Valancy (valancystar) wrote in little_details,
Valancy
valancystar
little_details

Kissing in 1880s European theatre

I'm writing a novel set in early 1880s in Finland, with a touring theatre troupe from Germany visiting a small regional town. I've been trying to find out whether, when there is a love story in a play, there would be any kissing between the actors on stage. I've searched with various combinations of stage/theatre and kiss/kissing, sometimes adding "history" or "19th century", also in German. I've mostly found nothing useful, but the few mentions I came up with suggest that at least it wasn't common around then and would still have been regarded as scandalous in most places. I understood from some brief description in a book I found through Google Books (stupidly, I lost the link and can't figure out how I found it, but it didn't have much) that it was becoming more common in London theatres, but I didn't get the impression from any of the other mentions I found that it would have been common elsewhere - the London theatres seemed to be more daring than others in this respect. So my theatre troupe, trying to make sure they wouldn't be seen as improper by the still fairly conservative Finns, would not have any kissing between their (young and unmarried) leading couple. Am I right?

Second, if they don't kiss, what do they do when they are playing lovers and there is kissing written into the play? I imagine sometimes it can just be kissing on the hand or something, but what if kissing on the lips is written into the text? Would they just change the text, or simulate kissing somehow without actually kissing?

For instance, in Romeo and Juliet (which my troupe will be playing) there are kissing scenes, one of them with the following lines:

ROMEO: ...Thus from my lips, by thine my sin is purg'd.
JULIET: Then have my lips the sin that they have took.
ROMEO: Sin from my lips, O trespass sweetly urg'd:
Give me my sin again.
JULIET: You kiss by the book.


Does anyone know how such a scene would be played out in those times? Do they just alter/cut out the part where they talk about lips, or imply the kissing in some way? How about other times when there's mentions kissing but no explicit mention of lips?

For the purposes of the story I'd be interested to find things that can stimulate the imaginations of my sheltered young main characters at least a bit, but not be regarded as unusually indecent.

Search terms: I've Googled with the various combinations of stage/theatre, kissing and history (also in German), as well as read some on the history of kissing and of theatre in general. It's hard to find anything since most things that come up are on how to stage kiss or about plays that have the word "kiss" in the name, or some such thing. So, is anybody able to tell me the answer or point me to useful sources? I imagine some detailed histories of how Romeo and Juliet (or another play with lovers and kissing) has been produced in particular times could also be helpful, but I'm not sure where to find one that's detailed enough to also address this point. Actually, I could use tips about such material even if the kissing question gets answered in this post.

Edited to add: I'm Finnish myself, and I've read quite a bit of the available Finnish material on Finnish theatre (and foreign touring productions here) in that era. Unfortunately none of it got anywhere near this topic. I'll probably start on individual actors' biographies next to see if this gets mentioned, if nobody has detailed information here...
Tags: europe: history, ~theater
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