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date: 21 August 2019

Abstract and Keywords

While A Midsummer Night’s Dream had only two performances under its original title throughout the long eighteenth century, Shakespeare’s characters, a mixed collection of nobles, lovers, ‘mechanicals,’ and fairies, were seldom off the stage over the century, appearing regularly to applause in operas, masques, burlettas, pantomimes, and other hard-to-label ‘favours’, ‘pageants’, and ‘spectacles’. It offers, therefore, a rich case study in theatrical ‘variety,’ in terms of different performative genres, but also, more importantly, in terms of human variety and the period’s responses to differences of identity and social status in a shifting economy and a changing world. The various performances into which Shakespeare’s play was adapted are packaging for differences that both attracted and troubled eighteenth-century audiences. In these mixed genres, class, age, gender, and exotic otherness constitute a performative matrix for sexual desires and relations as they resist normative understandings of identity, status, and the social relations that define them.

Keywords: Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare, class, sexuality, gender, otherness, variety, difference

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