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Henry Irving and the great tradition
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If the test of a good production is that it brings new insight into a play and prompts audiences to return to the text, then Henry Irving's Merchant was triumphant. Irving was the foremost actor-manager of the nineteenth century. This implies things about the organisation of his theatre that were instrumental in his production of The Merchant. The artistic hegemony inherent in the actor-manager system reflected the patriarchal structure of Victorian culture in general i.e., the submission of all members of a family to the will of the father. Primary focus, therefore, was on the talents of one individual, not on an entire company as in Shakespeare's theatre: there were no 'sharers' at Irving's Lyceum. This narrative reveals two things: first, the Victorians' fascination with historical accuracy in their stage productions, and second, their attempt to bring a realistic awareness of cultural difference to the portrayal of 'the other'.

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Shakespeare in Performance

The Merchant of Venice

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