Charles Macklin and the Making of Eighteenth-Century Theatre, 22-23 June 2018, ND London

220px Charles Macklin By John Opie

This summer in a significant new collaboration with Trinity College Dublin, Notre Dame will be embarking on a major project on one of the most significant figures of the Irish Enlightenment, Charles Macklin.

Charles Macklin’s involvement with the British and Irish theatres spanned an extraordinary eight decades of the eighteenth century. One of the most lauded and controversial actors of his period, Macklin’s performance as Shylock in 1741 was a seminal moment in the period’s apotheosis of Shakespeare and he can take considerable credit for the rise of naturalistic acting. He also had significant success as a playwright. His comedy Love à la Mode (1759) is an important exploration of ethnic stereotyping and its implications for ideas of Britishness while the later The Man of the World (1781) is the only eighteenth-century play to be twice refused a performance licence by the Examiner of Plays for its acerbic take on parliamentary politics in the wake of Lord Bute’s premiership. He wrote a number of other plays and he was an important influence for a generation of later playwrights. His appearance in Maria Edgeworth’s Harrington (1817) gives us some sense of the resonance of his acting fame in the nineteenth century.

Macklin’s life and career were remarkably eventful. He was involved in a number of high profile legal battles related to the stage. The ‘British Inquisition’, a lecture school he opened in 1753, revealed his interests in public improvement. Later in life, he was a galvanizing figure for Irish patriot networks in London. He travelled and worked in regional theatres, especially Dublin. If the theatre is to be regarded one of the central institutions of the eighteenth-century Irish Enlightenment, as Ian McBride has recently suggested, a more thorough understanding of Macklin’s career is essential to understanding the place of Ireland in the Enlightenment project. Furthermore, over the course of his career, his relationships with central figures in theatre such as James Quin, David Garrick, Margaret Woffington, Catherine Clive, and Samuel Foote make him a vital thread to understanding the tapestry of Georgian theatrical networks over the course of the century.

This conference seeks to unpack the many strands to Macklin’s life and career. His extraordinary longevity and multiplicity of interests and networks suggest that a Macklin-centric focus will offer a stimulating perspective on Georgian cultural life.


Conference Organizers:

Ian Newman (University of Notre Dame)

David O’Shaughnessy (Trinity College Dublin)




Ros Ballaster (Oxford University) ‘Macklin and the novel’

Amanda Boyd (Hope International University) ‘The unfinished autobiography of Macklin’

Helen Burke (Florida State University) ‘Macklin’s Multimedia Event: The British Inquisition, 1754-1755’

Markman Ellis (Queen Mary University London) ‘Macklin and the British Inquisition'

Paul Goring (Norwegian University of Science and Technology) ‘Macklin’s Library'

Nicholas Johnson (Trinity College Dublin) ‘Restaging Macklin'

Ian Newman (University of Notre Dame) ‘Macklin and Song’

David O’Shaughnessy (Trinity College Dublin) ‘Macklin and censorship'

David Francis Taylor (Warwick University) ‘Macklin’s Look'

David Worrall (Nottingham Trent University) ‘Charles Macklin’s legal knowledge’


Image: Charles Macklin by John Opie, c.1792