George Henry Boker Criticism - Essay

R. T. Conrad (essay date March 1854)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Conrad, R. T. “The Drama: Boker's Leonor de Guzman.Graham's Magazine 44, no. 3 (March 1854): 273-85.

[In the following essay, Conrad laments the poor state of the dramatic arts in the mid-nineteenth century and praises Boker's contributions towards its improvement, focusing on Boker's play Leonor de Guzman.]

The genius of man is influenced, in every field of its exertions, by the circumstances under which it is developed; and the nature of its triumph is determined by the means and manner of its achievement: thus the science of war is modified by the nature of the country in which it is waged, and by the weapons of the combatants, and thus also...

(The entire section is 11912 words.)

Arthur Hobson Quinn (essay date 1917)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Quinn, Arthur Hobson. “The Dramas of George Henry Boker.” PMLA: Publications of the Modern Language Association 32, no. 2 (1917): 233-66.

[In the following essay, Quinn provides an overview of Boker's career as a playwright.]

Notwithstanding the pre-eminence of George Henry Boker in our dramatic literature before the Civil War, an eminence not seriously threatened in America except by Robert Montgomery Bird, no accurate account of his life has been published and nowhere is available even a trustworthy statement of the productions of his plays.1 Several of his dramas remain unpublished in manuscript and even their existence is known apparently to...

(The entire section is 9837 words.)

Joseph Wood Krutch (essay date October 1917)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Krutch, Joseph Wood. “George Henry Boker.” Sewanee Review 25, no. 4 (October 1917): 457-68.

[In the following essay, Krutch maintains that Boker deserves a far more prominent place in the history of American drama than is generally accorded him.]

When the history of the American drama comes to be written, there will emerge from obscurity no man of more interest to the general reader than the Philadephian, George Henry Boker; for although he exerted little influence on his contemporaries his plays especially possess a real intrinsic merit. In the first half of the nineteenth century, romantic tragedy was the type to which the best native American drama...

(The entire section is 4723 words.)

Arthur Hobson Quinn (essay date June 1923)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Quinn, Arthur Hobson. “George Henry Boker—Playwright and Patriot.” Scribner's Magazine 71, no. 6 (June 1923): 701-15.

[In the following essay, Quinn discusses Boker's accomplishments as a playwright, as a founding member of the Union League, and as a diplomat.]

It is just a century since one of our greatest dramatists, one of the most uncompromising of our patriots, one of the most successful of our diplomats, was born. That his country has shown so little sense of its debt to him on any of these counts may be due to the fact that he was born on October 6, 1823, in Philadelphia. For it is the characteristic of his native city and mine that it combines a...

(The entire section is 7733 words.)

Paul D. Voelker (essay date December 1972)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Voelker, Paul D. “George Henry Boker's Francesca da Rimini: An Interpretation and Evaluation.” Educational Theatre Journal 24, no. 4 (December 1972): 383-95.

[In the following essay, Voelker examines Boker's most famous play, attempting to account for twentieth-century critical neglect of both the play and its author.]

George Henry Boker's Francesca da Rimini (1853) has generally been regarded as one of the great dramas of the last century. Arthur Hobson Quinn referred to it in 1923 as “the greatest play that was written in English during the first three quarters of the nineteenth century,” and in 1927 as “the supreme creation of the...

(The entire section is 6657 words.)

Jules Zanger (essay date December 1973)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Zanger, Jules. “Boker's Francesca da Rimini: The Brothers' Tragedy.” Educational Theatre Journal 25, no 4 (December 1973): 410-19.

[In the following essay, Zanger discusses Boker's transformation of the traditional story, which focused on Francesca and Paolo as tragic lovers, to a narrative centered around the relationship between the two brothers Paolo and Lanciotto.]

The playwright, if he is adapting a religious or nationalistic myth, is relatively bound by both the narrative or historic plot and the traditional characterizations as they appear in that myth. Confined as he is, the play's characterizations, confrontations, and resolutions are...

(The entire section is 4188 words.)

Kent G. Gallagher (essay date 1974)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Gallagher, Kent G. “The Tragedies of George Henry Boker: The Measure of American Romantic Drama.” ESQ: A Journal of the American Renaissance 20, no. 3 (1974): 187-215.

[In the following essay, Gallagher discusses Boker's development as a playwright and describes his plays as departures from a specifically American brand of romantic tragedy that celebrated the democratic principles of the new nation.]

Despite the efforts of Arthur Hobson Quinn, Joseph Wood Krutch, and E. Sculley Bradley early in this century,1 George Henry Boker (1823-1890) has not attained a high place in the history of American letters. His many articles, lengthy sonnet...

(The entire section is 14141 words.)

Oliver H. Evans (essay date May 1978)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Evans, Oliver H. “Shakespearean Prototypes and the Failure of Boker's Francesca da Rimini.Educational Theatre Journal 30, no. 2 (May 1978): 211-19.

[In the following essay, Evans examines Francesca da Rimini, praising the treatment of Francesca and Paolo as well as the emphasis on the relationship between the brothers; however, he maintains that Boker's failure to develop the character of Lanciotto results in the failure of the play as a whole.]

In “Boker's Francesca da Rimini: The Brothers' Tragedy,” Jules Zanger argues that while at the start of the play the three principal characters “conform to the traditional...

(The entire section is 4321 words.)

Oliver H. Evans (essay date 1984)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Evans, Oliver H. “The Late Plays and Poems.” In George Henry Boker, pp. 89-125. Boston: Twayne, 1984.

[In the following excerpt, Evans discusses Boker's writing career in the years following the production of Francesca da Rimini.]


Written in 1853, Francesca da Rimini was not produced until 1855, a year before the publication of the Plays and Poems. Following the production of Francesca da Rimini and the publication of Plays and Poems, Boker's career changed direction as he gave up trying to achieve literary fame. The causes of that change—the relative...

(The entire section is 13868 words.)