Following the censorious Licensing Act of 1737, British theatres were limited in the kinds of plays they could produce. Consequently, adapting well-known plays--in diverse and occasionally drastic ways--was a popular way to escape the wrath of the law. Adaptations not only reflected the theatrical preferences of the eighteenth-century audience, but they also provided an arena for staging the rivalries between individual actors. The way plays were reconfigured in the mid-eighteenth century also revealed a national heritage and culture.
Our exhibit examines the symbiotic relationship between drama and the cultural and historical moment it occupied in the mid-eighteenth century. We study adaptations as reactions to literary, cultural, and political settings of this time. Our exhibit draws attention to the tradition of remaking and adapation that is represented by some of the plays available in the Stockton Axson Collection of 18th Century British Drama. From Falstaff's Wedding to The Country Girl, adaptations emerged as a way to combat the limitations of the Lisencing Act.