The Transatlantic Irishman: Macklin's Nationalism in Three Contexts
Quigley, Killian Colm
That theater and theatrical modes of presentation held enormous cultural, political, and social significance for eighteenth-century English, Irish, and American publics has been convincingly demonstrated. Peter Reed and others have described the existence of "common cultures of Atlantic theatricality" and of "widely shared modes of performance" in these and other locales (Reed 2). Bearing this insight in mind, a great deal of work needs yet to be done in situating eighteenth-century plays in the Atlantic sphere. This thesis aims to begin to correct this oversight, by tracing the reception history of Charles Macklin's The True-born Irishman in these three national contexts. As we'll see, Macklin, a spectacularly successful actor on English and Irish stages, manipulated conventional theatrical modes, tropes, and characters in order to design a virulently pro-Irish "and still more virulently anti-English" comedy. His hero, Murrough O'Dogherty, simultaneously hearkens back "to a purer, manlier Irish aristocracy" and looks forward towards recuperating a unifying Irishness in the face of religious and political discord and an ever-present corrupting English influence. The True-born Irishman was an enormous success with audiences in Philadelphia and New York in the immediate aftermath of the American Revolution; this paper explicates compelling congruities between Irish and emergent American cultural forms. As the scholarship demonstrates, the 1780s represented a liminal moment in the history of the American stage, between rampant anti-theatrical prejudice and later efforts to marshal the theater's political potential. Ultimately, we'll ask what TTBI meant for American audiences in the 1780s, towards complicating our understanding of early American theatrical and national culture.