Episode #3: Victorian Era v. Dracula
By: The Dracu-Lady
Hello my little Creepy-Crawlies! I apologize for being away for so long, time flies when you’re the Un-Dead, but now I’m back and ready to hit you with some knowledge. I promised last time that I would enlighten you about sexual repression in the Victorian age and how Dracula was a form of release and possible social commentary for the famously stoic era, and now I make good on said promise. Let’s go!
A little history on the Victorian Era: it is named for Queen Victoria who ruled the United Kingdom from 1837 until 1901. This was a time of great population growth in both England and Scotland who both doubled their number of subjects; Ireland, on the other hand, was not so lucky due to an issue with local potatoes. It is a time characterized by the belief that a person’s sex and sexuality form the most basic core of their identity.
To prevent gossip and social stigma, people began cultivating an outward appearance of dignity and restraint, while their private lives were riddled with ‘depravity’. This was a time where prostitution exploded across every level of society from the dirty alleyways to the posh homes of the aristocracy. It is no wonder then that Dracula was written. Many literary specialists have theorized that Dracula, and vampires in general, is one big sex metaphor.
Count Dracula, played by Benjamin Kolis, poses a huge threat to the chaste world of our living characters by releasing them from their moral bonds and freeing them sexually. They live happy, vestal lives with happy, vestal people and go about their happy, vestal way, until they meet the Count. He shows them the way to be free and take what, or whom, you want when and how you want them. The best example of this is the lovely Lucy, played with beautiful truthiness by Ali Close, before and after death her tragic death.
Before death, Lucy is innocently wondering which of her suitors she will choose to wed, and after death she drains the life from many men and boys and tries to seduce Dr. Seward, Eric Eichenlaub, to join her in her liberation. When she first ‘wakes up’ she says “Kiss me...Haven’t you wanted to? I have.” She pulls him in with his desire for her and would have killed him, presumably with her sexuality, had not Van Helsing, Christopher J. DeVaan, burst in at that moment, wielding a symbol of purity and holiness. It’s starting to make sense, right? As soon as someone is bitten and transformed into a being with no inhibitions or moral code they must be destroyed in order to save the rest of the God-fearing world from their disease and depravity. If you think this is a fluke, start typing ‘Victorian Sexual Repression’ into your search engine, and the second hit you’ll get is ‘Dracula.’
Some other interpretations include Vampires as a stand in for tyrants, or a person in power who uses his wealth, influence and ‘other means’ (a.k.a. fangs) to literally and figuratively suck the life force from people. This could be, metaphorically speaking, by taxing people into deep poverty (very common during the Victorian Era), or by trapping them into a bargain they can’t hope to pay off. An example of this would be when Jonathan Harker, Paul Willis Jr., is brought to Dracula’s castle and is lavished by the posh surroundings but is later trapped there and left to die when Dracula has no more use of him.
My personal favorite explanation, however, is the idea that a vampire could be seen as a type of emotionally abusive relationship. I would say that when your boy/girlfriend tries to bite your neck to drain your blood to not only kill you but make you one of the Un-Dead where you spend the rest of your days lonely, in constant hunger and with a severe sun allergy, you are most definitely in an abusive relationship. From a more emotional/mental standpoint this could be a person who seems perfect or irresistible, but who constantly sucks away a victim’s energy, ambition, or even life as they know it due to the vampire’s selfishness. Victims may think that they need the vampire to survive when, really, it’s the other way around.
A fun catalog of different vampires is found in the song “Die, Vampire, Die!” from the Broadway production [title of show] by Jeff Bowen and Hunter Bell. It’s quite hilarious.
Well kids, it’s that time again. The time where this Dracu-Lady crawls back into her pink, sparkly coffin until the next episode of the Creepy Corner is completed. Stay tuned because that episode will be an interview with the cast of Lyric Arts’ Dracula! We’ll discuss how they found their characters and what they did to prepare for the show.
Until next time. Scare ya later!
A little bit about The Dracu-Lady: The Dracu-Lady’s secret identity is Emily Anderson (Shhh, don’t tell anyone!). She is a recent addition to the Lyric Arts family working in the box office and as house manager. She just graduated from the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point with a degree in Arts Management, but grew up in the Twin Cities and has spent many an evening at Lyric Arts Main Stage with her mother, sister, and grandmother. Her favorite color is red; her favorite food is macaroni and cheese and chocolate (but not together, cause that would be gross) and when she grows up she wants to be Batman.