Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Bean, Jonathan


This thesis examines the role of theatre in promoting and perpetuating the early American republican and liberal ideals during the pre-Revolutionary and Revolutionary periods. The investigation begins with the idea of the use of theatre as utilized by nations to oppress a populace to maintain the status quo and reinforce the societal structure of the community. Augusto Boal’s theory of theatre as a tool for oppression is used to demonstrate the point beginning with Ancient Greece. To understand the idea of revolutionary theatre, the author examines how theatre has been historically used to satirize and rebel against the social order. The historical ideals of republicanism, liberalism, virtue, and natural rights as developed from the Magna Carta to the American Revolutionary War are dissected. Authors and orators such as John Wycliffe, Jan Hus, Martin Luther, and John Locke are studied. The paper then moves into the introduction of theatre as brought to the Americas from England followed by the rhetoric of the revolutionary propaganda in place at the time. The author then continues this line of inquiry into the period of the Revolutionary War itself. The use of theatre by both the British military and the Continental Army is discussed with the main focus on General Howe’s meschianza and the production of Joseph Addison’s Cato at Valley Forge. It is concluded that theatre played a significant role in the creation of the United States of America and American identity by using the rhetoric of republicanism, egalitarianism, and patriotism.




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