American Billing: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Shakespeare
Abstract: This dissertation explores how the work of William Shakespeare
became a viable theatrical commodity on the American market over the course of the
nineteenth century in New York City. While at the beginning of the century, Shakespeare's
works could not be said to hold enough economic value to justify a prominent place in the
American repertory, they held enough cultural appeal that ... read moretheatre makers continued to
attempt their production. By 1888, Shakespeare was so much a part of an American repertoire
that producers Augustin Daly and A.H. Palmer were able to use Hamlet as a strong binding
agent to bring together a host of celebrity actors to produce a successful benefit for
ailing theatrical impresario Lester Wallack. Through the use of four case studies (one for
each of four chapters), I explore the ways in which theatre makers attempted to create,
market, and sell Shakespeare to audiences over the course of the century. Chapter one
examines William Brown's efforts at the African Grove Theatre to invoke "legitimacy" via
Shakespeare. Chapter two explores the career of P.T. Barnum and his attempts to sell
"Shakespeare" at his American Museum and Lecture Hall. Chapter three considers the careers
of the Booth family and how the Booths were able to craft a lucrative Shakespearean brand.
Chapter four investigates the aforementioned Wallack benefit and the winding road that Daly
and Palmer took to produce this watershed theatrical moment. In examining the business of
the art, I trace key audience interactions to and with Shakespeare's work in the context of
each historical moment. These interactions provide insight into the process of
Shakespeare's Americanization as a brand.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Tufts University, 2016.
Submitted to the Dept. of Drama.
Advisor: Heather Nathans.
Committee: Barbara Wallace-Grossman, Monica White-Ndounou, and Virginia Mason Vaughan.
Keywords: Theater history, African American studies, and American history.read less
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