Dion Boucicault’s The Octoroon as a Case for Stirring up the Debate over the Abolition of Slavery



Year of publication 2015
Type Article in Periodical
Magazine / Source Hradec Králové Journal of Anglophone Studies
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Field Mass media, audiovision
Keywords Dion Boucicault; The Octoroon; Slavery; Abolition
Description The Octoroon (premiered in New York in 1859) by the Irish, and later naturalized American playwright Dion Boucicault, is in principle a harmless melodrama—save for a potentially explosive element, an interracial couple. Its staging directly before the outbreak of the US Civil War contributed to stirring up the debate over the abolition of slavery (together with the then comparably popular dramatizations of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, particularly the one by George L. Aiken) and conversely, this element also called for various textual adjustments. The interracial motif had to be suppressed for American audiences, while the London audience demanded a happy ending—and thus a reunion of the white young man and the one-eight former slave. The paper investigates the aesthetic, political and personal reasons why he originally resisted to change the play into a melodrama with a happy ending.
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