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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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The ‘Femme Serpent’

The ‘Femme Serpent’

Mrs Patrick Campbell at the Lyceum

(p.94) 3 The ‘Femme Serpent’
Shakespeare's Women and the Fin de Siècle

Sophie Duncan

Oxford University Press

Mrs Patrick Campbell played three Lyceum Shakespeare heroines: Juliet (1895), Ophelia (1897), and Lady Macbeth (1898). Campbell’s oscillations between society drama, Shakespeare, and Maeterlinck highlight fin-de-siècle anxieties about child suicide, sexuality, and the unhealthy female body. Her reception in Shakespeare reveals fin-de-siècle audiences’ enthusiasm for more complicated collisions between actress and role than has been previously assumed. Campbell’s celebrity iconography also extends our definitions of the New Woman aesthetic. The chapter challenges fin-de-siècle histories of Campbell as ‘created’ by performances in Pinero, revealing how her early career in open-air Shakespeare was crucial to building the wealthy aristocratic coterie audience whose prestige rivalled that of any theatrical dynasty.

Keywords:   Mrs Patrick Campbell, Juliet, Ophelia, Lady Macbeth, female body, children, suicide, open-air theatre, coterie audience

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