisurely routines of the upper and middle class: they offered realisti c tragedies, which promoted the proclaimed benefits of female sexual discretion and middle-cl ass industriousness; they heeded lower class patr ons clamors, interspersing co medies with plays of moral instruction; and they not only tolerated pr ostitution but also e xploited actresses and female patrons sexuality. In this chapte r, I first argue theatre managers tried to differentiate the stages message s of middle-class virtue from the potentially lewd actions of a rambunctious audience through spatial and material practices. Keeping the playhouse peaceful and therefore hospitable to the middle and upper classes, however, required an air of respect for the audiences varying tastes, a bit of musical revelry, and (for many male patrons) the oppor tunity of visual and some times physical titillation. I 54 Perhaps the most dramatic examples of change resulting in riot were Londons Half Price Riots (1763) and the Old Price Riots (1809); see McPherson, Theatrical riots, 236-240.
31 then contend the promise of sexual stimulati on influenced a number of men to attend the theatre, including gentlemen. Few playhouse owners failed to capitalize upon mens desire for arousing forms of le isure and entertainment. Moreover, because not all middle and upper class men practiced the tenets of bourgeois prudery in the theatre, managers could not completely segregate prostitute s. The elites demand for sex brought prostitutes (comprised largely of lower-class, urban women) to the theatre and persuaded some actresses (typically underp aid compared to their operati c counterparts) to exchange sexual favors for gifts and living expenses.55 Actresses and prostitutes need for subsistence (or at least subsidized income) pitted their ostentatious sexual availability against middle class reserve and bourgeois womens desire for polite spaces of pleasure and social refinement. In a space where the purchase of a ticket translated into a sense of ownership and self-entitlement, restricting the patrons acc ess to the stage brought a semblance of order to the theatre, lessened the possibility of li centious behavior with the actresses, and strengthened the realis m of the performance.56 For the late sixteenth and most of the seventeenth century, elites sat on the stage and visited female players behind the curtains 55 On prostitution in eighteenth-century London, including the citys playhouses see Tony Henderson, Disorderly Women in Eighteenth-Century London: Prostitution and Control in the Metropolis, 1730-1830 (New York: Longman, 1999). For the sexual procliv ities of elite theatergoers and the actresses who took advantage of them see E.J. Burford, Wits, Wenchers and Wantons: Londons Low Life: Covent Garden in the Eighteenth Century (London: Robert Hale, 1986), 169-184. 56 James Van Horn Melton, The Rise of the Public in Enlightenment Europe (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 160-83.
32 during performances; but by 1770 managers had finally ended these practices. Beginning in 1704, Queen Anne attempted to clear specta tors from behind the scenes. Evidencing the difficulty of altering theatrical traditi ons, ten years later her proclamation was still attached to playbills. American theatre co mpanies, such as the Holt Company, allowed no person whatsoever to be admitted behind the scenes.57 Famous English actor and manager of Drury Lane Theatre, David Garrick officially banned the audience from his stage in 1762, favoring an enlargement of the playhouse over letting elites on stage during performances.58 To render the Bass-End Theatre more comfortable to the Ladies and Gentlemen who honour[ed] it with their appearance, the Leeward Islands Company printed an advertisement in 1770, which prohibited all persons from going behind the scenes; nor any Ne groe whatever in the House. The announcement claimed that audience members on stage in the St. Croix playhouse had been disagreeable to several Ladies.59 With the Anglo-Atlantic stage cl eared of patrons, th e illusion of the play was more convincing to the audience. Moreover, managers insisted upon verisimilitu de in their actors characters and no longer encouraged the bombastic, flamboyant, and one-dimensional acting styles of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century. Eighteenth-century critic, John Hill praised actress Mrs. Pritchard because she carried nothing that is peculiar to herself into the 57 South Carolina Gazette (Charleston) 30 October 1736. 58 Thomas Davies, Drury Lane: Garrick bans the audience from the st age and enlarges the auditorium, 1762 (1780) in Restoration 268. See also Leo Hughes, The Dramas Patrons : A Study of the Eighteenth-Century London Audience (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1971), 21. 59 Royal Danish American Gazette (St. Croix) 21 July 1770. David Douglass also disallowed people from entering the stage door see South Carolina and American General Gazette 6 May 1774.
33 character. When Pritchard played Merope, she [was] Merope; when she represent[ed] the wife of Theseus, she [was] the wife of Theseus. Hill argued, This ductility of mind, to continue the allusion, is the only true as it is the only general sensibility.60 English audiences applauded David Garrick for his ability to take on th e identity of his characters, to become those he portrayed on the stage.61 For didactic pieces, Garricks and other actors embodiment of their parts transforme d the stage into a re alistic portrayal of human wretchedness and corruption as well as genuine kindness and virtue. In the words of eighteenth-century acting theorist Aaron Hill, An actor is the professor of an art that represents the whole diversity of passi ons whereby human life is distinguished throughout all its conditions, whether good or bad fortune.62 I argue that these efforts of stage realism (along with lifelike scenery and period costumes) disassociated the play, particularly those dramas that stressed politeness and bourgeois chastity, from male audience memb ers courting (sometimes aggressively) the unattended, actresses appearing in breeches and women actively soliciting sex. Although the verisimilitude of performances varied throughout the Anglo-Atlantic, the true to life nature of mideighteenth-century plays a nd the unambiguousness of their moral messages led New Yorker Amanda and he r supporters to defend the social benefits of the playhouse. Amandas much obliged friend Dolly Blithe argued that all should, 60 John Hill, The Actor or A Treatise on the Art of Playing (London, 1755; reissued New York: Benjamin Blom, 1972), 60-1. 61 For a discussion of Garricks role in demonstr ating the fluidity of identity in the eighteenth century see Wahrman, Making 170-76. 62 Aaron Hill, Aaron Hill outlines a theory of acting in The Prompter (1735) in Restoration 170.
