Inchbald’S Kotzebue: The Wise Man of the East (1799) and Social Assemblage Theory

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This article argues that Lord Mansfield's judgement in favour of the actor Charles Macklin in 1775 wrought a profound change on noisy and disruptive theatre auditoriums. Mansfield ruled that persons returning to theatres to repeatedly disrupt performances were guilty of conspiracy and performers' lost earning were assessed as felonies in English common law. Those found guilty might have substantial damages awarded against them and might be liable for a prison sentence. The paper traces that Garrick's Drury Lane was repeatedly disrupted but with no action being taken, even though ringleaders had been identified. Macklin's case, arising from his engagement at Covent Garden, suppressed repeatedly rowdy evenings. The paper suggests that Sarah Siddons's rise at Drury Lane from 1782 onwards was linked to these changes in the legal environment for stage performers.

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