The White Arm in the Smoke: The Meaning of Theatrical Violence on the Victorian Stage

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This PhD dissertation examines Victorian theatrical combat on the London stage to place it in both historical and cultural context. By first establishing a possible dance-based origin for stage combat, the paper explores the overlapping modes of practice in different forms of popular and elite entertainments in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries as they influenced the development of historically inspired movement. Using archival documents, literary analysis of stage fights, physical culture and gender studies, the study aims to contribute original research to the field of stage combat history and propose new theoretic lenses with which to examine historical practice. The paper discusses the relationship between dueling as cultural habit and representations in dramatic literature, as well as the influence of changing patterns in physical culture. Finally, this dissertation examines the role of spectacle theatre and acting theory in the development of new Modernist ideas of representing sword fights on stage.