Reading Walter Scott’s dramas

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An active supporter of the theatre in Edinburgh and London, Walter Scott also extensively edited and commented on plays both ancient and modern. As a dramatist he wrote five original works, though he never achieved anything like the success he found with poetry and fiction. Only The House of Aspen, a Tragedy and Auchindrane; or, The Ayrshire Tragedy were staged, briefly, during the author’s lifetime. Written in collaboration with the actor Daniel Terry in 1817–1818, The Doom of Devorgoil, a Melo-drama was eventually rejected. Seemingly not even offered to theatres, Halidon Hill was published as a standalone work in 1822. A single-scene piece, Macduff’s Cross, appeared in a miscellany to fulfil an obligation to Joanna Baillie. Against the backdrop of Scott’s admitted failures as a dramatist, this essay examines the five playtexts in print, paying particular attention to different forms of residual theatricality still traceable in the works. Reading the plays entails due consideration of performance-focused paratexts, as well as scene divisions and speech prefixes, alongside a range of textual interruptions, emotionally descriptive stage directions, bookish motifs, and other print-centric devices.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)340–353
Number of pages14
JournalReview of English Studies
Issue number314
Early online date30 Jan 2023
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2023


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