34 that would be good Christians, diligently attend the theatre, and learn to play the devil well. Had Philodemos put on his spectacle s, Miss Blithe conte nded, he would have seen it by their [the plays] very titles how very instructing the theatre was to women.63 During the spring of 1772, one Virginia n critic lamented over the lack of moral plays. If the comick writers w ould [only] pursue such dramas the stage would become (what it ought to be) a school of politeness and virtue.64 Later that year, Mr. Morgans company of players assure d its New England public that nothing [would] be delivered but what is conduc ive and consistent with politeness and morality.65 Through dramatic example, bourgeois theatergoers and managers argued, the stage could teach female patrons how to avoid the consequences of a libertine lifestyle, gambling, sexual promiscuity, and drunkenness.66 The Anglo-Atlantic playhouse, however, did not accommodate a co hesive group of Englishmen and women. Yet the audiences differences in taste and disparities in motives did not drastically change the theat res position in polite soci ety. The eighteenth-century playhouse was a place of bourgeois refinement and enjoyment and as such it remained a heterosocial space and, more importantly, an establishment which upper or middle class women could attend without fear of damaging th eir reputations. In his study of rise of the public sphere in Europe, historian Ja mes Van Horn Melton argues Enlightenment 63 New York Gazette and Weekly Post Boy (New York) 17 January 1762. 64 This review appeared in the Virginia Gazette (Williamsburg) 2 April 1772 in response to Hugh Kellys 1770 drama entitled A School for Libertines, or a Word to the Wise 65 New Hampshire Gazette (Portsmouth) 19 June 1772. 66 For the European discussion of the stages role in moral instruction see Melton, Rise of the Public 165-6.
35 notions of sociability considered mingling of the sexes crucial to the progress of civil society.67 Thus, authors of Restoration and Ge orgian prescriptive literature believed women could refine masculine excess and inhi bit male boorishness. Historian E.J. Clery contended the feminized man [was] a model of politeness, shaped by his contact with the female sex.68 In one eighteenth-century ad vice manual on theatergoing and politeness, women functioned as exemplary mo dels of civil inter action and appropriate behavior. The anonymous author paid particul ar heed to Lady Betty; I know no person that possesses the foregoing qua lifications in a more eminen t degree. She embodied the best characteristics of a patron. She reserved her box months in advance, she familiarized herself with the plays before attending th e theatre, and she exuded an air of selfapprobation.69 Yet another contemporary of Garrick suggested the ladies were the brighter part of [his] consta nt audience. Therefore, Let it be a resolution that you [Garrick] will pay a regard to DECENCY in the theatre.70 Middle and upper class women, like Lady Betty, most likely socialized in public space to refine as well as to participate in the genteel enjoyments of an urban landscape. Whatever their intentions, women in public were subjected to a scrutini zing gaze from men attempting to decipher, 67 Ibid. 14. 68 Clery, Feminization Debate 10. 69 A Guide to the Stage: or, Select Instructions from the Best Authorities Towards Forming a Polite Audience; with some Account of the Players Second Edition (London: Printed for D. Job, 1751), 10. 70 A Letter to Mr. Garrick on the Opening of the Theatre, with Observations on the Conduct of Managers, to Actors, Authors, and Audiences and particularly to New-Performers (London: Printed for J. Coote, 1758), 7.
36 through material signifiers a nd spatial contexts, not only a womans socioeconomic status but also her sexual availability.71 Mens reading of women in the th eatre however was complicated by consumerism, the ever-changing tenets of politeness, and ambiguous uses of space. Within the playhouse, prostitutes indiscriminate ly mixed with the middling classes seated in the pit, the back boxes, a nd first gallery, while orange-w enches circulated throughout the theatre. Henri Misson, a seventeenthcentury Frenchman in England, remarked in 1698 that men of quality ladies of reputat ion, and virtue, and abundance of damsels that hunt for prey, sit all togeth er in this place [the pit], hi ggledy-piggledy, chatter, toy, play, hear, hear not.72 Moreover, prostitutes answered the calls of elites and ascended into the side and front boxes. This social promiscuity incensed social critics such as Richard Burridge. During his early eight eenth-century theatrical experience, he witnessed some persons of quality be stowing Complements on common Harlots, huffd up with so many Hyperbolical Expressi ons of their Beauty. As for the Womenkind, who sat among the gentry, he could not well distinguish common Jilt from Jilt of Quality: But [he] saw they were all as well pleased with the Diversion of Sinning.73 Prostitutes to author James Wright had b ecome a particular nuisance in Restoration playhouses. In contrast, during Elizabeths reign, the ticket prices were small (there 71 Coffeehouse barmaids negotiated space and used objects to preclude any sexual advances from their exclusively male clientele. See Clery, Feminization 21. 72 Henri Misson, Memoirs and Observations in his Travels over England, With Some Account of Scotland and Ireland trans. John Ozell (London: D. Browne, 1719), 219. 73 Burridge, Scourge 5.
