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Caste


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A: T. W. Robertson Pf: 1867, London Pb: 1868 G: Drama in 3 acts S: Eccles's house and D'Alroy's lodgings, London, 1860s C: 5m, 3fDespite the warnings of his friend Hawtree about the importance of ‘caste’, the Honourable George D'Alroy woos and weds the beautiful dancer Esther Eccles, whose father is a drunkard. Her sister Polly becomes engaged to the honest plumber Sam Gerridge. George is posted with his regiment to India. When news comes of his death on active service, Esther takes up her dancing again in order to support her young son. She refuses to sell their child to her mother-in-law, the overbearing Marquise de St Maur, knowing that with the help of Polly and Sam, she will survive. George reappears, having escaped his captors, is delighted by Esther's resourcefulness, and is reconciled with his mother.

A: T. W. Robertson Pf: 1867, London Pb: 1868 G: Drama in 3 acts S: Eccles's house and D'Alroy's lodgings, London, 1860s C: 5m, 3f

While Caste contains many of the stock figures of 18th-century plays, the innocent low-born heroine, the drunken father, the comically eccentric dowager, Robertson's naturalism and seriousness of purpose lend the play considerable weight. By confining the action to two familiar interior locations, there is, compared with a piece like The Colleen Bawn, an authentic feel to the events of the play, which helped to consolidate the Victorian use of realistic box sets. In challenging fixed notions of class, Robertson is clearly progressive. However, one must accept Hawtree's point that such marriages may work in a play but are less successful in reality. How, for example, will Esther relate to Polly and Sam when she returns to her life of luxury? But then comedy always ends with a happy resolution, without feeling obliged to explore the consequences.

Subjects: Theatre — Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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T. W. Robertson (1829—1871) playwright


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