Skip to main content Accessibility help
  • Cited by 2

Book description

Great art is about emotion. In the eighteenth century, and especially for the English stage, critics developed a sensitivity to both the passions of a performance and what they called the transitions between those passions. It was these pivotal transitions, scripted by authors and executed by actors, that could make King Lear beautiful, Hamlet terrifying, Archer hilarious and Zara electrifying. James Harriman-Smith recovers a lost way of appreciating theatre as a set of transitions that produce simultaneously iconic and dynamic spectacles; fascinating moments when anything seems possible. Offering fresh readings and interpretations of Shakespearean and eighteenth-century tragedy, historical acting theory and early character criticism, this volume demonstrates how a concern with transition binds drama to everything, from lyric poetry and Newtonian science, to fine art and sceptical enquiry into the nature of the self.


Criticism, Performance and the Passions in the Eighteenth Century is an impressive study of the theory and practice of eighteenth-century acting. Focusing on ‘transition' as a key component of the actor's art, James Harriman-Smith offers us a new way to understand and appreciate the emotional power of theatrical performance in the age of David Garrick. Conceptually astute and deeply immersed in primary sources, his book is a major contribution to British theatre history.

Richard Schoch - Queen's University Belfast

Harriman-Smith's strikingly original work is on the performance of ‘transitions' – emotional turns from one passion to another – in the long eighteenth century. Using information gathered from plays, letters, manuals on speaking and acting, promptbooks, periodicals and paintings, Theatre and the Passions in the Eighteenth Century: The Art of Transition shows how ‘jolts' in the passions affected everything from David Garrick's performances to the writing of lyric odes and the construction of Shakespeare criticism. The extraordinary insights offered by this book will transform our understanding performance and text in the eighteenth-century.

Tiffany Stern - University of Birmingham

‘The Art of Transition is a welcome and even thrilling book because it offers its reader a new word for thinking about - and through that word, a new way of reading - the eighteenth-century archive.’

David Francis Taylor Source: The Scriblerian and the Kit-Cats

Refine List

Actions for selected content:

Select all | Deselect all
  • View selected items
  • Export citations
  • Download PDF (zip)
  • Save to Kindle
  • Save to Dropbox
  • Save to Google Drive

Save Search

You can save your searches here and later view and run them again in "My saved searches".

Please provide a title, maximum of 40 characters.



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Book summary page views

Total views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between #date#. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.