37 being no scenes) and better order kept among the company that came, which made very good people think a play an innocent diversion fo r an idle hour or two. But, eighteenthcentury playhouses were so extremely pester ed with vizard masks and their trade, (occasioning continual quarrels and abuses) th at many of the more civilised part of the town are uneasy in the company and shun the theatre as they woul d a house of scandal.74 Despite their whereabouts in the playhouse, prostitutes made the availability of their services obvious. This conspicuous sexuality and vociferous bartering over price may have persuaded late eight eenth-century theatre managers to mark out spaces for prostitutes that were far removed from the stage, the side boxes, and the pit. A 1754 issue of The Connoisseur hinted at such a spatial pro cess when it took notice of that division of the upper boxes properly distinguis hed by the name of the flesh market. Within this place, there was frequently as much art used to make the flesh exhibited here look wholesome as there [was] by the but chers to make their veal look white. 75 Their distinct appearance and unambiguous us e of theatrical space made prostitutes less offensive to polite bourgeois society. Eighteen th-century Englishmen Charles Dibdin, if [he] may judge by what [he] [him]self w itnessed, attributed one theatres well conducted audience to the segregation and regulation of prostitution. Upon a visit to Portsmouths playhouse, Dibdin was surprised to observe a seaport theatre so free of vice and infamy. It [was] true, prostitutes were seen there in plenty, but there was a space set apart for them where they were oblig ed to conform to rules and order or be 74 James Wright, Wright describes the nuisance of prostitution in the London theatres at the turn of the century in Restoration 189. 75 The Connoisseur (London) 21 November 1754.
38 turned out. They did not dare to bar up th e lobbies and insult modest women. In his opinion, More barefaced profligat e indecency [was] practised ( sic ) at Drury Lane or Covent Garden Theatres in an evening than at Portsmouth Theatre in a season.76 However (as Dibdin suggested) in most mideighteenth-century pl ayhouse, prostitutes could still move around the theatre, answering a gentry-mans call for sex or (if none had yet requested their services) attempting to ga in ones attention. If these ladies would appear in any other qua rter of the house, I [ The Connoisseur ] would only beg of them, and those who come to market, to drive their ba rgains with as little noise as possible. Prostitutes ability to go thr oughout the theatre particularly un nerved the articles author. I have lately observed with some concern th at these women deign to appear in the lower boxes, to the destruction of a ll order and great conf usion of all modest ladies. It was absurd to endeavor the remova l of their market into the front and side boxes. The author further hoped that some of their frie nds [would] advise them not to pretend to appear there, anymore than at court.77 The Times also complained about the open solicitation of sex and clearly visible presence of prostitutes in the lower front boxes in Covent Garden and Drury Lane.78 Yet, managers dependence upon an elite, which held conflicting opinions of sexual propriety, made it difficult to confine prostitution to a specified space. The larger playhouses of the 1770s, built with thir d tier galleries, eased this process, as distance and height rendered the exch anges between gentlemen and 76 Charles Dibdin, The Problems of playing in a garrison town: Portsmouth (1801) in Restoration 406. 77 The Connoisseur (London) 21 November 1754. 78 Henderson, Disorderly Women 59.
39 prostitutes more discreet.79 Then again, not all men who sought an evening of theatrical entertainment and mingling with women wanted to procure the services of a prostitute. Theatergoing upper and middle class wo men dressed fashionably, behaved politely, and represented an enticing reason fo r some men to go to the playhouse. In addition, mangers often encouraged bourgeois women to sit in the boxes, which were raised and well-lit sections of the eighteenth-century theatre. In 1752, Lewis Hallam asked the ladies of Williamsburg to give timely notice for their places in the boxes, and on the day of performance to send their serv ants early to keep them. He made this plea in order to prevent trouble and disappointment.80 If bourgeois women seated themselves in the boxes, their separation from the crowd would preclude any unwanted sexual advances groping or fondling in the tightly packed pit. Perhaps, Hallam also realized the allure of polite women and ther efore offered elite female patrons their own, moral zone in which they could display th eir expensive dress and refined manner. A similar tactic helped fill David Dougla sss Williamsburg theatre with women. After several evenings of enjo ying Douglasss company in 1771, Virginian Hudson Muse confessed to his brother that the female patr ons affected his appreciation of the actors abilities, specifically actress, Nancy Halla m. Miss Hallams luster was much sullied by the number of Beauties that appeared at that court. The house was crowded every night, and the gentlemen who have generally attended that place agree there was treble the fine 79 On prostitutes in the third tier of New Yorks nineteenth-century theatres see Timothy Gilfoyle, City of Eros: New York, Prostitution, and the Commercialization of Sex, 1790-1920 (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1992), 107-09. 80 Virginian Gazette (Williamsburg), 21 August 1752.
