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American Drama 1750-1900

American Drama 1750-1900

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American Drama 1750-1900

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  1. American Drama 1750-1900 Farce, Melodrama, and other Trends

  2. American Drama of thelate 18th Century (1750-1799) During this time period, dramatists: • struggled to find a dramatic form that would not be borrowed from overseas

  3. American Drama of thelate 18th Century (1750-1799) During this time period, dramatists: • struggled to find a dramatic form that would not be borrowed from overseas • showed their increasing concern about British rule (pre-Revolution) and their literary and political ties to Europe (post-Revolution)

  4. American Drama of thelate 18th Century (1750-1799) Just as Washington Irving tried to persuade his readers that his Sketchbook of Life in New York proved there was enough material for a native prose, playwrights like Royall Tylertried to do the same thing for drama.

  5. American Drama of thelate 18th Century (1750-1799) Generally considered the first comedy in America, Tyler’s The Contrast (1787) features the rivalry between Billy Dimple and Col. Manly for the hand of Maria Van Rough

  6. American Drama of thelate 18th Century (1750-1799) In this predictable plot, the humble and straightforward Col. Manly triumphs over the foppish and fashionable Billy Dimple. Manly = the prototypical American man Dimple= the man too tied to European heritage

  7. American Drama of thelate 18th Century (1750-1799) Likewise, Manly’s servant, Jonathan, triumphs over Dimple’s servant, Jessamy for the heart of Maria’s maid, Jenny. What is important here is that most literary critics see Jonathan as the “first typical Yankee,” the first truly American character in drama.

  8. 19th Century American Drama

  9. 19th Century American Drama By the beginning of the 1800’s, technological advances in lighting and scenery ushered in a new era in stage design.

  10. 19th Century American Drama • Gas jets meant that light could fade in and out as needed—and the house could be completely darkened

  11. 19th Century American Drama • Gas jets meant that light could fade in and out as needed—and the house could be completely darkened • Machinery could lift actors onto stage from below

  12. 19th Century American Drama • Gas jets meant that light could fade in and out as needed—and the house could be completely darkened • Machinery could lift actors onto stage from below • More mechanization meant that scenery could get more and more elaborate and realistic.

  13. 19th Century American Drama

  14. 19th Century American Drama During this period, audiences could see several main genres of drama: • The farce

  15. 19th Century American Drama During this period, audiences could see several main genres of drama: • The farce • The melodrama

  16. 19th Century American Drama During this period, audiences could see several main genres of drama: • The farce • The melodrama • The well-made play

  17. 19th Century American Drama In America, the farce hit its pinnacle with Anna Cora Mowatt’s Fashion (1850), which features disguises, false accents, and hiding behind screens. Arguably the first true farce composed by an American author, Fashion is considered by most critics to be the best American play before the civil war.

  18. 19th Century American Drama The melodrama takes its name from the original use of the form, which included background music that varied according to the mood of the play. Melodrama=a drama performed against the backdrop of a melody

  19. 19th Century American Drama 19th century melodramas featured: • Well-defined heroes, heroines, and villains • Explicitly sentimental and very emotional plots, usually with clear-cut (although not necessarily happy) endings.

  20. 19th Century American Drama Immediately before and following the civil war, the melodrama often addressed racial themes: • Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1853, 1858) • The Octoroon (1859)

  21. 19th Century American Drama The well-made play emerges alongside the melodrama and the farce. Based on a formula by Eugene Scribe, a French dramatist, well-made plays were incredibly popular in Europe and somewhat in America.

  22. Scribe’s formula • Act I: Mainly expository and lighthearted, but by the end, we know what the conflict is and who it’s with. • Acts II & III: The tension mounts, oscillating from good fortune to bad, etc. • Act IV:The Act of the Ball. The stage is generally filled with people and there is an outburst of some kind. The climax is in this act. • Act V: In the final scene, reconciliations take place, loose ends are tied up, usually reinforcing the morals of the day. Everyone leaves the theatre bien content.

  23. American Drama moves on Our 20th century American drama does not emulate the well-made play, but it is informed by it and often acts against it. Realism in general reacts against the idea that life can be that easily represented and all loose ends neatly tied. It is the inheritance of realism that marks both European and American drama as we move into the 20th century, when other forms will emerge.