"What do ye allow a baboon like that on the stage for?": Protest, Irish-American Identity, and the Works of Harrigan, Hart, and Braham
Nathans, Heather S.
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During the 1870s and 1880s, newspapers hailed Edward Harrigan and Tony Hart as one of the most popular nineteenth century vaudeville teams. Performing primarily in variety sketches between 1871 and 1879, Harrigan and Hart began starring in full-length plays in 1879 until the dissolution of their partnership in 1885. My study of Harrigan and Hart's work attempts to find a middle ground between accusation and celebration to highlight the variety of ways Harrigan and Hart's stage Irish types functioned. Using the responses to Harrigan and Hart's shows, my thesis attempts to analyze the complex and nuanced relationship between local and national identities as well as the various classes of nineteenth century Irish-Americans. Using Henry Louis Gates Jr.'s concept of Signifyin(g), this study argues that Harrigan and Hart's stage Irish characters, despite their low comedy stereotypes, were Signifyin(g) notions of New York Irish identity within symbols of national Irish-American identity.