Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

John A. Stevenson

Second Advisor

Jeffrey N. Cox

Third Advisor

Jill Heydt-Stevenson

Fourth Advisor

Bradford Mudge

Fifth Advisor

Nicole Wright


My dissertation examines the cultural significance of the eighteenth-century fashion for private theatricals. As a popular form of entertainment, they played an important role in Georgian society and culture, yet these performances have received very little scholarly attention over the years. The object of this dissertation is to recover, reconstruct, and reevaluate the stories of private theatricals, presenting them in the form of case studies. Utilizing methodology and theory from theatre history, cultural studies, and literary analysis, I examine theatrical artifacts such as playbills, tickets, prologues, letters, memoirs, and newspaper accounts, interpret plays within their performance contexts, and gloss the representations of theatricals in essays, paintings, and plays. The dissertation is framed by close readings of the private performances depicted in Mansfield Park, Patronage, and The Wanderer, and its title reflects the fact that participants in private theatricals emulated the acting, practices and spaces of the public theatres. In chapter one, I use a performance of Othello by amateurs on the stage at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane to analyze the role of such mimicry and to contend that theatricals interrogate issues of legitimacy and blur the distinctions between amateur/professional and private/public. Chapters two and three argue that theatricals by aristocrats in Wales, Scotland, and Ireland and those by soldiers during the Revolutionary War became a means for displaying national identity, allegiance and patriotism during the 1770s and 1780s. The fourth chapter explores the contiguities of power, politics, and publicity as revealed in the performances at Richmond House in London and claims that private theatricals provide a means for British aristocrats to exhibit their national significance and stage their political power, responding to cultural concerns and adapting to societal pressures, in a time of revolutionary change. My project asserts that these performances illuminate the cultural influence and social importance of the theatre in eighteeth-century life, reflecting and refracting the profound changes occurring in British society and mirroring national anxieties about class status, gender roles, race and empire.