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TO BE OR TO SEEM. The bourgeois on the 19th century stage

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In the course of the 19th century, the court theatres gradually became replaced by municipal theatres. Now the plays staged also had links to everyday life, the present, to normal citizens. This emergence of a bourgeois theatre brought with it an increasing theatricalization of bourgeois life. Liberated from the fixed structures of the old system of estate of the realm, the citizen was...

In the course of the 19th century, the court theatres gradually became replaced by municipal theatres. Now the plays staged also had links to everyday life, the present, to normal citizens. This emergence of a bourgeois theatre brought with it an increasing theatricalization of bourgeois life. Liberated from the fixed structures of the old system of estate of the realm, the citizen was committed to becoming his own representative. Not only had he to achieve innovations in the administration, the economy and science, he also had to publicize these appropriately in the face of competition from many other equally diligent individuals.

The theatricalization of bourgeois life transformed many everyday spaces into stages: The parlour became a salon where guests and hosts staged their appearances, surrounded by items of furniture that—as complicated mini-architectures—exaggerated their functional purpose. In photography studios, which were new at the time, whole families arranged themselves in front of the mechanical eye of the camera dressed in their Sunday best. Painting and caricature highlighted the tension between everyday reality and dramatic fiction, efficaciously in the paintings of Carl Gehrts (1853–1898), derisively in the theatre lithographs of Honoré Daumier (1808–1879).

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