Byron's poetic reputation is currently founded on his comic epic Don Juan and its cognates Beppo and The Vision of Judgement. Works outside this group are still regarded with some uncertainty. This study demonstrates that some of Byron's most deeply held critical and political convictions--but also certain aspects of his experience over which he had comparatively little conscious control--found expression in his historical dramas of 1820-1821: Marino Faliero, Sardanapalus, and The Two Foscari. In these plays Byron responds with the fullest degree of imaginative intelligence to his work on the management subcommittee at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, the background to which is given its most extensive treatment yet; to his involvement with the Italian nationalist movement; to his advocacy of neo-classical dramatic form and above all to his understanding of Shakespeare and of Shakespeare's reputation among Romantic critics. Lansdown illuminates a fascinating but overlooked aspect of Byron's oeuvre in which the literary, the historical, and the political are closely intertwined.
'this is an important addition to Byron studies, giving the reader an even greater appreciation of Byron's multi-faceted talents'
M.S. Johnstone, Mankato State University, Choice, Jan '93
'agreeable and sensible book ... That Lansdown has proved an exception, and a persuasive and clear advocate for his cause, is to be thoroughly welcomed ... Byron's historical dramas are vital pieces of writing, central to his work, and Lansdown goes a considerable way towards demonstrating why this is so.'
W.B. Hutchings, The Byron Journal, 1993
'Lansdown has performed a valuable service in initiating a reassessment of these plays, especially the admirable Sardanapalus.'
Jonathan Bate, Archiv, 230. Band, 145.Jahrgang, 1.Haljahresband 1993
'pioneering in its intensive exploration of the plays' topical references and of their significance as something more than an exotic byway of the poet's aesthetic development ... it makes an admirable case for the serious reconsideration of all three plays, and, by implication, for their performance on stage or radio today'
Times Literary Supplement
'One of the most valuable contributions of the book is the detailed study of the political and cultural role of the Drury Lane Theatre after its rebuilding in 1811-1812 ... Lansdown's interpretation contributes to more balanced understanding of the "classicist" tendencies of Byron's dramas. Its major virtue is to see Byron as a conscious and highly sophistcated user of dramatic language and techniques, free from classicist formalism as well as romantic
Martin Procházka, Litteraria Pragensia, Vol. 3, 5 1993
'Lansdown provides a concise and fascianting account of the efforts of the Drury Lane Management Committee led by the Whig patron of the arts, Samuel Whitbread, to rebuild the theatre and to reform the stage. Carefully aligned with contextual material and making good use of close reading, this book is a solid contribution to contemporary discussions of Romantic drama and Byron's dramatic art in particular.'
Jane Stabler, University of Glasgow, Wordsworth Circle Annual Review Issue '93, Vol. 23.4
`innovative study of Byron's historical dramas.'
Review of English Studies