Author Biography

Fiona Ritchie is Associate Professor of Drama and Theatre in the Department of English at McGill University in Montreal. She is the author of _Women and Shakespeare in the Eighteenth Century_ (2014) and the co-editor of _Shakespeare in the Eighteenth Century (2012), both published by Cambridge University Press.


Anna Larpent (1758-1832) is a crucial figure in theater history and the reception of Shakespeare since drama was a central part of her life. Larpent was a meticulous diarist: the Huntington Library holds seventeen volumes of her journal covering the period 1773-1830. These diaries shed significant light on the part Shakespeare played in her life and contain her detailed opinions of his works as she experienced them both on the page and on the stage in late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century London. Larpent experienced Shakespeare’s works in a variety of forms: she sees Shakespeare’s plays performed, both professionally and by amateurs; she reads his works and hears them read aloud by her husband and sons; she studies criticism of Shakespeare and records her reflections on it; she notes in her reading of contemporary writers when she feels they have been influenced by Shakespeare; she compares Shakespeare’s plays with those of the pre-eminent French dramatist Voltaire; she reflects on various elements of Shakespeare’s dramaturgy, such as his use of the supernatural; and she invokes Shakespeare in her ideas about education. This article has two aims. Firstly, an analysis of Larpent’s engagement with Shakespeare demonstrates just how much the dramatist’s works permeated the life of bourgeois woman of the period. Secondly, I explore how this deep interest in Shakespeare, which was not in itself altogether unusual, enabled Larpent to take on a less conventional role, that of censor. As the wife of the Examiner of Plays, Larpent influenced the licensing of drama for the London stage.


Shakespeare, women, theatre, performance, reading, literary criticism