If Hamlet was right, and the theatre does hold the mirror up to nature, what kind of nature did a play such as The Vampyre reflect in its glass? And what relation does it bear to the generally accepted master works of the nineteenth-century stage, the plays of Ibsen and Shaw, for example? In this book Robertson Davies explores in loving detail the world of nineteenth-century melodrama - the plays, the actors, and the theatres themselves - to find the answers to these and other questions. It is the distillation of a lifetime's experience as audience, actor, teacher, and reader, and Davies shares with us this experience and the delights inherent in it. Explore with him the world of William the simple tailor and his black-eyed Susan; and of innumerable Millers' Daughters, all with fatal attraction, no power of resistance, and uncommon fecundity. Discover the nature and causes of Heroine's Disease. Watch for the Melancholy Man with his discreditable secret. And in the process learn a new or renew an old pleasure in the nineteenth-century stage.