Puritan euphemisms

James Harbeck jharbeck at SYMPATICO.CA
Thu Oct 25 04:03:48 UTC 2012

On 2012-10-24, at 12:29 PM, Baker, John wrote:

> But when did Americans start writing plays?  If before about 1830, I don't think it was vastly before.
1665. The first recorded piece in English in the colonies was Ye Bare and Ye Cubb, written by William Darby of Accomac County, VA, and performed in Cowles Tavern. In 1690, a Harvard College student named Benjamin Colman wrote a play, Gustavus Vasa, thought to be the first play by an American (by birth) to be acted in the colonies. Where there are people, there is enertainment, and where there are European colonists, there is certainly theatrical entertainment; this is pretty consistent over the centuries. It starts with amateurs, naturally, but people do write plays. In that era, plays were a very important entertainment, so it would be surprising for them to be importing absolutely all their drama from across the ocean with no local efforts.

Of course, although professional theatre existed in the US by the mid-1700s, American dramatists of note did take a bit longer in emerging. There were plays written by Americans around the time of the revolution, but these were often political satire meant more for reading; theatrical entertainments were proscribed. But after the country was born, things really got into gear. In 1787, the first professional production of a native American comedy on a native American subject, Royall Tyler's The Contrast, was performed. By the later 1790s, Philadelphia and Boston had developed into significant theatre centers in America. New York too, of course.

James Harbeck.

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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