Politics in the American Drama

Politics in the American Drama

Politics in the American Drama

Politics in the American Drama

Excerpt

Man is a political animal who has always been fascinated by politics. Through the centuries he has expressed this absorption in many ways, and the theatre was one of the most appealing to man as author and audience. The great Greek satirist, Aristophanes (450-385 B.C.) turned his bitter shafts upon politics and politicians in plays that still have current application. His Lysistrata, a virulent anti-war drama, has been revived numerous times within our own century.

Subsequently playwrights in other periods and other countries utilized the theatre to support or to criticize the governments and party leaders of their own day. In the United States plays appeared sporadically from colonial times on, but political dramas did not reach the Broadway stage in significant numbers until the last decade of the nineteenth century. Still another forty years were to elapse before this genre was produced in quantity. "It is a pity that no great dramatist turns to politics for inspiration," Dr. Arthur Hobson Quinn lamented about nineteenth century American playwrights in his A History of the American Drama from the Beginnings to the Civil War.

This, then, is the basic reason why the relationship of politics to the drama has been, on the whole, by-passed by scholars. Here and there articles on the subject have appeared, each to meet a particular need. Occasionally a history of the American drama has devoted part of a chapter, rarely a complete chapter, to the topic. But a detailed study showing the close relationship of politics and the theatre is lacking.

Politics in the American Drama attempts to fill that gap. The book will limit itself to those plays produced on the New York . . .

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