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Acts of DesireWomen and Sex on Stage 1800-1930$
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Sos Eltis

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199691357

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199691357.001.0001

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Rewriting the Past

Rewriting the Past

Chapter:
(p.201) 6 Rewriting the Past
Source:
Acts of Desire
Author(s):

Sos Eltis

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199691357.003.0007

This chapter examines the relation between changing sexual and social mores and the widespread revival of familiar Victorian plots in plays of the 1910s and 1920s. The familiar melodrama plot of cross-class seduction, for example, was revived and rewritten to challenge the sexual and class assumptions underlying its inherited nineteenth-century conventions. Playwrights such as St John Ervine and Somerset Maugham adapted and rewrote plots and situations previously made famous by Victorian playwrights such as Wilde, Jones, and Pinero. Revisiting the previous century's theatrical modes, however, risked reaffirming their accompanying mores. Comedy, frivolity and Restoration-style satire, however, provided Maugham and Noel Coward with alternative theatrical structures with which to challenge and subvert orthodox sexual morality

Keywords:   maugham, coward, sexuality, divorce, censorship, class, theatre, morality, adultery, lord chamberlain

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