Personating the Ripper: civilian performance and the melodramatic mode
Nineteenth Century Theatre and Film
This article illuminates how the Ripper murders and their 1888 coverage re-theatricalised not only London, but also many provincial towns. It looks beyond canonical theatrical contexts for, and responses to the Ripper, exploring extra-theatrical, popular performance ‘scenarios’ by civilian men, outside professional sites of theatricalised or medicalised spectatorship. It examines how civilian men personated key figures in the Ripper ‘scenario’: the plain-clothes detective, the Ripper’s female victims; and the Ripper himself. These civilian performances illuminate our understandings of fin-de-siècle masculinity and its intersections with the melodramatic mode in theatre and culture. Simultaneously interrogating these performances through the lenses of fin-de-siècle theatre culture, the periodical press, and the anthropology of ritual magic reveals the cultural complexities of the ‘personations’ happening in streets and homes across the United Kingdom.
Ripper, Hyde, melodrama, masculinity, detective, cross-dressing, London, Victorian, theatre