Burlesque has been a powerful and enduring weapon in the critique of 'legitimate' Shakespearean culture by a seemingly 'illegitimate' popular culture. This was true most of all in the nineteenth century. From Hamlet Travestie (1810) to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (1891), Shakespeare burlesques were a vibrant, yet controversial form of popular performance: vibrant because of their exuberant humour; controversial because they imperilled Shakespeare's iconic status. Richard Schoch, in this study of nineteenth-century Shakespeare burlesques, explores the paradox that plays which are manifestly 't Shakespeare' purport to be the most genuinely Shakespearean of all. Bringing together archival research, rare photographs and illustrations, close readings of burlesque scripts, and an awareness of theatrical, literary and cultural contexts, Schoch changes the way we think about Shakespeare's theatrical legacy and nineteenth-century popular culture. His lively and wide-ranging book will appeal to scholars and students of Shakespeare in performance, theatre history and Victorian studies.
Richard W. Schoch is Lecturer in Drama at Queen Mary and Westfield College, University of London.