Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts



First Advisor

Dr. Noreen Barnes


John Burgoyne, a British general during the American Revolution, is best known for his defeat by the Continental Army at Saratoga. In addition to serving as a general,Burgoyne was a playwright. While in Boston during the blockade following the Battle ofBunker Hill Burgoyne combined his interests, writing a satire of the war. The Blockade of Boston, Burgoyne's play, was first presented as an afterpiece to a production of The Busybody on January 8, 1776 (Silverman 292).Accounts of the performance differ in detail, but the central event is consistent: during the performance a soldier walked out on stage and announced that the rebels were attacking a British position. The audience of British military personnel, believing the statement to be a part of the performance, stayed in their seats to enjoy the show, only to then realize their mistake a moment later and rush off in great confusion. Most of the surviving records of this event are from the view of the delighted revolutionaries, who published accounts of it in their newspapers and pamphlets, to the lasting humiliation of the men involved with the production.I first encountered the story of Burgoyne's Blockade of Boston while working as a teaching assistant in an undergraduate theatre history class. The professor, Noreen Barnes, was lecturing on American theatre in the eighteenth century when she told the story of the interrupted first performance. I was intrigued by the story, and so when I wrote a paper on a disrupted performance for a historiography class, I chose to research the topic. I discovered that The Blockade of Boston, in addition to being a great story in its own right, could serve as a lens to examine the history of the period, opening questions of race, gender, and just what it means to be an American.


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

June 2008