Jane Austen’s Gamers and Performers


National Portrait Gallery D12595, 'The loss of the faro bank; or - the rook's pigeon'd' by James Gillray, published by  Hannah Humphrey, by James Gillray, published by  Hannah Humphrey, hand-coloured etching, published 2 February 1797. Reproduced under CC-BY-ND Licence.

National Portrait Gallery D12595, ‘The loss of the faro bank; or – the rook’s pigeon’d’ by James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphrey, by James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphrey, hand-coloured etching, published 2 February 1797. Reproduced under CC-BY-ND Licence.

Card playing and gambling were popular pastimes in eighteenth and nineteenth-century England, but many commentators saw an indulgence in them as harmful. In this piece in the new issue of Postgraduate English, Po-Yu Rick Wei (National Sun Yat-sen University) considers how Jane Austen viewed gaming, and how she used it to denote her characters’ social and moral status.

This article examines two motifs, gaming and theatrical performance, in Jane Austen’s novels. Austen shows moral concerns regarding these two social activities: she opposes obsessive gaming and the pretentiousness of dramatic performances. In Pride and Prejudice she employs card games as metaphors for different personalities, and later in Emma she portrays game players as highly dramatic actors. Gamers are therefore also performers in these novels because both gaming and performances are related to duplicity. Through the examination of Austen’s representations of gamers and performers one sees how Austen sharpens her ideas and moral judgments.

This article is available to download in issue 31 of our open access Postgraduate English journal. All the articles from this issue, and the complete archive going back 15 years, are freely available online.

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