Getting into the Act: Women Playwrights in London, 1776 - by Ellen Donkin

By Ellen Donkin

A clean and lively account of 7 girl playwrights who, opposed to all odds, loved specialist sucess within the past due eighteenth and early 19th centuries.Getting into the Act is a energetic and fresh account of 7 lady playwrights who, opposed to all odds, loved specialist good fortune within the overdue eighteenth century. Ellen Donkin relates attention-grabbing, annoying stories concerning the male theatre managers to whom they have been indebted, and the pains and prejudices they persevered, starting from accusations of plagiarism to sexual harassment.

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62 In addition to the pressures generated by an emerging middle class, another powerful external factor played a role in this retrenchment of professional women. The last quarter of the eighteenth century was profoundly influenced by two major political revolutions. Recent scholarship has argued that both the American and the French Revolutions shared their philosophical and theoretical roots with the origins of feminism. 65 In England during the same decade, the work of Condorcet and others was instrumental in the development of British feminism.

Garrick ran Drury Lane with an iron hand; star performers rose up to challenge his authority periodically, but there was no question about who was really in control. The lesson to be drawn from Porter’s and Wilmot’s experiences is that while the unilateral power of the manager in the mid—to late-eighteenth century imposed certain compromises on a female dramatist’s career, the changes in power structure in the early nineteenth century did nothing to improve the situation. In addition to the internal theatre turmoil, there were also external sociopolitical forces which may have conspired to deplete the ranks of women playwrights.

The heroine of her story is a young woman named Maria who has ambitions to become a playwright. Her dear friend and mentor Mr. Hammond, a literary man of consequence, takes her play to Mr. Garrick at Drury Lane, who promises to read it and offer his comments. Our heroine has high hopes. At the appointed time, Mr. Hammond goes forth to meet with Mr. Garrick, but he comes back with bad news. Mr. Garrick had evidently not read the play; he had it confused with someone else’s script, he paged through it while Mr.

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