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Shakespeare's Women and the Fin de Siècle$
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Sophie Duncan

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198790846

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198790846.001.0001

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Bad Women, Good Wives

Bad Women, Good Wives

Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth

Chapter:
(p.61) 2 Bad Women, Good Wives
Source:
Shakespeare's Women and the Fin de Siècle
Author(s):

Sophie Duncan

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198790846.003.0003

This chapter centres on Terry’s ‘divinely beautiful’ but controversial 1888 Lady Macbeth at the Lyceum theatre. Terry performed amidst hysteria over the Ripper killings and profound anxiety over the cognitive dissonance created by seeing a ‘good’ actress play a ‘bad’ woman. The results showed that a Shakespearean queen could interrogate the institution of marriage as fiercely as any fin-de-siècle problem play, with Terry’s underlying thesis stating that being a ‘good’ wife sometimes necessitated being a ‘bad’ woman. The chapter reassesses scholarly accounts of Terry’s ‘failure’ in the role via a thorough re-reading of fin-de-siècle periodicals’ anticipatory criticism and first-night reviews. It also examines the performance afterlives including Jess Dorynne’s The True Ophelia.

Keywords:   Ellen Terry, Lady Macbeth, 1888, Jack the Ripper, marriage, wives, periodical, theatre criticism, biography, reviews

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