Caste Essay - Further Critical Evaluation of the Work

Thomas William Robertson

Further Critical Evaluation of the Work

T. W. Robertson was one of those rare, fortunate writers who was hailed as a “revolutionary” innovator in his genre, and at the same time, achieved great popular and commercial success. He was able to realize both of these frequently contradictory goals because his theatrical approach was novel, stimulating, and in sharp contrast to prevalent dramatic styles and assumptions, while the plot substance and ideological implications of his plays were essentially conventional, conservative, and well suited to the needs and expectations of his Victorian middle-class audience. This combination of theatrical effectiveness and thematic propriety is, perhaps, best illustrated in his most famous play, CASTE.

If the “realism” of CASTE seems quaint, contrived, and occasionally crude today, it must be remembered that Robertson was reacting against the ornate, excessive, “stagey,” theatrical style of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, which was characterized by extravagant spectacle, unfettered emotionalism, overwrought acting, and pseudo-poetic speech. Robertson rightly believed that, with ascendancy of the bourgeoisie, such “aristocratic” trappings were obsolete and that the public was ready for a solid dose of realism. He was the first modern British playwright who had his characters sit in real chairs, drink out of real teacups, open and close real doors and windows—in short, Robertson more or less brought the “fourth-wall convention” to the Victorian stage, although he did so imperfectly. But even if soliloquies, asides, and many other relics of the melodramatic stage...

(The entire section is 665 words.)