From the review of No Thoroughfare in the London Times (27 Dec. 1867):
"although [Obenreizer] is a great criminal, the sympathies of the audience undoubtedly follow him throughout, and at the end, when he bids Marguerite and her accepted lover farewell, we have but little doubt that could the audience have settled the marriage, Obenreizer, in spite of all the theories of justice or dramatic propriety, would have received the hand of his ward."

The audience's sympathetic reception of Obenreizer invites questions. Where or how, we might ask, does the play encourage a sympathetic response to its villain?
What might prompt an audience to feel that Obenreizer deserves a better end than he receives? Why is it that the play ends with Marguerite's forgiveness of Obenreizer? Is the audience being prompted to similarly forgive the man who plotted to kill Marguerite's lover?

That latter question is complicated by Marguerite's (apparent) lack of knowledge about what has transpired between the two men. "If you ever wronged me--for George's sake, I forgive you." IF he ever wronged her? Obenreizer interfered in her engagement with George Vendale then plotted his demise. But Marguerite's speech suggests that she isn't aware of these things (or, problematically, that she thinks of Obenreizer's deeds as having wronged only Vendale). Marguerite has not been made aware of the forgery and theft (Obenreizer signs the paper in order to prevent her from making this discovery). So perhaps it is easy for Marguerite--who seems to know nothing of what this man has done--to offer him such broad forgiveness. But the audience has seen it all, knows what he has been up to. If Marguerite's forgiveness arises from ignorance, what is the basis for the audience's forgiveness? And, having forgiven him of his misdeeds, why would the audience want to "reward" him by saving him from his own hand so that he can take Marguerite's (hand in marriage)?

Finally, does the audience's sympathetic response to Obenreizer tell us anything about the character of George Vendale and how he was received? Marguerite can marry only one man: if the audience wants to unite her with Obenreizer, what then becomes of George? What kind of hero is George, anyway? He never seems to know what's going on, even in the last act. Vendale's general cluelessness is in sharp contrast to Obenreizer who, just before going offstage, "recovers himself," indicating a degree of awareness and control that Vendale never seems to manage.
 
 
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My two-year Marie Curie Fellowship period begins this month (February 2016). After some complications involving my visa sponsorship certificate, I have arrived in the UK. Though I am officially sponsored by Brunel University, I am somewhat mobile, and I am using these first weeks of the fellowship to do some writing. With that in mind, I have located a flat with a most inspirational view of Edinburgh Castle. Even on a cloudy day, the scene lifts the spirits.

Meanwhile, back at Brunel, Tom Betteridge is working with his students on a production of No Thoroughfare. This play, co-written by Charles Dickens an Wilkie Collins, has an interesting history that connects with questions of adaptation and copyright. I will be working with Tom's students next month, and I look forward to seeing what they do with this play.

I will move to London later this spring, when my projects will be at a stage at which they will benefit from an infusion of fresh research.