THIS ARTICLE EXAMINES REPRESENTATIONS of Irishness on the eighteenth-century London stage as a basis for reconsidering the theater's role as a site of interethnic contest and negotiation. Ethnic interaction is thematized in numerous eighteenth-century plays - a tendency that highlights the function of the stage as a mediator of the social and cultural shifts that followed urban expansion, the growth of the British empire, and, with immigration, the increasing multiculturalism of Britain and particularly London. The theaters of the period have consequently been presented as spaces in which minority ethnic groups were able to express forceful antihegemonic resistance - both from the stage and from the auditorium. That such resistance typically inspired vigorous counterresistance has received minimal critical attention. The article examines several Irish-themed plays, particularly those by the celebrated Irish actor-playwright Charles Macklin (1699?-1797), and it investigates their reception by the heterogeneous London public. Exploring issues of both authorship and reception - and presenting previously unpublished writings by Macklin - it uncovers a dialogue between ethnic resistance and counterresistance, and thus it interrogates the radicalism attributable to London theaters as sites of ethnic negotiations. It argues that the ethnic voice gained only circumscribed legitimacy during the eighteenth century, and that, despite the efforts of writers such as Macklin, traditional modes of representing Irishness were not radically overturned.
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