New PDF release: Children and Theatre in Victorian Britain

By A. Varty

This can be an interdisciplinary learn of kids at the Victorian degree, interpreting the social and historic context during which childrens labored within the theatre through the 19th century.

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Squeers’s pupils. Amidst crying and moaning they were placed on the stage, sitting on benches and kept in order by Figaro’s cane – poor children, completely bewildered. When the treacle was administered, most of them cried. This delighted the audience, thinking it so natural (so it was). At nine o’clock, the act over, our cruel barber threw open the gates, driving his flock out, with a pleasant intimation of what they would catch when they arrived home. Mothers, fathers, sisters, in wild disorder, had been scouring the town for their runaways, and the police were completely puzzled, and at their wits end, at such wholesale kidnapping.

The children, as children, have vanished from the picture. Doran then resorts to further stereotyping by creating a picture of carefree and resilient children in their swift recovery as they leave the arena of his scrutiny. Whatever they may suffer in the course of their labours, it is short lived and soon forgotten. Laughing and ‘tripping’ away, Doran returns these children to a pastoral idyll like that depicted in Kate Greenaway’s Book of Games (1889), rather than picturing their exit into the dark and potentially dangerous streets of Covent Garden.

Indulgences of the figure of the child as a vessel for adult fantasy were exercised in parallel with awareness of the child as social being throughout the period. Adult projections were not confined to manipulations of the figure of the child, but could also affect mature self-perception. A pivotal chapter, between the explorations of arcadia and the scrutiny of social conditions, presents the conventions of Victorian pantomime as means of fashioning the audience as an idealised body of children, creating the child as consumer.

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