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Abstract

Scholars have long perceived the early nineteenth century as an era of decline in the drama, a time when the literary and dramatic arts severed connections, and playwrighting for the Theatres Royal became subject wholly to popular sway. James Kenney's comedies reveal how such a view is symptomatic, in part, of the early nineteenth-century clash between advocates for the arts and promoters of commerce. Through an exploration of character and identity formation within commercial society, Kenney interrogates the seeming opposition between the arts and commerce and exposes, instead, their interdependency. By juxtaposing romance narrative convention and the modern marketplace, he shows that the early nineteenth-century stage was one of dynamism and growth, rather than failure and loss.