This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
 it of special interest is the fact that Thomas Godfrey, our first dramatist, who grew up under the tutelage of William Smith, Provost of the College, and who was a close friend of Hopkinson,1 was in all probability prompted to write by witnessing this and similar early attempts at dramatic composition. Among these college exercises others that have survived are An exercise containing a dialogue and ode sacred to the memory of his late gracious Majesty, George II, performed at the public commencement in the College of Philadelphia, 23 May, 1761, the dialogue being by the Rev. Dr. William Smith, the first Provost, and the ode by Francis Hopkinson. A similar exercise on the accession of George III was performed at the public commencement on 18 May, 1762. The epilogue on this occasion was by the Rev. Jacob Duche, Hopkinson's classmate and afterwards chaplain of Congress. A similar entertainment, The military glory of great Britain, was performed at the commencement in the College of New Jersey,2 29 September, 1762, while there is evidence of dramatic interest at Harvard College if not dramatic authorship as early as 1758.3 Of more direct influence, however, on early dramatic writing, were the performances of plays by the company under David Douglass. There seem to have been theatrical performances in this country since 1703,4 but the permanent establishment of professional acting dates from the arrival of Lewis Hallam and his company from England in 1752. This company acted in Philadelphia in 1754, where Godfrey doubtless saw them, and it was to this company after its reorganization under Douglass in 1758 that he offered his play, The Prince of Parthia, which he had finished before the end of 1759. It was not performed at this time, but was acted on 24 April, 1767, at the Southwark Theatre, in Philadelphia, according to an advertisement in
2 Now Princeton University.
4 Sonneck, O. G., Early opera in America, 1915, p. 7. See also, for the beginning of theatrical companies, Daly, Charles P., When was the drama introduced in America? 1864, reprinted in Dunlap Soc. Pub., Ser. 2, vol. I, 1896; Ford, P. L., Washington and the Theatre, Dunlap Society Pub., Ser. 2, vol. VIII, 1899. For earlier performances by amateurs, see Bruce, P. A., An early Virginia play, nation, vol. LXXXVIII, no. 2276, p. 136, II Feb., 1909, and Neidig, W. J., The First Play in America, Nation, vol. LXXXVIII, no. 2274, p. 86, 28 Jan., 1909.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.
An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.