Wednesday, August 29, 2007


Victorians had Shakespeare as a cultural constant -- Tocqueville mentioned finding it in remote frontier homes, even when the only other book was a Bible. Actors out of work could raise money by booking a hall and giving readings in Shakespeare, no matter how small the village. In western mining towns, touring companies played Shakespeare to full houses.

But Victorians did not treat Shakespeare with the hushed reverence we feel necessary today. Widespread cultural knowledge of the Bard made possible farces, burlesques, burlettas and pantomimes poking fun at him. The photo is from a farce Romeo and Juliet, with a drag Juliet. The actor Dewolf Hopper is most famous now for popularizing Casey at the Bat through his comic recitations.

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