Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date


Published In

Oxford Handbook Of The Georgian Theatre, 1737-1832


This chapter analyses Georgian audiences and spectatorial agency through several lenses: psychoanalytic film theory, theories of the public sphere and of mass publicity, and media studies of cultural convergence. The first section reads Georgian theatre’s heterogeneous playbills as a syntactical rendering of the audience, the imaginary community of the nation in process of negotiation. The second section shows theatrical paratexts blurring the boundary between theatre and coffee house, creating a theatrical public sphere in which the audience exercises daily public agency in saving or damning the play. The third section highlights the mingling of vulnerability and charisma in the celebrity prologue-speaker, a figure who both judges and entrances the audience while also embodying actors’ exposure to possible audience wrath. The final section looks at the theatres’ encouragement of spouting clubs as a means of channelling spectatorial agency.


audience, agency, fantasy, public sphere, prologue, epilogue, metadrama, heterogeneity, playbill, spouting

Published By

Oxford University Press


J. Swindells And D. F. Taylor


This material was originally published in The Oxford Handbook Of The Georgian Theatre, 1737-1832 edited by Julia Swindells and David Francis Taylor, and has been reproduced by permission of Oxford University Press.
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