Five Questions: James Armstrong on Romantic Actors, Romantic Dramas

By Matthew Sangster

James Armstrong is an adjunct assistant professor at City College of the City University of New York. He has published extensively on drama in the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries, contributing articles to journals including European Stages, Theatre Notebook, Shaw, The Keats-Shelley Journal and Dickens Quarterly. He is a practicing playwright and a member of the Dramatists Guild of America. His first monograph, Romantic Actors, Romantic Dramas: British Tragedy on the Regency Stage, which we discuss below, was published by Palgrave in 2022.

1) How did you first become interested in Romantic-period theatre?

I was familiar with the story of Shelley’s The Cenci through Antonin Artaud’s adaptation of the play, which he staged in 1935, shocking Parisian audiences. I initially wasn’t very interested in Shelley’s version, though, since I had heard it described as a closet drama. One day, I was browsing the stacks at the New York Public Library, and I saw Shelley’s work up there on the shelf, and I decided to give it a try. As I read the play, it didn’t feel like a closet drama at all. It’s filled with action, and seems imminently playable. I got to …read more