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Fangs of Malice

Hypocrisy, Sincerity and Acting

Matthew H. Wikander (author)

ISBN: 9780877458098

Publication Date: May 2002

Format: Hardback

The idea that actors were hypocrites and fakes and therefore dangerous to society was widespread in the 17th and 18th centuries. This work examines the equation between the vice of hypocrisy and the craft of acting in anti-theatrical tracts, in popular and high culture, and plays of the period.
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The idea that actors were hypocrites and fakes and therefore dangerous to society was widespread in the 17th and 18th centuries. This work examines the equation between the vice of hypocrisy and the craft of acting, as it appears in anti-theatrical tracts, in popular and high culture, and especially in plays of the period. Rousseau and others argue that actors pose a threat to society; yet dissembling seems also to be an inevitable consequence of human social intercourse. The "anti-theatrical prejudice" offers a perspective on the high value that modern western culture places on sincerity, on being true to one's own self. The book is structured in acts and scenes, each based on a particular slander against actors. A prologue introduces his main issues. Act One deals with the proposition "They Dress Up": foppish slavery to fashion, cross-dressing, and dressing as clergy. Act Two treats the proposition "They Lie" by focusing on social dissembling and the phenomenon of the self-deceiving hypocrite and on the public, princely hypocrite. Act Three, "They Drink", examines a wide range of antisocial behaviour ascribed to actors, such as drinking, gambling, and whoring. An epilogue ties the ancient ideas of possession and the panic that actors inspire to contemporary anxieties about representation not only in theatre but also in visual and literary arts.
Illustrations bibliography, index
Pages 252
Date Published 31 May 2002
Publisher University of Iowa Press
Series Studies in Theatre History and Culture
Subject/s Cultural studies   Modern history to 20th century: c 1700 to c 1900   General & world history   Acting techniques  
Matthew Wikander is professor of English at the University of Toledo and the author of The Play of Truth and State: Historical Drama from Shakespeare to Brecht and Princes to Act: Royal Audience and Royal Performance, 1578-1792. He is a founding member of the North Coast Theatre, which performs in the galleries and for special exhibitions at the Toledo Museum of Art.

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