Staging Sport

Dion Boucicault, the Victorian Spectacular Theatre, and the Manly Ideal

in Critical Survey
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  • 1 Queen's University s_smith@bisc.queensu.ac.uk
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The following article discusses the way in which the sporting spectacular melodramas of Irish playwright and master of the genre Dion Boucicault presented theatre audiences of the 1860s with an incarnation of the sportsman that differed from other popular constructs of this figure in the Victorian popular imagination. If, following the changes to the sporting sphere brought about by the Industrial Revolution, public discourse often worked to craft a sportsman who was healthy and heroic, Boucicault's Flying Scud; or, a Four-Legged Fortune (1866) and Formosa, the Most Beautiful; or, The Railroad to Ruin (1869) present a critique of this ideal by placing the sportsman in situations that challenge and temporarily subdue his manly energies. The plays both illustrate the limits of the sportsman and offer audiences reformulations of the figure that are better able to cope with the increasingly problematic urban environment in which sport was taking place. When confronted with the challenges presented by the Victorian city, the sportsman may stumble, but he does not fall; in Boucicault's spectacular sporting melodramas he is a figure of resilience.

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