This is the first full-length study of Shelley’s plays in performance. It offers a rich, meticulously researched history of Shelley’s role as a playwright and dramatist and a reassessment of his "closet dramas" as performable pieces of theatre.
With chapters on each of Shelley’s dramatic works, the book provides a thorough discussion of the poet’s stagecraft, and analyses performances of his plays from the Georgian period to today. In addition, Mulhallen offers details of the productions Shelley saw in England and Italy, many not identified before, as well as a vivid account of the actors and personalities that constituted the theatrical scene of his time. Her research reveals Shelley as an extraordinarily talented playwright, whose fascination with contemporary theatrical theory and practice seriously challenges the notion that he was a reluctant dramatist.
Prof. Stephen Behrendt (Nebraska) has described the book as "wonderfully convincing" and "something wholly new in Shelley studies", while Prof. Tim Webb (Bristol) describes Mulhallen as having a "more precisely developed sense of the theatrical possibilities of Shelley's work than almost anybody who has written about Shelley".
The Theatre of Shelley is essential reading for anyone interested in Romanticism, nineteenth-century culture and the history of theatre.
The Theatre of Shelley
Jacqueline Mulhallen | December 2010
xvi + 289 | 21 Black and white illustrations | 6.14" x 9.21" (234 x 156 mm)
ISBN Paperback: 9781906924300
ISBN Hardback: 9781906924317
ISBN Digital (PDF): 9781906924324
BIC subject codes: DSG (Literary studies: plays and playwrights), DSBF (literary studies: circa 1800 – 1900)
1. The Theatrical Context: The Georgian Theatre in England
2. Shelley’s Theatregoing, Playreading and Criticism
3. Practical Technique: The Cenci
4. Turning History into Art: Charles the First
5. Ideal Drama: Prometheus Unbound
6. Drama for a Purpose: Hellas & Fragments of an Unfinished Drama
7. Satirical Comedy: Swellfoot the Tyrant
Appendix I: List of Performances Seen by Shelley
Appendix II: The Programme of Songs with the Performance of Douglas
© 2010 Jacqueline Mulhallen
The Theatre of Shelley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution - Noncommercial - No Derivative Works 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.
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Overall, The Theatre of Shelley is a valuable contribution to critical understanding of an often-neglected aspect of Shelley’s work. Mulhallen’s greatest achievement, perhaps, lies in gathering together in a single volume the disparate strands of a particular area of Shelley scholarship. What emerges from this synthesis, however, is an undeniably new sense of the importance of the theatre in Shelley’s workThe Theatre of Shelley is a detailed and enjoyable account of Shelley’s dramatic writing in its historical context. […] Mulhallen is equally adept at discussing Swellfoot the Tyrant and discussing his debt to Schlegel’s dramatic theory. Much of the book is dedicated to presenting the fruits of Mulhallen’s wide-ranging historical research and investigations into the composition of all Shelley’s theatrical writings. Yet some of its best moments come when Mulhallen, clearly drawing on her experience as a practicing actor and dramatist, attempts to imagine how, for example, an actor might most successfully interpret the part of a "fanatical character" like Count Cenci, or how Shelley might have envisioned a scene working with particular actors […] I certainly share Mulhallen’s hope that it won’t be too long before Shelley’s plays are staged again.
You can read the full review here.
Jacqueline Mulhallen's monograph is a triumph! It is the first book I have read entirely onscreen. I purchased the PDF format for £4.95 and it was physically comfortable to read and well-produced by the admirable publisher. I particularly liked the first two chapters and learned a very great deal from them. And I think Appendix I is a very serious contribution to Shelley studies in its own right, for which the author deserves the highest praise. Throughout I was engaged and warmed to the analysis of Shelley's dramas as a whole from Scenes for Tasso through Fragments of an Unfinished Drama. No-one has ever done that before, to my knowledge. The sense of the author's professional expertise and her being qualified to comment on theatrical effect shone through, and was unfailingly illuminating. I also liked the admirable attempt to identify a distinctively Shelleyan conception of drama and to ground it through reference to relevant primary sources and his reading, especially Schlegel. I have a few minor quibbles. I wondered about the ordering of Chapters 3-7; on this first reading I remain not entirely convinced by the arguments about the dramatic qualities of Prometheus Unbound and Hellas, and in a very few places I dissented from the views expressed. But these really are minor issues which did not mar my enjoyment of the book at all. It is well written, intelligently illustrated and scholarly. I shall return to it—and make my students read it!Michael Rossington, Senior Lecturer in Romantic Literature, Newcastle UniversityJacqueline Mulhallen's The Theatre of Shelley places one of the giants of English literature brilliantly in the context of the theatre for which he wrote. Early Nineteenth Century English theatre is still widely misunderstood, and Mulhallen's book proves the value of having a researcher and practitioner who is prepared to go back to familiar and unfamiliar sources with a fresh eye. Each chapter punctures prevailing myths about Shelley and the drama he wrote, provoking a complete reassessment of conventional views about 'closet' drama and the gulf between poet and theatrical practice. I discovered a huge amount from the book and am delighted by the passionate and well-argued case it makes for us to rethink this fascinating point in dramatic and literary history.
The Theatre of Shelley has many virtues. Clearly, it is the work of someone who has had a working connection with the theatre and consequently has a more precisely developed sense of the theatrical possibilities of Shelley's work than almost anybody who has written about Shelley. I'm delighted, too, that she has researched the theatrical contexts of Shelley's age. Even more valuable, perhaps, is Jacqueline Mulhallen's reconstruction of the theatrical performances which Shelley saw when he was abroad. On their own, these two areas of research add a dimension to our understanding of the world in which Shelley customarily operated and which helped to form his own concepts of theatre.