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
"Elizabeth Boyd's Disappearing Act: Performing Literary Legacy on the Georgian Stage,"
ABO: Interactive Journal for Women in the Arts, 1640-1830: Vol.13: Iss.1, Article 2.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.usf.edu/abo/vol13/iss1/2