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date: 22 September 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Because of their lurid subject matter, especially in their depictions of murderous, adulterous, and sexually aroused females, the American commercial stage, apart from a few notable exceptions, saw no performances of classic Greek plays in the nineteenth century. Instead, circumventing fastidious and puritanical prudishness, biblical subjects (chiefly Old Testament), narratives from the Near East ancient world, and Rome-set “toga plays”—dramas in which pagan Roman patrician males encountered low-born steadfast Christian females—provided popular dramatic fare. On the variety/vaudeville stage, dances in which Salomé’s erotic gyrations with the head of John the Baptist and imagined dances of the classic Greece were staged by Maud Allan, Gertrude Hoffman, and Isadora Duncan. This chapter examines these dramas, the popularity with amateurs of the “friendship narrative” of Damon and Pythias,commercial success of the Kiralfy–Ringling spectacle The Fall of Babylon,and the dramatization of the most popular novel of the entire century: General Lew Wallace’s Ben-Hur.

Keywords: nineteenth-century stage, Ben-Hur, Maud Allan, Isadora Duncan, Bible, Lew Wallace

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