UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

"A living history" : ancient Rome on Wilson Barrett's stage Hereld, Shoshana


The toga dramas of late nineteenth-century British actor-manager Wilson Barrett provide important evidence on the relationship between the Classics and Victorian theater. In his depictions of ancient Rome, Barrett married the popularity of melodrama with the passion for classical antiquity, reflecting changes in the Victorian social world at the end of the nineteenth century: the increasing prominence of melodrama and the blurring of artistic genres; the increasing accessibility of classical knowledge; and obsessions with historicity. Drawing on scripts, contemporary reviews, and photographs, I investigate the ways in which Barrett’s work navigates the existing social scene in both theater and society at large. By exploring the splendor of Victorian melodrama, the British tastes for the Classics, and the relationship between authenticity and theatricality, this thesis uses Wilson Barrett’s work to demonstrate important features of both Victorian theater and society at large at the end of the nineteenth century.

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