Women finally began acting in 1660, well over a century after public playhouses first drew crowds in England. The appearance of the actress has riveted the scholarly gaze, but until now there has been little attention given to a crucial subject: her dramatic prologues and epilogues. Accompanying over ninety per cent of all performed and printed plays between 1660 and 1714, these customized comic verses that promoted the play evolved into essential theatrical elements, and they both contributed to and reflected a performer's success. Once dismissed by scholars as formulaic, prologues and epilogues should be included in scholars' analyses of Restoration and eighteenth-century plays in order for us to understand how Restoration audiences consumed plays. My project unites the Restoration actress and the dramatic prologue and epilogue in the first book-length study on the subject. Methodologically, it contributes to Restoration scholarship by bringing the critical lenses of performance and print culture theory to Restoration theatre. Because my study considers Restoration plays as both performances and publications, it treats plays as their original audiences perceived them, and thus expands our understanding of texts as performative and of performance as textual.
About the Author
Diana Solomon is assistant professor of English at Simon Fraser University.
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