The Dawning of American Drama: American Dramatic Criticism, 1746-1915

The Dawning of American Drama: American Dramatic Criticism, 1746-1915

The Dawning of American Drama: American Dramatic Criticism, 1746-1915

The Dawning of American Drama: American Dramatic Criticism, 1746-1915

Synopsis

Wolter seeks to bring to life the prolonged dawning of American drama, to outline America's continued quest for a national drama and theatre, and to provide a survey of the development of dramatic criticism in the United States. For more than a century, dramatists and critics alike were in search of a distinct American drama. Wolter reconstructs this search through the contemporary writing that reflected the attitudes and values of the period and attempted to define the future of the country's theatre.

Excerpt

[The Wickedness of the Theatre] the American Magazine and Historical Chronicle [1746]

Should I pretend to give a View of the Wickedness of the Theatre, I should not know where to begin, or to what Length the Subject would carry me. For whether I insisted on the Lewdness or Impiety of most of the Plays themselves, on the infamous Characters of the Actors and Actresses, on the scandalous Farces they commonly tag the gravest Plays with, or, above all, on the inhumanly impudent Dances and Songs, with which they lard them between the Acts; I say, which soever of these Particulars I insisted on, each of them would furnish Matter for a great many Pages; and much more, if I should enter upon a full View of them all. Indeed the Theatre is at present on such a Footing in England, that it is impossible to enter it and not come out the worse for having been in it; for, now-a days, a good Play is no other than a Trap to draw in the Modest and Innocent to a Love of Theatrical Entertainments: and the Minds of the Spectators are not the safer from being polluted and debauched, tho' the Play itself be in the main decent & modest; since the ingenious Contrivance of the Managers entirely prevents the good Effect of any worthy Sentiment expressed in the Play, by introducing a painted Strumpet at the End of every Act, to cut Capers on the Stage in such an impudent and unwomanly Manner, as must make the most shocking Impressions on every Mind; and, lest the Audience should chance in spite of all this to carry away somewhat that might make their Hearts the better, a ludicrous and shameless Farce concludes the whole, and with one Stroke erases all the little Traces of virtuous Sentiments that were formed by the Play itself.

I only beg leave to ask you, my dear Countrymen, for what Purpose you support a sacred Order of Men to teach you the pure and holy Laws of the Christian Religion, and at the same Time encourage by your Countenance and . . .

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