Regarded by Bernard Shaw as a master of the theatre, Dion Boucicault was arguably the most important figure in drama in North America and in Britain during the second half of the nineteenth century. He was largely forgotten during the twentieth century—though he continued to influence popular culture (the iconic image of a woman tied to railway tracks as a train rushes towards her, for example, originates in a Boucicault melodrama). In the twenty-first century the gripping nature of his plays is being discovered afresh; when The Octoroon was produced as a BBC Radio play in 2012, director and playwright Mark Ravenhill described Boucicault’s dramas as “the precursors to Hollywood cinema.”
In The Octoroon—the most controversial play of his career—Boucicault addresses the sensitive topic of race and slavery. George Peyton inherits a plantation, and falls in love with an octoroon—a person one-eighth African American, and thus, in 1859 Louisiana, legally a slave. The Octoroon opened in 1859 in New York City, just two years prior to the American Civil War, and created a sensation—as it did in its subsequent British production.
This new edition includes a wide range of background contextual materials, an informative introduction, and extensive annotation.
“With this useful edition, my students can for the first time read a range of documents, brought together in one edition, recounting the drama’s staging and reception. By including reviews, descriptions of performances, and other contextualizing texts, editor Sarika Bose situates Boucicault’s drama in the transatlantic theatre and literary histories to which it rightly belongs and within which it should be read.” — Theresa Gaul, Texas Christian University
“This new edition of The Octoroon contains valuable background information about Dion Boucicault and his career as a dramatist as well as apt selections from his letters. … Other enhancements, which include illustrations of playbills and related sheet music, demonstrate this drama’s popularity, while a judicious selection of reviews and letters to the editor of American and British periodicals show the audience and critics in written conversation with Boucicault about the play’s ending, which Boucicault himself described as ‘composed by the Public, and edited by the Author.’” — Nicole Tonkovich, University of California, San Diego
“I have been teaching The Octoroon for years, and am so excited to turn from the Xeroxed piles of supplementary material to this thorough and informative edition that collects everything in one place and provides a rich context for Boucicault’s important work. This edition, with its careful recounting of the play’s alternative endings, supplies a framework for reading The Octoroon in terms of theatre history, transatlantic studies, and the global history of slavery.” — Helena Michie, Rice University