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Chapter 3 - Women Writers and Censorship in the Early Nineteenth Century

from Part I - Gender

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 August 2023

David O'Shaughnessy
Affiliation:
University of Galway
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Summary

In 1824, Mary Russell Mitford’s historical tragedy, Charles the First, was banned by the new Examiner of Plays, George Colman. In 1737, William Havard’s play, King Charles I was performed at the Theatre Royal in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, just before the 1737 Licensing Act established legislative State censorship of the British theatre. There is an intriguing timeline here: in 1737 a play about Charles I ran for several months at a Theatre Royal, and was subsequently played throughout Britain for the next fifty years; in 1824 another play about Charles I was banned before it reached the stage. These events bookend the period covered by this book, and this chapter works between them to explore aspects of the cultural memory of Charles I in the English theatre, and the impact of censorship not only on Mitford’s career but also the broader question of women’s participation in the theatre in the early nineteenth century. Mitford’s playwriting career spanned the end of John Larpent’s time and the start of George Colman’s tenure as Examiner of Plays, and her experience points to the increasing constraints on women playwrights’ agency and confidence in the period.

Type
Chapter
Information
The Censorship of Eighteenth-Century Theatre
Playhouses and Prohibition, 1737–1843
, pp. 73 - 92
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2023

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