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date: 17 October 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Although legitimacy had become an influential cultural concept by the early nineteenth century, the line dividing ‘legitimate’ drama from ‘illegitimate’ theatre was never as stable or as well policed as some critics presumed. Although legitimate drama was initially legally limited to London’s patent theatres at Drury Lane and Covent Garden, the eighteenth century saw royal privileges extended to the provinces while illegitimate theatre made increasingly bold advances into supposedly elite stages. By the 1830s, the distinction between legitimate and illegitimate had become less meaningful in the face of the increasing popularity of minor theatres, popular forms, and transatlantic innovations.

Keywords: drama, theatre, legitimate, illegitimate, popular performance, provincial theatre, transatlantic culture, Licensing Act 1737

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