Published online by Cambridge University Press: 16 July 2020
After 1780, the Gothic became an established dramatic kind in its own right. The decade of the 1790s has received a preponderance of attention; in contrast, this chapter begins with formative productions including John Home’s Douglas (1756), Robert Jephson’s The Count of Narbonne (1781), adapted from Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otronto (1764), and the plays of the 1780s. Gothic drama changed decade by decade more than has been recognised, and this essay demonstrates the playwrights’ increasing development of innovative, sophisticated uses of music, lighting, sets, sound and spectacular effects, both adapted and created. Drawing upon dramatic forms as diverse as she-tragedy and farce, early Gothic plays could be operas, melodramas or pantomimes. The 1780s set the mixed genre pattern that became distinctively Gothic and led to plays such as George Colman’s Blue-Beard (1798), with its sixty-four-night initial run. In conclusion, the chapter argues that Gothic drama is an important, even formative, part of the rise of modern popular culture with its ability to be sharply political, highly entertaining and an addictive fad.
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