Performing the Female Alternative in Victorian Popular Drama: The “Girl of the Period” and the “Fast Girl”
Keywords:Victorian theatre, Victorian popular drama, Girl of the Period, Fast Girl, theatre and feminism
AbstractDuring the nineteenth century, theatregoing became the favoured entertainment of both the lower and upper classes in London. As Davis (1994, 307) suggests, the plays were a “mirrored reflection” of society, and they had the ability to reflect important socio-political issues on stage, while also influencing people’s opinion about them. Thus, by turning to the popular stage of the mid-century we can better understand social issues like the Woman Question, or the tensions around imperial policies, among others. As such, this article scrutinises the ways in which Victorian popular drama influenced the period’s ideal of femininity by using stock characters inspired by real women’s movements. Two such cases are the “Girl of the Period” and the “Fast Girl”, protofeminists that would go on to influence the New Woman of the fin-de-siècle. We analyse two plays from the mid-century: the Adelphi’s Our Female American Cousin (1860), by Charles Gayler, and the Strand’s My New Place (1863), by Arthur Wood. As this article attests, popular plays like these would inadvertently bring into the mainstream the ongoing political fight for female rights through their use of transgressive female characters and promotion of scenarios where alternative feminine identities could be performed and imagined.
FundingThe research for this article has been funded by the projects FFI2017-86417-P and GIUV 2017-354.
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