Jane Austen and the Theatre

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Jane Austen was fascinated by theatre from her childhood. As an adult she went to the theatre whenever opportunity arose. Scenes in her novels often resemble plays, and recent film and television versions have shown how naturally dramatic her stories are. Yet the myth remains that she was 'anti-theatrical', and readers continue to puzzle about the real significance of the theatricals in Mansfield Park. Penny Gay's book describes for the first time the rich theatrical context of Austen's writing, and the intersections between her novels and contemporary drama. Gay proposes a 'dialogue' in Austen's mature novels with the various genres of eighteenth-century drama - laughing comedy, sentimental comedy and tragedy, Gothic theatre, early melodrama. She re reads the novels in the light of this dialogue to demonstrate Austen's analysis of the pervasive theatricality of the society in which her heroines must perform.