Recent scholarship on the British culture in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries has explored the theatricality of politics and the politics of theatre. This essay examines the parody, mock or spoof theatre playbill – an ephemeral text often used for political purposes – during general elections, in Britain in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, locating it in a wider print culture representing politicians as theatre performers, in visual satire and in newspapers, periodicals and parliamentary discourse. Illustrated by examples from the British Library, the essay explores the genre’s use by radicals and loyalists in the French Revolutionary era, by political radicals in the early nineteenth-century and late-Victorian period, and in political contests beyond Westminster. Preserved in contemporary printed histories of elections, the essay also identifies British and Irish repositories for playbill parodies apart from the British Library. The use of the parody playbill in religious polemic and local controversy, and its presence in political satire outside Britain, are also noted.
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