Theatres of Value

Buying and Selling Shakespeare in Nineteenth-Century New York City

By Danielle Rosvally

Subjects: Performing Arts, New York/regional, Nineteenth-century Studies, American History, Cultural Studies
Hardcover : 9781438498348, 275 pages, July 2024
Expected to ship: 2024-07-01

Alternative formats available from:

Table of contents

List of Illustrations

Introduction: Deriving a Dramaturgy of Value

1. What William Brown Knew: The African Theatre and the Growing Threat of Legitimacy

2. The Value of a Name: P. T. Barnum's American Dream

3. Taking the Reins: The American Reading Career of Mrs. Fanny Kemble

4. Both Booth's Brothers: The Bulletproof Brand

5. Our American Shakespeare: The Central Park Statue and National Identity

6. Erasing the Lines: Editing the Wallack Benefit

Conclusion: The Dramaturgy of Value at Large


Explores the value of Shakespeare for theatrical businesspeople and audiences in nineteenth-century New York City.


Theatres of Value explores the idea that buying and selling are performative acts and offers a paradigm for deeper study of these acts—"the dramaturgy of value." Modeling this multifaceted approach, the book explores six case studies to show how and why Shakespeare had value for nineteenth-century New Yorkers. In considering William Brown's African Theater, P. T. Barnum's American Museum and Lecture Hall, Fanny Kemble's American reading career, the Booth family brand, the memorial statue of Shakespeare in Central Park, and an 1888 benefit performance of Hamlet to theatrical impresario Lester Wallack, Theatres of Value traces a history of audience engagement with Shakespearean cultural capital and the myriad ways this engagement was leveraged by theatrical businesspeople.

Danielle Rosvally is Assistant Professor of Theatre at the University at Buffalo, the State University of New York. She is the coeditor (with Donovan Sherman) of Early Modern Liveness: Mediating Presence in Text, Stage and Screen.


"In inventing what she calls 'the dramaturgy of value,' Danielle Rosvally examines economic conditions and applies specific business models to both familiar and lesser-known incidents in the creation, marketing, and consumption of nineteenth-century American Shakespearean performance. In doing so, she uncovers layer upon layer of cultural significance, demonstrating how producers, actors, and audiences helped to create America’s emerging sense of nationhood and national identity." — Cary M. Mazer, author of Double Shakespeares: Emotional-Realist Acting and Contemporary Performance

Theatres of Value takes an interdisciplinary approach that enriches historical analysis and helps readers understand familiar Shakespeare archives in new ways. Rosvally's work is conceptually nuanced yet highly readable—her engaging storytelling unfolds against a theoretical backdrop knit from theatre history, social and economic theory, performance studies, cultural studies, and rhetorical history.” — Elisabeth H. Kinsley, author of Here in This Island We Arrived: Shakespeare and Belonging in Immigrant New York