The early stage history of Frankenstein is fairly well known. In 1823 Richard Brinsley Peake’s Presumption opened at London’s English Opera House to great acclaim (the novelist attended a performance on 28 August), starting a new phase in the reproduction of Mary Shelley’s ‘hideous progeny’. In the same year, Henry M. Milner produced a competing text that, however, ran for a mere eight nights. Three years later, in Paris, Merle’s and Beraud’s Le Monstre et le magicien proved an instant success, with an opening run of 96 performances at the Porte Saint-Martin theatre, inaugurating a ‘Frankensteinmania’ in the French capital. Its cross-cultural tenor was also enhanced by the fact that the role of the (dumb) monster was performed by none other than Thomas Potter Cooke, London’s greatest melodramatic actor and the first interpreter of the undead Lord Ruthven in James Robinson Planché’s The Vampire (1820). The cross-cultural theme was developed further through Milner’s adapted version of the French hit for London’s Royal Coburg, which however failed to repeat the success of the Parisian play. In his classic study Hideous Progenies (1990), Steven Earl Forry provides abundant information on these texts and their reception. Yet, this relatively underexplored Anglo-French pairing deserves additional and more sustained attention beyond assessing the plays’ respective merits and degrees of popularity. As I argue in this essay, these works matter especially because of the panorama of cultural border-crossing and exchanges they throw into relief. Indeed, they show Frankenstein crossing boundaries and beginning to acquire European resonance – an instance of cultural transference that mirrored earlier apparitions of the vampire on the Paris and London stages in 1820. In this light, the Anglo-French Frankenstein of 1826 not only reveals shared features and cultural differences in renditions of the Creature, but also enables us to see monstrosity as a major cross-cultural item within the Anglo-French theatrical commerce of these years. Through reactions to Cooke’s acting, moreover, this pairing of Frankenstein plays opens up insights into the reception of a performing English body on the French stage. Through an analysis of the two 1826 plays from a cross-cultural perspective, this essay contributes to expanding our knowledge of cross-Channel theatrical relations and tensions in the 1820s. By the same token, it confirms that, just as Shelley’s novel coalesced at the nexus of several international cultural traditions, so too, from the outset, its diffusion and metamorphoses were inextricable from multiple cultural border-crossings.

“Enter Monsieur le Monstre: Cultural Border-Crossing and Frankenstein in London and Paris in 1826” / Saglia, Diego. - STAMPA. - (2019), pp. 157-172.

“Enter Monsieur le Monstre: Cultural Border-Crossing and Frankenstein in London and Paris in 1826”

saglia, diego
2019

Abstract

The early stage history of Frankenstein is fairly well known. In 1823 Richard Brinsley Peake’s Presumption opened at London’s English Opera House to great acclaim (the novelist attended a performance on 28 August), starting a new phase in the reproduction of Mary Shelley’s ‘hideous progeny’. In the same year, Henry M. Milner produced a competing text that, however, ran for a mere eight nights. Three years later, in Paris, Merle’s and Beraud’s Le Monstre et le magicien proved an instant success, with an opening run of 96 performances at the Porte Saint-Martin theatre, inaugurating a ‘Frankensteinmania’ in the French capital. Its cross-cultural tenor was also enhanced by the fact that the role of the (dumb) monster was performed by none other than Thomas Potter Cooke, London’s greatest melodramatic actor and the first interpreter of the undead Lord Ruthven in James Robinson Planché’s The Vampire (1820). The cross-cultural theme was developed further through Milner’s adapted version of the French hit for London’s Royal Coburg, which however failed to repeat the success of the Parisian play. In his classic study Hideous Progenies (1990), Steven Earl Forry provides abundant information on these texts and their reception. Yet, this relatively underexplored Anglo-French pairing deserves additional and more sustained attention beyond assessing the plays’ respective merits and degrees of popularity. As I argue in this essay, these works matter especially because of the panorama of cultural border-crossing and exchanges they throw into relief. Indeed, they show Frankenstein crossing boundaries and beginning to acquire European resonance – an instance of cultural transference that mirrored earlier apparitions of the vampire on the Paris and London stages in 1820. In this light, the Anglo-French Frankenstein of 1826 not only reveals shared features and cultural differences in renditions of the Creature, but also enables us to see monstrosity as a major cross-cultural item within the Anglo-French theatrical commerce of these years. Through reactions to Cooke’s acting, moreover, this pairing of Frankenstein plays opens up insights into the reception of a performing English body on the French stage. Through an analysis of the two 1826 plays from a cross-cultural perspective, this essay contributes to expanding our knowledge of cross-Channel theatrical relations and tensions in the 1820s. By the same token, it confirms that, just as Shelley’s novel coalesced at the nexus of several international cultural traditions, so too, from the outset, its diffusion and metamorphoses were inextricable from multiple cultural border-crossings.
9781684480616
“Enter Monsieur le Monstre: Cultural Border-Crossing and Frankenstein in London and Paris in 1826” / Saglia, Diego. - STAMPA. - (2019), pp. 157-172.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11381/2854885
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