Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Potts, Norman B.

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of Theatre Arts


Augustin Daly; 1838-1899; Melodrama--History and criticism; Theater--United States--History


The purpose of this study is to examine Augustin Daly's work in the theatre between 1860 and 1880 and deduce in what ways his efforts impacted upon the melodramatic form both in the style it was written and performed. The research first establishes the norm for writing and producing melodramas prior to Daly's emergence. Having established a reference tool for comparison, the study proceeds to Daly's writing of melodramas. His style and form are examined, and scripts of his melodramas written between 1860 and 1880 are reviewed. Next, an analysis of Daly's managerial and directorial techniques is made. These findings are contrasted with melodrama production techniques which preceded Daly to determine his influence. Finally Daly's scenic practices are studied, and his many innovations are noted with regard to their impact on the scenic practices being used in producing melodramas. The results of this research substantiate Daly's great influence on the melodramatic form. The study reveals that Daly added to the small number of existing American melodramas. He wrote and adapted melodramas utilizing dialogue which had a conversational tone void of the traditional archaic poetry that had preceded him. He included specific stage directions and rid his plays of the stereotypical characters, replacing them with recognizable American types. His plots were action-packed and his subject matter of current interest. The research shows that Daly increased viewership by offering melodramas as part of his company's repertoire both in New York and on tour. His production techniques, produced a realistic ensemble style of acting, vivid characters, and a conversational style of line delivery. Daly was a leader in a trend toward realistic presentation. Also this research attests to Daly's intriguing innovations in scenic techniques wherein the "stock" sets were abolished. His melodramas featured the re-introduction of the box-set, impeccable detail work, realistic stage properties, remarkable costumes, and believable special effects. Substantiated is the fact that Daly's work in melodrama not only expanded and improved that form, but helped to establish a theater and audiences which could be utilized by the writers and managers of the coming school of realism.


Includes bibliographical references.


viii, 152 pages




Northern Illinois University

Rights Statement

In Copyright

Rights Statement 2

NIU theses are protected by copyright. They may be viewed from Huskie Commons for any purpose, but reproduction or distribution in any format is prohibited without the written permission of the authors.

Media Type