Themes and Meanings

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

The Lost Colony resists elaborate intellectual analysis. Indeed, its fullest impact cannot be registered in being read: It is designed to be experienced as a multimedia event that elicits an emotional, rather than intellectual, response. However, if the drama has a thematic idea, it is undoubtedly community. Addressed initially to a nation dealing with the shattering trauma of the 1930’s Great Depression, the play, drawn from one of American history’s most compelling tragedies, affirms the heroic suffering, the unshakeable resolve, and earnest nobility of the United States’ earliest settlers. The hero is no one character but rather the community of Roanoke itself, a collective realized onstage by a cast of more than one hundred players. The cast is less about individual characters and more about a single idea: the courage to realize dreams in a land of opportunity. The impoverished settlers are driven from an England entrenched in class divisions (underscored by the opulence of the queen’s court contrasted to the settlers’ bare belongings and by the forbidden romance between Eleanor Dare and the play’s Everyman figure, John Borden). Under the difficult conditions in the settlement, however, they must act as a collective—together they pray, they celebrate, they build, they farm, they fight, and when the time comes, together they depart. The theme is underscored dramatically when, after the death of Captain Dare, Eleanor and Borden consecrate...

(The entire section is 476 words.)