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‘Bad taste of the town’: Hogarth satirised eighteenth-century theatre, but the public wanted spectacle by Simon Lamoon

William Hogarth, Alexander Pope and other social commentators of their age believed there was an intellectual decline in the cultural output of the eighteenth century. Hogarth demonstrated his derision of ‘lowbrow’ entertainment in his satirical engraving Masquerades and Opera, and subtitled The Bad Taste of the Town.1For Pope, dullness was a pervasive force in British culture cruelly depicted in his mock epic The Dunciad.2Yet this popular culture was often underpinned by some of the Enlightenment’s distinctly ‘highbrow’ philosophical and scientific advances such as the magic lantern, which used sophisticated optical technologies. Using Hogarth’s engraving and an image of a magic lantern, typical of Paul de Philipsthal’s sensational show Phantasmagoria of 1803, as artefacts, this paper seeks to demonstrate that in the name of cultural purity, satirical criticism of the theatre, ignored significant advances in natural philosophy of the long eighteenth century.

Date created: 
Monday, March 23, 2020
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‘Bad taste of the town’: Hogarth satirised eighteenth-century theatre, but the public wanted spectacle by Simon Lamoon, All rights reserved.
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