What was the intention of Theatres Licensing Act and what were its consequences?

MODERN ENGLISH LITERATURE NOTES

  • The Theatres Licensing Act was introduced by Lord Chamberlain in 1737 as a result of the social, legal, economic and political conditions of the time, as well as the reactions to literary works that involved these issues.
  • - The intent was to maintain control – to silence all political and religious satire and sexual immorality on stage. The act gave Lord Chamberlain the power to approve any play before it was staged.
  • - The Licensing Act had profound influence on English literature and has served as a model in many other western societies.
  • - The consequences:
  • o The public mistrusted plays that passed the censors
  • o The theatres had to stage revivals – production of Shakespeare’s plays became much higher
  • o Additionally, the act diverted politically interested authors from the stage and into writing novels (e.g. Fielding, Brooke). Some of them never even approached the stage (Smollett, Sterne)

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