Shakespearean Melodramas: Edwin Booth and High Culture in America

by Associate Professor of English Literature Nora Johnson

"Shakespeare's plays were famously ubiquitous in 19th-century America: as burlesques, as minstrel shows, as circus performances, as variety theater, and as high culture, sometimes all at once," Johnson says. "This paper examines the role of Edwin Booth, the great late-century tragedian whose brother shot Lincoln, in the formation of a distinctly elite Shakespeare, as narrated by a supporting actress named Kitty who had a terrible crush on him."