The Golden Rump

Definition

Theater

  • A play, by author or authors unknown, which helped to usherin tighter theatrical censorship in Britain. Since the late 1720sRobert Walpole, the prime minister, had been subjected to a series oflampoons in the public theaters, notably in Gay's The Beggar's Opera.In 1737, Henry Gifford, then manager of Goodman's Fields Theatre, informedWalpole of a particularly scurrilous manuscript he had received from ananonymous source. Walpole quoted extensively from the play in parliament,using it as a pretext to demand increased theatrical censorship. The play,The Golden Rump, called for a striking piece of scenery - a hugepair of golden buttocks from between which the various political figures beingsatirized would appear and disappear.

    As a result of Walpole's use of the play in parliament, anew Licensing Act was brought in that caused the closure of some minortheaters and gave the Lord Chamberlain's office the powerto demand the removal from plays of passages deemed offensive. Giffordreceived £1000 reward for his actions, although his theater subsequentlylost its licence. The manuscript of The Golden Rump disappeared,provoking speculation that Walpole himself may have commissioned theplay to serve his political purpose.

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