20 Pages

Lewis Theobald, Censor

Lewis eobald (c. 1688-1744) was a playwright (his play Persian Princess, or, e Royal Villain was performed at Drury Lane in 1715), translator of classic Greek drama (most notably, plays by Sophocles and Aristophanes), poet (‘ e Cave of Poverty’ appeared in 1715) and distinguished literary editor, who pioneered the method of studying Shakespeare by reconstructing and focusing on his original wording and, as such, opposed the practice of other editors who ‘corrected’ and ‘improved’ his plays. (Note, however, that he still preferred Nahum Tate’s ‘amended,’ happy ending of King Lear.) He started publishing the Censor in April 1715 (both as part of Mist’s Weekly Journal, or Saturday’s Post and separately) bringing out three numbers a week until June 1715, then stopping until January 1717, when he resumed the publication and continued until early June 1717. e Censor rst came out around the time when eobald was associated with John Rich’s theatre in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, an association that ‘had two bene ts: he became assistant (and lifelong friend) to John Stede, Rich’s prompter, and librettist for a series of operatic pantomimes, o en loosely based on classical themes, in which Rich played the leading role of Harlequin’.1 His professional involvement with theatre must have made it possible for him to move, in the Censor, somewhat beyond the traditional critical stance of his day and discuss not only the ‘moral e ects of drama’ and its adherence to classical ‘rules’, but also the plays’ characters. According to C. H. Gray, in the few essays of the Censor that actually deal with speci c theatrical performances, eobald presents ‘interesting character studies … which show real sensitivities beyond the power of the usual “moral” or “regular” critic’.2