Playbill for the Theatre Royal advertising Guillaume Tell


Featuring opera, classical drama, pantomime and animal acts, this bill for the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, is indicative of the range of variety performances put on in London theatres during the winter months. It also very much represents the taste of the Theatre Royal’s then-manager, Alfred Bunn (1796–1860), who was an advocate for opera and English opera in particular – hence the performance of John Barnet’s Farinelli and an English-language translation of Rossini’s William Tell advertised here.

The Theatre Royal was one of three ‘patent theatres’ in London at this time. This meant that it was granted monopoly position by the state to produce new spoken dramatic work. The variety aspects of this bill (the animal acts, the harlequinade) suggest something of the democratisation of mainstream theatres in Victorian England. Rather than being aimed at the upper-middle class as is common today, this seasonal performance is clearly meant to have something for everyone.

Full title:
Theatre Royal, Drury Lane: Guillaume Tell, etc
February 1839, Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, London
Advertisement / Playbill / Illustration / Image / Ephemera
Usage terms
Public Domain
Held by
British Library

Related articles

Theatre in the 19th century

Article by:
Jacky Bratton
Popular culture

At the beginning of the 19th century, there were only two main theatres in London. Emeritus Professor Jacky Bratton traces the development of theatre throughout the century, exploring the proliferation of venues, forms and writers.

Dickens the performer

Article by:
Simon Callow
The novel 1832–1880

Simon Callow CBE examines Dickens as an actor who gave lively and emotional performances of his own works to an enthralled public on both sides of the Atlantic.

Related collection items

Related works

Hard Times

Created by: Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens (1812–1870) published this ‘Condition of England’ novel in 1854. His setting was a ...