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date: 16 June 2021

Abstract and Keywords

In the Victorian period, novels were commonly adapted to the stage. Such adaptations have been criticized both in the nineteenth century and in evaluative criticism, subjected to a more general neglect of Victorian drama, and even identified as a cause of the decline of the theater. This essay argues, however, that the devalued, impermanent, and immaterial theatrical performance can have enduring effects. It examines the adaptation histories of two novels at each end of the Victorian period that were famously, persistently, competitively, and controversially adapted to the stage and that continue to live on in film and stage adaptations: Charles Dickens’s Nicholas Nickleby (1838–39) and Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” (1886). These case studies demonstrate that even as theatrical adaptations capitalized on novels, they also gave rise to a cultural afterlife that eclipsed the life of their source texts.

Keywords: Victorian period, novel, theater, “Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”, Nicholas Nickleby, Charles Dickens, adaptation

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