40 Ladyes ( sic ) was never seen in town before. Th e sight of so many Beauties compelled Muse to question the benefits of spending the rest of his life with just a single partner.81 Gentlemen, like Muse, interacted with women in the playhouse, either through conversation, flirtatious glances, or ogling. The opportunity to see or be seen by members of the opposite sex was an incentiv e for men and women to partake in the theatre. Despite the possible presence of prostitu tes and men seeking sexual stimulation, polite ladies still considered the playhouse a space of mo ral instruction and social refinement. Amanda as well as those wo men who came to her defense went to the theatre because they appreciated the stage s realistic portrayal of both human decency and vulgarity. Though most women did not addr ess the public in pr int, they did show their support for the theatre with their attend ance. On the other hand, Philodemos, James Wright, Richard Burridge, and other critics of the theatre chose to focus their attention and social commentaries upon the behaviors of the audience. If the eighteenth-century theatre were to remain a polite form of le isure, these men argued, playhouse managers would have to rigidly stratify their establishments.82 Furthermore, the divisions within the theatre had to be readily interprete d by the varying socioeconomic groups which entered the building. Unfortunately for Wri ght and Burridge, not all middle and upper class men thought alike. Thus, the Geor gian and Restoration theatre became a microcosm of the cultural tensions that existed within the bourgeoisie. Fear of the lower 81 Letter from Hudson Muse, of Virginia, to his brother, Thomas Muse, of Dorchester, Maryland, 17 April 1771, William and Mary Quarterly 1st ser., 2 (April 1894): 240-1. 82 Pedicord, The Changing Audience, 243.
41 and lower middle classes and their growing consumer power would eventually unify bourgeois social and cultural intere sts in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century.
42 Chapter Three A Material Manner of Distin ction: Eighteenth-Century Pl ayhouse Spikes, Class, and Consumption in the Anglo-Atlantic Theatre On the night of December 1st, 1752, one white man and two Negroes broke into Williamsburgs playhouse and violently assa ulted the unsuspecting actor, Patrick Malone. After wounding him, the villains threw Malone upon the iron-spikes, one of which [ran] into his leg. Unable to lift himself up, the actor helplessly hung from the stage for a considerable time, till he was [finally] relieved by some Negroes. But before his eventual rescue, Malone may have pondered the irony of his grave situation: impaled and nearly killed by the very objects meant to protect him.83 Though it is 83 Virginia Gazette (Williamsburg) 8 December 1752; Malone su rvived this ordeal and later died in St. Croix on November 14th, 1770, see Royal Danish American Gazette (St. Croix) 14 November 1770. For a brief history of Hallams London Company of Pl ayers (later the American Company) see Weldon B. Durham, ed., American Theatre Companies, 1749-1887 (New York: Greenwood Press, 1986), 10-29; and Tom Goyens, Lewis Hallam: An English Actor in America, The Colonial Williamsburg Interpreter 22 (Fall 2001). This incident is also described in Hugh F. Rankin, The Theater in Colonial America (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1965), 57-8. For a further discussion of the use of spikes in Southern colonial theatres s ee Susanne Ketchum Sherman, Comedies Useful: A History of the American Theater in the South, 1775-1812 (Williamsburg: Celest Press, 1998), 1. To see the same use of spikes In the Anglo-Atlantic world Allardyce Nicoll, The Garrick Stage: Theatres and Audience in the Eighteenth Century Sybil Rosenfeld, ed., (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1980), 25-6; and Johnson and Burling, Colonial American Stage 161n.
43 unlikely that this thought ever crossed th e players mind as he waited in agony, his unfortunate dilemma illustrates the inherent paradox of eighteenth-century playhouse spikes. During the late seventeenth and earl y eighteenth century, playhouse spikes emerged as a new means of separating the unpr edictable and sometimes riotous rabble of the pit and galleries from th e players on stage and the elite s in the boxes; but unlike the spikes material predecessors, these boundaries threatened violence (F igure 3). Arranged tightly together, sharp, and m easuring in length from eight to ten inches, the spikes resembled a line of bayonets, poised to strike down any who thought of traversing them. However, despite this menacing divide, the spikes were ultimate ly unsuccessful at keeping people from climbing on stage or de scending into the pit and boxes. Indeed, Malone himself perhaps questioned the usefulne ss of the spikes several times during his horrid experience.84 This paradoxical material practi ce, then, was more than a theatre managers response to a persistent fear of rowdy audience members.85 In this chapter, I argue that spikes, speci fically the peril they threatened, reflected intensifying class anta gonisms largely caused by the ri se of gentility. During the eighteenth century, the gentry created and then reinforced its own discrete public identity through fashion (dress, architecture, a nd dishware), polite behavior, and space 84 Virginia Gazette (Williamsburg) 8 December 1752. 85 My ideas of space are informed by Lefebvre, Production of Space ; Edward Soja, Postmodern Geographies: The Reassertion of Space in Critical Social Theory (London: Verso, 1989); and Christopher Tilley, A Phenomenology of Landscape: Places, Paths, and Monuments (Providence: Berg, 1991).
