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  • Print publication year: 1994
  • Online publication date: March 2008

3 - The Drama

from THE LITERATURE OF THE REVOLUTIONARY AND EARLY NATIONAL PERIODS
Summary
The American drama was the most republican and propagandistic of the literary genres. The drama of the early Republic was intimately tied to the civic sphere. Early American novelists in turn gave him cameo appearances or invoked him by implication in their narratives of material success and failure; many viewed him as a type of the new order of liberal individualism. Drama in the New World had always been an irreducibly social medium. The worst disturbance occurred in the antebellum period, the famous Astor Place Riot of 1849 in which some twenty people died, but the pattern was established in the early Republic: invariably taking on patriotic overtones, theatrical riots blurred the line between politics and the drama. Only William Dunlap and John Howard Payne among early dramatists were daring enough to try to earn a livelihood exclusively from the theater. In the absence of stage copyright, playwrights could best protect their interests by keeping their works in manuscript.
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The Cambridge History of American Literature
  • Online ISBN: 9781139054690
  • Book DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521301053
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