Theatrical riots are usually dismissed as occasions during which aesthetic reactionaries battled reformers over stylistic issues of little relevance to pressing and immediate social concerns. Yet how true is this? What were the real issues which boiled over at such apparently confined and innocuous occasions as the Old Price Riots at Covent Garden in 1809, the Paris Ernani riot of 1830, the visit of a celebrated English actor which sparked the New York Astor Place riot in 1849, or the first night of a play which brought about the Playboy riots in Dublin in 1907? The complex social and cultural tensions on such occasions clearly operated during the two days of disturbance which came to be known as the Monte Cristo riots in London in 1848, and there are curious modern parallels. Victor Emeljanow is Professor of Drama at the University of Newcastle, Australia. His full length works include Anton Chekhov: the Critical Heritage, Victorian Popular Dramatists, and, with Jim Davis, Reflecting the Audience: London Theatregoing, 1840–1880 (University of Iowa Press, 2001), which was recently awarded the Society for Theatre Research's Book Prize for 2002.
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