David Garrick's Two <i>Tempests</i> and Shakespeare Adaptation in the London Georgian Theater
Keywords:Georgian theater, reception, opera, Caliban
This essay places David Garrick’s operatic adaptation of The Tempest in the context of a competitive, commercial theater market in the 1750s that was operating at a time of particularly fraught relations between different status-based groups in the theatrical public. This opera was Garrick’s last attempt to adapt Shakespeare into an opera and it failed miserably. Key to understanding this failure are the challenging class politics of managing Garrick’s audience in the 1750s and the unperformability of Caliban in the context of those politics given the character’s association with plebian unruliness. Garrick’s attempt at taming him into a singing sidekick failed to convince as “polite” performance, motivating the theater manager’s return, in the following season, to a shortened version of the original play. The business of the theater had as much to do with Garrick’s decision as his devotion to Shakespeare.
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