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date: 22 August 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Drawing on contemporary reviews, promptbooks and other sources, this essay discusses the interplay between originality and tradition in the performance of the leading roles, and the ways in which passionate speech and behaviour were executed in line with prevailing definitions of what was deemed appropriate to ‘heroic’ status. Appeals to the example of notable players from the early 1800s—notably John Philip Kemble and Sarah Siddons—persisted in critical response until well into the middle of the nineteenth century, while innovations in the treatment of particular scenes and situations were consistently framed in terms of received wisdom regarding the plays themselves, as well as in response to divergent male and female sensibilities and, in the case of Othello, evolving ideas of 'race'.

Keywords: Shakespeare, tragedy, theatre, Victorian, actors, critics, Kemble, Siddons, gender

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