Scenes from Bourgeois Life proposes that theatre spectatorship has made a significant contribution to the historical development of a distinctive bourgeois sensibility, as characterized by the cultivation of distance. In author Nicholas Ridout’s formulation, this distance is produced and maintained at three different scales. First is the distance of the colonial relation, not just in miles between Jamaica and London, but also the social, economic, and psychological distances involved in that relation. The second is the distance of spectatorship, not only of the modern theatre-goer as consumer, but the larger and pervasive disposition to observe, comment, and sit in judgment, which becomes characteristic of the bourgeois relation to the rest of the world. The third is the mediated distance of social encounters, across café tables and through the haze of tobacco smoke, which are in turn captured in the distance-production technologies of capitalism's media: theatre, film, and television. This engagingly written treatise on history, class, and spectatorship offers compelling proof of “why theater matters,” and demonstrates the importance of examining the question historically.