In the late nineteenth century, London theatres staged productions designed to entertain the working and middle classes. Operettas, comedies, melodramas and Shakespearean drama offered theatregoers "an escape from the dreary monotony and daily discomfort of lives spent mostly in the business of survival."1 Despite its appeal to the lower classes, theatrical entertainment was also popular among the elite. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert frequently attended the London theatre and had a particular interest in Shakespearean productions.
Naturally, theatrical productions required talented performers. With some exceptions, men filled most of the roles required to stage plays, including writing scripts, managing theatrical troupes, directing and producing. Popular actresses, however, frequently surpassed their onstage roles, becoming internationally known celebrities. This celebrity was only tangentially related to acting skill. Instead, it depended on the attributes that still define twenty-first century celebrity: adherence to particular standards of beauty, glamorous self-presentation and savvy self-promotion. Involvement in a low-level personal scandal with romantic overtones was helpful too.