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«Punch» and Shakespeare in the Victorian Era

Alan Young

The English humour magazine Punch, or the London Charivari, which first appeared in 1841, quickly became something of a national institution with a large and multi-layered readership. Though comic in tone, Punch was deeply serious about upholding high literary and artistic standards, about dealing with serious subject-matter, and about attempting to nurture its readers’ appreciation of the national drama and of Shakespeare’s plays in particular. The author’s detailed examination of Punch’s constant advocacy of Shakespeare reveals telling new evidence concerning the ubiquitous presence of Shakespeare within Victorian culture. New research in the Punch archives and elsewhere also reveals the identities of many of the Punch authors and artists. The author shows how those who worked for Punch often subsumed their collective identities within the single persona of Mr. Punch, a fictional creation who repeatedly presents himself in both texts and graphics as a close friend and admirer of Shakespeare, a man able to remind Victorian readers constantly of the supreme literary and moral values represented by Shakespeare’s works.
Contents: Punch and its readers, writers and artists – Readership of Punch – Identities of writers and artists who worked for PunchPunch, Shakespeare, and the Theatre – Particular attempts by Punch artists and writers to promote appreciation of Shakespeare – Punch and Shakespeare Transposed – Reactions of Punch to transposition of Shakespeare into other media – Burlesques of Shakespeare in Punch.