44 (coffeehouses, salons, pleasure gardens, and bathhouses);86 while at the same time, elites grew increasingly fearful of an up and coming artisan-class empowered by consumerism.87 Consequently, in a space where varying classes entered occupying the same role as patrons, playhouse spikes clea rly marked the social hierarchy and openly asserted violence if artisans and skille d laborers transgressed class boundaries.88 As members of the audience and as paying c onsumers of commodified space, members of the pit and galleries believed it was their right to voice their opinions regardless of spiked barriers.89 Thus, peoples relationshi ps to these threatening signs of social exclusivity and elite privilege reveal class tens ions and conflicts otherwise lost. 90 Whereas AngloAmerican theatre historians have focu sed upon the passionate religious animosity colonial officials held toward the acting of plays; have scrutinized the dynamics of play selection and its reflection of a burgeoning independent American/ anti-British identity; 86 On genteel self-fashioning in the colonies see Kenneth Lockridge, Colonial Self-Fashioning: Paradoxes and Pathologies in the Construction of Genteel Identity in Eighteenth-Century America in Ronald Hoffman, Mechal Sobel, and Fredrika Teute, eds., Through a Glass Darkly: Reflections of Personal Identity in Early America (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1997), 274-339. 87Melton, Rise of the Public 161-2; and Nash, Urban Crucible 88 Lisa Freeman argues that seating arrangements in the playhouse could be read as a study in social stratification, Characters Theater 3. 89 On audience power see Hughes, Dramas Patrons 90 Upton, Form and User, 162; for this ap proach to artifacts see also James Deetz, In Small Things Forgotten: An Archaeology of Early American Life Expanded and Revised Edition (New York: Double Day, 1996); and St. George, Conversing by Signs
45 or have analyzed the cultural nuances of eighteenth-century theatre audiences; I contend that playhouse spikes remain an under studied facet of th eatergoing culture. 91 Though I could not establish a pr ecise date, the spikes most likely made their first appearance after the 1660s, as these iron canin es were not present in Elizabethan or 91 On religious prejudice towards the colonial American stage see Jean-Christophe Agnew, Worlds Apart: The Market and the Theatre in Anglo-American Thought, 1550-1750 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1986), 152; Jonas Barish, The Antitheatrical Prejudice (Berkley, 1981); Goyens, House of the Devil 8-16; and Peter A. Davis, Puritan me rcantilism and the politics of anti-theatrical legislation in colonial America in Ron Engle and Tice Miller, eds., The American Stage: Social and economic issues from the colonial period to the present (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993), 18-29. On theatre and the fashioning of American identity see Jeffery D. Mason and J. Ellen Gainor, eds., Performing America: Cultural Nationalism in American Theatre (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1999); Jeffery Richards, Theater Enough: American culture and the metaphor of the world stage, 1607-1789 (Durham : Duke University Pr ess, 1991); S. E. Wilmer, Theatre, Society, and th e Nation: Staging American Identities (New York: Cambridge University Pre ss, 2002), 5; Heather S. Nathans, Early American Theater from the Revolution to Thomas Jefferson: Into the hands of the People (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003), Chapter 1; Sherman, Comedies Useful 19; Allen, Horrible Prettiness 47-48; Butsch, American Theater Riots, 41-59; Idem., The Making of American Audien ces: From Stage to Television, 1750-1990 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000) Chapter 1; William Pencak, Introduction: A Historical Perspective and Play as Prelude to Revolution: Boston, 1765-1776 in William Pencak, Matthew Dennis, and Simon P. Newman, eds. Riot and Revelry in Early America (Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2002), 6-7, 127 ; Thomas Jason Shaffer, T ransatlantic Performances: Politics and the Early American Theatre (Ph.D. diss., Yale University, 2002). On the colorful behavior of eighteenth-century audiences see Hughes, The Dramas Patrons
46 Jacobean playhouses.92 Based upon contemporaneous drawings and personal accounts, some sixteenth and seventeenth-century Eng lish stages both public and royal were instead lined with wooden railings. These one to three feet banister s separated the acting space from the seating areas, but did so wit hout conveying violence. For example, in images of the Fortune Theatre as well as th e famous seventeenth-century theatre, the Cockpit-in-Court, we see a wooden balustrade framed each respective theatre (Figures 4 and 5). Perhaps, the latter theatres aris tocratic (and hence well-behaved) audience rendered the use of spikes unnecessary; yet, public amphitheatres (lik e the Globe, the Red Lion, and the Swan) did not prot ect their stages with sharp iron objects despite the varied social classes of their audiences. Inst ead, these commercial playhouses relied upon elevated platforms to create the boundary be tween players and standing patrons in the pit; attendees who, according to English gentry man Richard Brathwait, were as distastefully rude as their eighteenth-century counterparts.93 Despite this apparent unruliness, neither the stages nor the boxes of open-aired theatre s had iron spikes. The evident absence of spikes in both public and courtly venues sugge sts that the use of th ese artifacts occurred sometime after Englands Civil War destr oyed most of Londons sixteenth and early seventeenth-century playhouses in the 1660s.94 92 My ideas on the emergences of objects and their relationship to discourse are informed by Michel Foucault, The Archaeology of Knowledge and the Discourse on Language trans. A.M. Sheridan Smith (New York: Pantheon Books, 1982). 93 Richard Brathwait quoted in Gurr, Playgoing 56. 94 Chambers, Elizabethan Stage vol. 2; Gurr, Playgoing 14-57; Lawrence, Elizabethan Playhouse Second Series: Shakespeare Head Pr ess, 1913), 93-118; and Leacroft, Development 25-50.
