Entertainment in the Victorian Era

By Sophia Rekeibe


Entertainment started flourishing in Great Britain and many other places during this time. More people from both the higher and lower classes were starting to seek out personal entertainment by paid professionals. Many of the rich supported professional entertainers, including The Queen herself. She enjoyed operas and horseback riding, while also promoting recreational swimming. Entertainment has a wide range of things, but some of the most popular forms of entertainment were music, theatre, and sports.


Theatre was going rapidly and flourishing during the Victorian Era. Many could barely afford to go to theatres and most had topics that applied to the the wealthy. Even those handful of middle-lower class workers that could afford it were forced to sit in upper galleries of the theatre. Since mass populations of low class people were moving into the city, the theme of plays started to focusing on working class and their themes in their life. Since masses of people joining to watch the theaters were illiterate, they want some that popped and with excitement, an escape from their uncomfortable and working lives.

Though it was the Victorian Era, people still enjoyed Shakespearian plays. Actually, many big name directors and actors were discovered playing roles in his plays. Aside from Shakespearian plays, some popular legitimate plays, or serious plays, were actually dramatizations of novels. An example of one is Charles Dickens' novel "Bleak House". In the legitimate play world, there were two popular types

  • Melodrama - a dramatic piece with the use of both musical numbers accompanied with action. It is current no longer used since movies came into the picture
  • Pantomime – Usually a play with traditional tales and songs, popular for children. It is known for is over use and indication of hand gestures.
Other than theatre being used for personal entertainment, it was also a moving block in society. Woman got almost equal acceptance into this career. Transvestism, having to do with dressing as the opposite sex, was found throughout theatre, whether sexual titillation or just from lack of money.


Music is a universal love. Everyone and anyone can enjoy music the way they like. Just like in the Victorian Era, anyone in any class could enjoy music. Even thought there were classical concerts people, mostly the rich, could attend, people were more interested in making music themselves. Mostly, people wanted to sing choral music with piano accompaniment. Since the demand for music sheets were increasing, the amateur music market increased the supply of popular choral music. To get more profit, the music sheets became quite affordable for people of lower classes, expanding music farther than it had ever been before.


Already, such sports such as hunting and fishing had been established by this time. As other sports become useless, such as animal-baiting, many others, such as rowing, we being explored. Other such activities that became popular was horseback riding.

People wanted more group activities that involved working together. Half way through the 19th century, public schools were adopting sports into their school that involved teamwork. For example, rowing, cricket, rugby, track, and much more. In the second half of the century, many championships and competitions for sports were being established such as British Open golf championships and Country Cricket Association.

Children's Toys

Not everyone could pay for someone for his or her own personal entertainment, especially for the middle-lower class. People had to use their imagination to make their own entertainment. For children, they would use simple to more “complex” toys. Of course, your social standard affected the quality of toys you acquired, but that didn’t seem to make a difference in the joy children got out of it. Here are some examples of the difference in toy quality from rich to poor

. Marbles

- Poor children would them out clay to play with

- Rich children would have them actually made of really marble

. Victorian dolls

- Poor children usually had them hand-made since they were expensive

- Rich children could easily afford a porcelain China dolls

. Leather Football

- Poor children could easily make their own

- Rich children could own a fancy professionally made ball

Yet they may seem to have different toys, children in general loved the same toys. Most of them seem to take after the things their parents did, such as tea sets, toy theatres, and Victorian dolls.


Artstein, Walter L, Christian Bashford, and Nicholas Temperly. "Victorian Entertainment: We are Amused." Victorian Entertainments: “We Are Amused” An Exhibit Illustrating Victorian Entertainment. N.p., 20 Apr. 2007. Web. 15 Mar. 2015. <http://www.library.illinois.edu/rbx/exhibitions/Victorian%20Entertainments/home/home.html>.

Chance, Abigal. "Victorian London Theater: Dickens on the Right to Amusement for the Working Class." The Victorian Web. N.p., 2010. Web. 17 Mar. 2015. <http://www.victorianweb.org/mt/chance.html>.

Price, Paxton. "Victorian Toys and Victorian Games." Victorian Children. N.p., 22 Aug. 2013. Web. 15 Mar. 2015. <http://www.victorianchildren.org/victorian-toys-and-victorian-games/>.