The Early Nineteenth Century

The first half of the 19th century was notable in drama for being a time when numerous great poets were writing, almost none of them wanting to write for the theatre. One exception was Shelley, who wrote The Cenci – a verse melodrama much indebted to Shakespeare - in 1819. It was not to be performed in his time, though, because its main concerns were incest and atheism. These were not popular or accepted subjects for the wealthy middle-classes who attended plays and possessed far less enthusiasm and intelligence than those of the Elizabethan or Jacobean ages.

One of the greatest problems faced by playwrights during the nineteenth century was the fact that where once the stage had represented on some level a version of life in court or home, now it bore little resemblance to the society it intended to portray, let alone the individuals within it. Therefore, with no contemporary drama to speak of, even versions of older plays were unremarkable. Certainly, there existed at this time fine critics such as William Hazlitt and Thomas De Quincey writing about drama, but there was little modern for them to focus upon. Even the great Lord Byron, writing in Italy, could not raise the standard with his poorly received plays from 1821 such as The Two Foscari and Cain. For a man of his time, Byron was surprisingly interested in the field of drama, but could do little to restore it to greatness, remaining best known for his verse.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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