Friday, November 06, 2009

European Journal of American Culture - 'Dead Men Tell No Tales': Outlaw John A. Murrell on the Antebellum Stage

Charles Burke
My article, "'Dead Men Tell No Tales': outlaw John A. Murrell on the antebellum stage" has been published in the European Journal of American Culture. For those who are interested, the Harvard Theatre Collection catalogue reference for the manuscript written by Nathaniel Harrington Bannister that inspired this article can be found here. This is the abstract:
Outlaw John A. Murrell, credited with the planning of a failed slave uprising in Mississippi in 1835, was a significant figure in antebellum popular culture. Previously unrecognized, however, is his use as a character on the antebellum stage. Proof of his employment in this role can be found in the Harvard Theatre Collection, home to a hitherto unidentified manuscript copy of a melodrama entitled ‘Murrell, the Pirate – A Play in Three Acts’. In this article, its creator is identified as Nathaniel Harrington Bannister, a significant pre-war actor-playwright. An exploration of its performance history reveals its significance in a variety of ways. It highlights the degree to which John Murrell was an adaptable and ambiguous antebellum villain. It helps to illuminate the life and career of Bannister and his contribution to the American stage. It provides new insights into the life and career of Charles Burke, another significant actor-playwright of the antebellum years who developed an important connection to ‘Murrell, the Pirate’. And because of Burke's association with the play, it also becomes plausible to place it as an important step on the road in the development of Joseph Jefferson III's production of ‘Rip Van Winkle’, one of the most successful and influential nineteenth century American plays.
And the full article is available here. In the forthcoming months I intend to make all of my articles and chapters available in this way.
Amelia Green(e), widow of both John Augustus Stone and Nathaniel Harrington Bannister

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