47 To narrow this further, I looked at images and sc rutinized contemporaneous accounts of the Restoration playhouses of th e late seventeenth and early eighteenth century. Although two public theatres ope ned their doors in the 1660s (Thomas Killigrews Vere Street Theatre in 1660 and Sir William Davenants Lincolns Inn Fields Theatre in 1661), the majority of theatre building in London began in the 1670s (Dorset Garden in1671 and Drury Lane in 1674) a nd ended in the early 1740s (Kings Theatre, Haymarket in 1705, Goodmans Fields in 1714, and Covent Garden in 1732). A 1747 painting of Covent Garden substantiates th e use of spikes and according to theatre historian Allardyce Nicoll little or no ar chitectural changes were made to any of Londons playhouses between 1740 and 1780 (Figure 6).95 Outside of London, however, a number of theatres arose in Englands resort areas, such as Bath (1746) and Bristol (1766), as well as in the British colonies during the 1730s, 40s and 50s.96 In December 1752, actor Patrick Malone was thrown upon th e iron-spikes that lined the stage of Williamsburgs theatre.97 Thus, spiked barriers in Angl o-Atlantic playhouses most likely became a common architectural practice of division sometime between the 1670s and the late 1740s. This time period coincides with tw o other interconnected historical processes 95 Nicoll, The Garrick Stage Chapter 3; Idem., A History of Early Eighteenth-Century Drama, 1700-1750 (Cambridge: The University Press, 1925), 271-3. 96 Alfred Nelson, James Winstons Theatric Tourist a Critical Edition with a Biography and a census of Winston Material, vol. 1 (Ph.D. diss., George Washington University, 1968), 1-3; Johnson and Burling, Colonial American Stage 44-62. 97Virginia Gazette (Williamsburg) 8 December 1752.
48 taking place in eighteenth-century Europe and its peripheries: consumerism and the rise of genteel sociability among the middle and upper classes.98 The Consumer Revolution dramatically a ffected the theatre, making a playhouses profitability dependent upon the managers as well as his acto rs ability to cater to the whims of an increasingly consumerist societ y. Unfortunately, to the dismay of many owners and performers, the Anglo-Atlantic pl aygoing public did not enjoy the same types of entertainment. There was however one notable exception: the seemingly pervasive love of spectacle. In numera ble advertisements managers promised fantastic settings and costumes to lure potential patr ons to their theatres. At th e same time, eighteenth-century theatergoers increasingly came to expect elabor ate scenic effects, avoiding theatres that did not use such technology, props, or costumes.99 Though it represented a considerable expense, stage spectacle, in some shape or form, became a necessary feature of successful playhouses.100 Perhaps, this additional capital clarifies the functional need spikes 98 Philip Carter, Men and the Emergence of Polite Society, Britain, 1660-1800 (New York: Pearson Education, 2001). Linebaugh and Rediker argue that the democratic rhetoric of Cromwells Revolution also strengthen ed class antagonisms; see The Many-Headed Hydra 99 This is not to suggest that peoples tastes were similar throughout the British world. Ultimately, people had different standards for theatres outside of London. Nevertheless, patrons demanded some effort at spectacle. 100 The beginnings of this consumer-driven shift are perhaps best reflected in the success of Sir William Davenants Lincolns Inn Fields Theatre (1661 ) and conversely the failure of his rival, Thomas Killigrews Vere Street Theatre (1660). Davenant smar tly employed simple yet novel scenic effects in his productions to the delight of his upper and middle class patrons, whereas Killg rew did not. Edward Langhans attributes this newfound desire to the London-return of exiled upper classes, fresh from the theatrical experiences of Paris and Ro me. See Edward Langhans, The Th eatres in Robert D. Hume, ed.,
49 fulfilled; after all, the destruction of valuable hand-painted backdrops or the theft of pricey clothing could potentially ruin a traveling company of players. But the outwardly menacing spikes did not crea te the formidable boundary we may assume; nor did these sharply pointed objects nece ssarily inhibit riotous patr ons from damaging theatre property.101 A brief recount of well-known theatre riot s in London and the American colonies illustrates the spikes failure to keep the more rambunctious audiences from wreaking havoc within eighteenth-century playhouses. Th e Chinese Festival Riots resulted in two days of verbal hostility in November 1755, breaking out into open fighting on the eighteenth of that month. At some point in this skirmish, Drury La nes pit patrons tore up the theatres seats and demolished costly scenery. On another occasion, during the 1763 Half-Price Riots, people ascended C ovent Gardens stage and bullied the performers with swords.102 Finally, in May 1766, rioters shredded New Yorks Chapel Street Theatre to pieces and to the Satisf action of Many burned the remnants in a bonfire.103 Though other minor disturbances fr equently took place, these extreme examples complicate a purely functional interp retation of the spikes. Put simply, when The London Theatre World, 1660-1800 (Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southe rn Illinois University Press, 1980), 35-39; and Colin Visser, Scenery and Technical Design in The London Theatre World 66-118. 101 Sherman, Comedies Useful 2. 102 McPherson, Theatrical riots, 236-239. 103 New York Mercury (New York) 5 May 1766; this incident is also described in Rankin, The Theater in Colonial America 109; Johnson and Burling, Colonial American Stage 243-4; Butsch, American Theater Riots, 42-7 ; and George C. D. Odell, Annals of the New York Stage vol. 1 (New York: AMS Press, 1970), 92-94. Odell suggested that the Sons of Liberty orchestrated the riot.
