Byron’s The Curse of Minerva, his Address, Spoken at the Opening of Drury-lane Theatre Saturday, October 10th, 1812, and his Monody on the Death of The Right Honourable R.B. Sheridan are texts that have not attracted a great deal of sustained critical attention. This essay begins with the proposition that behind Byron’s two theatrical addresses commissioned by Drury Lane stands his earlier The Curse of Minerva, just as it stands behind Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, Cantos I and II. The argument is that these two addresses respond, in part, to the challenge entailed in Minerva’s curse against Britain, by proposing two, largely distinct models for British theatre, as centred on the new Drury Lane. In doing so, the addresses intervene in both a theoretical debate concerning contemporary drama and a political debate about Britain’s imperial crimes against a larger cultural heritage, thereby conjoining, and dramatising, the two debates. Such dramatisation before an audience in the theatre stimulates and invites participation in these debates. The conclusion is that Byron’s designs for Drury Lane, and for a new British drama, are, partly and indirectly, efforts to compensate for Elgin’s depredations on the Acropolis.


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pp. 145-157
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