Monday, March 01, 2021

Bram Stoker, Dracula and the Victorian Gothic Stage – review

Author: Catherine Wynne

Release date: 2013

The Blurb: Bram Stoker worked in the theatre for most of his adult life, as theatre reviewer in Dublin in the 1870s and as business manager at London's Royal Lyceum Theatre in the final two decades of the 19th century. Despite this, critical attention to the influence of the stage on Stoker's writing has been sparse. Bram Stoker, Dracula and the Victorian Gothic Stage addresses this lacuna, examining how Stoker's fictions respond to and engage with Victorian theatre's melodramatic climate and, in particular, to supernatural plays, Gothic melodramas and Shakespearean productions that Henry Irving and Ellen Terry performed at the Lyceum. Bram Stoker, Dracula and the Victorian Gothic Stage locates the writer between stage and page. It reconsiders his literary relationships with key actors, and challenges the biographical assumption that Henry Irving provided the model for the figure of Count Dracula.

The review: If there is one area of vampire studies I feel more out of my depth in, it is within the realm of the vampire and the stage, especially the 19th Century stage. It is good therefore to read authoritative tomes on the subject (and I can recommend Stuart’s Stage Blood in that regard). This is not a book about the staging of vampire plays (though it does touch on Dion Boucicault’s the Vampire/the Phantom) but rather looks at the stage of the Lyceum, and the actors and performances thereof, to extrapolate possible influences on Stoker and his seminal novel.

The primary thrust is within the form and structure of the Gothic melodrama, the form that Irving mastered so very well and that actresses Ellen Terry and Geneviève Ward not only mastered on stage but, it is well argued, replicated in their personal lives. Wynne presents strong, cogent arguments for her contentions and places Stoker within a context that is not often considered but was absolutely the world in which he lived in. As well as using his literature (including “Personal Reminiscences…”), Wynne also had access to some of Stoker’s unpublished personal correspondences, which expand our view of the man and the time.

It is easy, sat in the 21st Century, to assume we understand the world that Stoker – theatre business manager and novelist – lived in. Wynne opens our eyes, with a monogram written in an easily digestible way (for an academic volume). For students of the author or the novel, necessary. 9 out of 10, however not cheap so do look out for Palgrave sales.

In Hardback @ Amazon US

In Hardback @ Amazon UK

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