50 enraged theatre audiences wanted to break or steal something, they could do sodespite stage spikes! However, most eighteenth-century actors played their parts free from any violent commotion, with the majority of plays endi ng with applause, not riots. Moreover, playhouse spikes surfaced in cities and communities with no history of disruptive spectators. Managers fears of loss, therefore, do not enti rely explain the emergence of spikes as a material practice. Instead, I see the cultural significance of playhouse spikes within elite discourses of polite sociability and, more specifi cally, their relationships to power, space, and mate rial culture. Though not a novel idea in the eightee nth century, politeness acquired a newfound significance among elites grappling with the disruptive social effects of the Consumer Revolution. As historian Cary Ca rson argues, no longer could a mans social standing be measured by the number of cows he owned or his acres of plow land but by the cut of his coat and the fashi onableness of his wifes tea table.104 Thus, the ability to purchase the latest periwig or dish set dis tinguished the gentry from the lower rungs of society. Yet another means of differentia tion was the conspicuous display of polite behavior. But like the trends of fashion, the tenets of politeness frequently changed. To stay current and therefore recognizably gentee l, elites diligently r ead the most recent and ever-growing body of etiquette manuals; or they familiarized themselves with prescriptive literature, complementing wh at they learned from books with peer interaction. Either path to gentility required assiduous refinement in public, which subsequently led to an increase in commercial ized spaces of leisure and polite sociability. 104 Carson, Why Demand, 494.
51 Coffeehouses, bathhouses, pleasure gardens, opera houses, and theatres became places where elites demonstrated and refined thei r mannerisms; but playhouses, in both form and function, differed from other polite environments. 105 Though heavily reliant upon middle-and upper-class patronage, English theat re managers nevertheless opened their doors to any who could afford a ticket, regard less of appearance. In fact, managers attempts to make the theatre more exclusive often met with fierce resistance from betteroff workers, artisans, and servants. Theatre managers, especially those in th e British colonies, depended on elite and upper-middle-class patronage to supplement thei r expenses. Subscriptions, in particular, provided owners the necessary startup capit al to build relatively elegant playhouses, purchase costly scenes, and a ny other materials theatergoers thought appropriate for the reception of ladies and gentlemen.106 Needless to say, elites e xpected special treatment for their financial investments, while managers tried to satisfy (or in some cases mollify) not only their rich and more financially influential custom ers but also their poorer and potentially more violent patrons. 105 My ideas on the bourgeoisie public sphere are informed by Jrgen Habermas, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society trans. Thomas Burger (Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 1991); Melton, Rise of the Public ; and Shields, Civil Tongue ; On commercialized forms of polite leisure see Carter, Men and Emergence 53-76; Carson, Why Demand, 509-13. 106 Virginia Gazette (Williamsburg) 21 August 1752. See also New York Mercury (New York) 2 July 1753. Theatre managers pleas for middle an d upper class patronage abound in early American newspapers. See Rankin, Theater 18, 27, 31, 61-2, 159, and 161; and Johnson and Burling, The Colonial American Stage 85-87.
52 This juggling act theat re managers practiced in the Anglo-Atlantic was obviously problematic, as subscribers, gallery and pit attendants, as well as government authorities held differing perceptions of the playhouse s purpose. First, a number of officials sanctioned theatrical performances because they believed in the potential moral influences of the stage. Through the medi um of performance, audience members could see in brief, yet dramatic form, the wret ched consequences of gambling, theft, or adultery.107 Second, elites went to the theatre to socialize with their own kind and possibly even learn from actors the latest tidbits of polite decorum or more clever turns of phrase. Third, some gentlemen ventured to the playhouse to laugh, flirt with young, unattended ladies, or perhaps sati ate more prurient desires. Lastly, the skilled artisans or the aspiring lower-middle classes in the pit and galleries ventured to the theatre for these reasons and possibly others. In contrast to what elites preferred, members of the pit and galleries demanded farcical comedies, pa ntomimes, and the occasional display of fireworks, forms of entertainmen t that unnerved most in the boxes.108 Theatre managers, therefore, catered to a fickle body of cons umers, who held different and at times conflicting opinions of what they expected in return for their paid admission. 107 For an eighteenth-century critique of the playho use as an instructor of politeness and morality see the ongoing debate in The New York Gazette and Weekly Post Boy (New York) 10, 17, 24 December 1767. See Melton, Rise of the Public 161-65 for the moral utility of the playhouse. 108 On changing tastes and the alternating of play content to accommodate workers on one night and elites the next see Hughes, Dramas Patrons Chapter 3; and Robert W. Jones, Gender and the Formation of Taste in Eighteenth-Century Britain: The Analysis of Beauty (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998), Chapter 2. For a similar process in the nineteenth century see Levine, Highbrow/Lowbrow
53 This clash over who owned the theatre or who determined its purpose occurred in dramatic form in Philadelphias Southwark Theatre. The Pennsylvania Chronicle reported that on the night of October 28, 1772, some ruffians in the gallery ruined the otherwise exceptional presentation of The Padlock According to the self-titled Philotheatricus, these despicable rioters fre quently interrupted the performance, calling for songs and prologues of which no notice [was ] given in the bills while at the same time outraging that part of the audience who [w ent] there really to see the play, and be instructed and entertained. Then the aut hor asked if those voc iferous carpenter[s], mason[s], or taylor[s] would not want an adequate compensation if someone demanded more work then what was previously bargained for? Fina lly, the article ended with a public plea to the directors of the th eatre, desiring constabl es to stand guard, to apprehend, and carry to the Work-house any who should make the smallest disturbance. Only this severe response to disruption, he argued, would deter others from similar outrages.109 Significantly, two and half months after the Chronicle published this review, the box spikes were stolen. On the night of December 9th 1772, a number of evil disposed persons broke open the gallery door of th e Southwark Theatre. Once inside, these men burglariously and feloniously tore o ff and carried away the iron spikes, which had divided the galleries from the upper boxes. 110 Through the choice of object, the thieves challenged upper and middle-class claims to the ownership of theatrical space. 109 Pennsylvania Chronicle (Philadelphia) 22-31 October 1772; Butsch, American Theater Riots. 110 Pennsylvania Chronicle (Philadelphia) 10 December 1752.
