Everything was geared to social display.  The …

Everything was geared to social display.  The partitions between the boxes were arranged to make it easier for audiences to see each other than to see the stage; those in the most prestigious boxes had to lean out and crane their necks to watch the show.  Opera glasses, de rigeur for men and women of high birth, were used to spy the minutiae of fashion and the behaviour of friends and rivals.  The lights – large candle chandeliers (which created a smoky haze) and plentiful oil lamps – did not dim when the show began but remained lit throughout the performance, giving the theatre the air of a festive party.  Aristocrats often arrived fashionably late, left early, and spent their time moving freely between boxes, visiting and gossiping.  None of this meant that they did not also watch the performance – and the king’s reaction to it; indeed, many seem to have followed it avidly, and there were extended post-performance discussions in salons, letters, and pamphlets.