The developing masculine image and its relationship to stage costume in England and France 1660-1830
Hannah, Michael Bivian
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This dissertation examines the evolution of masculine costume on the stage in England and France from 1660 to 1830, a 170-year period that saw Europe move from the rule of absolute monarchs through the Age of Enlightenment and into a period of revolution that would forever alter the face of the world. Within this period the image of maleness was also changing, as evidenced by the changes in men's clothing. This concept is important to note because male actors were not only members of the dominant gender in society, but they naturally maintained their superior position in the theatre. The goal of the dissertation is to chart a progressive parallel course between men's fashion trends and how theatre costuming both reflected and helped lead those trends. It is difficult if not impossible to state categorically the source of most fashion trends, but because theatre draws on the world around it, costuming is affected by society's expectations of what is appropriate for both the gender and age of an individual. As this dissertation will show, male actors chose their costumes within a complex system of social mores, historical interpretations, and personal preferences. The first chapter discusses the importance of costume in the theatrical event and its role in allowing both audience and actor to take part in the illusionary process drama requires. It introduces some basic theories of fashion as a social construct and sets up the emerging battle for a clearly defined masculine ideal m the midst of what, to our day, seems to have been a very flamboyant era in terms of male clothes. Chapters n, IE, and IV examine three more delineated periods within the 170-year span of the dissertation as theatre moves from very traditional imagery to more of an emphasis on historical accuracy in setting and costume. Chapter II moves into the first period, 1660 to roughly 1700, which includes the Restoration of Charles II to the English throne and the height of Louis XIV's reign in France. Chapter III covers the eighteenth century, which is perhaps best known for its theatrical personalities, many of whom made strong impressions on costuming practices. Chapter FV ends the dissertation's timeline by covering the first thirty years of the nineteenth century, through Romantic movement In general, the dissertation examines how fops, rakes, tragic heroes, famous actor/managers, playwrights, and social evolution affected the ways male actors chose to present themselves on stage. The purpose of this study is to provide actors, directors, theatre historians, and designers with an overview of a period that saw a major evolution in an important aspect of theatre production. It is important to note how various influences have affected costuming, including acting theory and practice, social mores and taboos, scientific discoveries, and political and moral philosophy. All these aspects are mentioned to varying degrees as part of this study with particular emphasis on masculine costuming trends.
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