54 Though Philo-theatricus believed his words (a s well as those of his elite readership) outweighed the shouted demands of the lowe r-middle class, all patrons had an equal voice within the playhouse, despite its menacing boundaries. In Philadelphia and throughout the Anglo-Atlantic world, this class-based conflict over the meaning of theatre distinguished the playhouse from all other commercialized spaces of leisure. In contrast, within coffeehouses, pleasure gardens, or bathhouses servants attended the rich, establishing a clea r hierarchical interac tion. Yet server and served were nominally the same within the c ontext of the playhouse. There, elite, lowermiddle class, and footmen alike were all patr ons of the audience, giving rise to classbased contests over which plays actors pe rformed, as well as the number of songs, dances, or encores. Of course, in the midst of this debate, actors and managers tried to make their livings. The buildings themselves or their material makeup, subtly conveyed this inherent ambiguity of the meaning of the theatre.111 As a common material characteristic of theatrical space, the spik es communicated messages readily interpreted by those entering the theatre. The unmistakable violence spikes portraye d reflected elite an xieties of lowermiddle-class behavior. From the gentrys perspective, artisans and skilled laborers represented a dangerous social entity, which c ould afford to participate in the leisurely activity of theatergoing that upper-class men an d women so enjoyed. In other words, the Consumer Revolution raised the standard of living for the majority of English people, blurring and unsettling myriad materi al signifiers of social standing.112 The elites 111 Ogborn discusses a similar ambiguity in the meaning of Vauxhall Gardens, Spaces Chapter 4. 112Carson, Why Demand, 502-3.
55 response to this phenomenon was to instill the spatial landscape as we ll as the politics of crime and punishment with an array of violent threats, each of which suggested that class lines were not to be crossed.113 Thus, managers thought of spikes as a fitting concession to elite patrons unable to predict the actions of relatively empowered lower-middle-class consumers.114 As threatening signs of social ex clusivity, the spikes therefore located class antagonisms. Few eighteenth-century playgoers and th eatre managers ever mentioned the spikes, but this silence implies a familiarity with or ordinariness of these objects. Contemporaries understood the meanings of th e spikes as symbol s of class boundaries and bourgeois privilege within the theatre. However, their emergence, their menacing threat, and ultimately their ineffectiveness s uggests that working class patrons were not so willing to abandon their right to challeng e elite claims of o wnership and cultural dominance. Thus, the clashes between elites and skilled workers shaped by the rise of gentility, capitalism, and consumerism, show ed themselves in playhouse spikes. To provide an ending or an epilogue to th is object analysis, the use of spikes began to decline when designers adapted more aspects of the French theatre model and also when a growing number of businesses bega n catering exclusively to the elite. As to the first, sometime during the 1790s, separate st reet entrances for playhouses (one for the box patrons and the other for the pit) became mo re frequent in Anglo-American theatres 113 On the oppression and violence wrought by the rise of capitalism and waged by the bourgeoisie in the seventeenth century see Peter Linebaugh, The London Hanged: Crime and Civil Society in the Eighteenth Century (New York: Cambridge Univer sity Press, 1992). 114 Melton, Rise of the Public 161-2.
56 and therefore elites and lower-middle-clas s people came into less contact with one another. In addition, the larg er theatres of the 1790s moved the cheap seats to the very back of the playhouse, which further lessened lower-middle-class and elite interaction. As to the second point, new venues emerged that were too expensive for skilled workers, as owners of opera houses, hotels, and salons predicated their spaces upon the notion of exclusivity. In historian Rich ard Bushmans words, The rude had to be excluded for the refined to achieve the elevated position that was their desire.115 Conversely, the lowermiddle classes in the early ni neteenth century increasingly went to saloons, burlesques, and taverns to experience the forms of entert ainment that they actually enjoyed. But the spikes continued to linger for a few decad es into the nineteenth century (seen in Killing, No Murder an image from the Old Price Riots in Londons Grand National Theatre), testifying to their lasting e ffect upon material culture. 115 Bushman, Refinement xv.
57 Figure 1 The Dorset Garden Theatre, 1671. Reproduced in Leacroft (1973), 86
58 Figure 2 Interior of Drury Lane, 1674. Reproduced in Leacroft (1973), 97
59 Figure 3 William Hogarth, The Laughing Audience 1733
60 Figure 4 The Fortune Theater. Repr oduced in Nicoll (1980) Figure 5 The Cock-Pit in Court, Seventeenth Ce ntury. Reproduced in Leacroft (1973), 77
61 Figure 6 Interior of Covent Garden, 1747
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