Theater With a Conscience: Margaret Fleming Essay

Theater With a Conscience: Margaret Fleming Essay

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During the 1890's, American audiences still saw theater as a form of entertainment and therefore, it could not be considered a medium through which to comment on the social situation of the society. However, across the Atlantic, Henrik Ibsen was steadily bringing realist drama to prominence and simultaneously achieving critical acclaim. At home, James A. Herne débuted his radical play, Margaret Fleming, but achieved little success. However, it did draw both positive and negative criticism. Such a varied reaction to such a controversial play at such a pivotal time must have a profound effect on the society that existed during this time. This can only be caused by a society in transit. During this period many changes such as industrialization, urbanization and women's suffrage were taking place. In this turmoil, new ideas emerged as old ideas tried to hold their ground. This tension between the old and the new, lead to the difference in opinions.
During the 19th century, melodramas had become extremely popular and profitable. Playwright enjoyed writing dramas filled with spectacle and songs. They catered to audience’s desire for heroes and villains, and the audience ate up the bombastic acting. Melodramatic plays such as Uncle Tom's Cabin, The Drunkard, The Octoroon and Ten Nights in a Bar Room proved highly popular. However, due to their melodramatic nature, these plays reduce to forms of entertainment rather than commentary on the social conditions of that time. Uncle Tom's Cabin and The Octoroon discussed slavery whereas The Drunkard and Ten Nights in a Bar Room focused on alcohol abuse and its effect. Take Uncle Tom's Cabin. Originally written as a novel by Harriet Beecher Stowe, it was later turned into a play by various play...

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...1 Nov. 2010.
"Margaret Fleming. " The Critic: a Weekly Review of Literature and the Arts (1886-1898) 19 Dec. 1891: American Periodicals Series Online, ProQuest. Web. 21 Nov. 2010.
""MARGARET FLEMING" AGAIN :Mrs. Herne Acts in Mr. Herne's Play at the Fifth Avenue Theatre.. " New York Times (1857-1922) 11 Apr. 1894,ProQuest Historical Newspapers New York Times (1851-2007) w/ Index (1851-1993), ProQuest. Web. 21 Nov. 2010.
“MRS. WOUTER VAN TWILLER..” Harper's Bazaar 24.52 (1891): 1014. Print.
Pizer, Donald. “An 1890 Account of MARGARET FLEMING..” American Literature 27.2 (1955): 264. Web.
Stephens, Judith L. “Gender Ideology and Dramatic Convention in Progressive Era Plays, 1890-1920.” Theatre Journal 41.1 (1989): 45-55. Print.
Wingate, Charles E L. “Boston Letter.” The Critic: a Weekly Review of Literature and the Arts 16.406 (1891): 184. Print.

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