Author Biography

Kristina Straub is Professor Emerita of Literary and Cultural Studies at Carnegie Mellon University where she taught eighteenth-century British studies, theatre and performance studies, gender studies, and sexuality studies. She is the author of Divided Fictions: Fanny Burney and Feminine Strategy (Kentucky University Press, 1988), Sexual Suspects: Eighteenth-Century Players and Sexual Ideology (Princeton, 1991), and Domestic Affairs: Intimacy, Eroticism, and Violence Between Servants and Masters in Eighteenth Century Britain (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009). In addition to essays on performing Shakespeare in the eighteenth century, she co-curated with Janine Barchas “Will & Jane: Shakespeare, Austen, and Literary Celebrity” at the Folger Shakespeare Library and has co-edited two anthologies of eighteenth-century drama with Misty Anderson and Daniel O’Quinn for Routledge Press. She most recently co-edited with Nora Nachumi Making Stars: Biography and Celebrity in Eighteenth-Century Britain (Delaware University Press, 2022).


How do we trace the historical processes that grant some writers visibility and, hence, legacy, while shoving others into the historical closet? This essay offers the case study of Elizabeth Boyd (1727-1745), a novelist, poet, and playwright who has received some attention from scholars interested in women’s contributions to the legacy of William Shakespeare in the second quarter of the eighteenth century. In particular, her unperformed play, Don Sancho: Or, the Students Whim, a Ballad Opera of Two Acts, with Minerva’s Triumph, a Masque (1739) dramatizes a woman writer’s reflections on the politics of legacy at this formative moment in the history of authorship and the British theater. While the play was not performed, key scenes were later plagiarized in popular afterpieces by theater managers and playwrights Henry Giffard and David Garrick. Boyd, along with her inclusive vision of theatrical legacy as the domain of men and women of different classes, disappears in the male playwrights’ fantasies of exclusively masculine, British literary greatness. The story of Boyd’s erasure speaks to the gendered and classed exclusions and elisions in the social and economic processes by which legacy is formed, in this case, in the gendered power relations of eighteenth-century theater and its management.


class, gender, theater, harlequinade, legacy, legibility, masque, spectacle, university, variety