Publication details

The Virtuous Spy : From Major John André (1798) to Captain Thorne in Secret Service (1895)



Year of publication 2019
Type Appeared in Conference without Proceedings
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Description The article deals with secrets and secrecy in two early American dramas. André by William Dunlap was written in 1798 and focuses on a capture, conviction, and execution of Major John André, a British military spy during the Revolutionary War. Secret Service by William Gillette from 1895 is a sensational melodrama and a spy thriller from the Civil War, which introduces the gallant United States spy Captain Thorne who falls in love with a Southern belle and wins the hearts of all Southerners alike. The article uses several concepts of secrecy in literature (Kermode, Derrida, Bok, and Fliegelman) to see how secrets and secrecy are employed in the two military spy drama as elements of suspense and a general principle of emplotment. It looks at several aspects of the plays to show what strategies are used to create sympathy for the captured spy, including a description of the character as virtuous and establishing symbolic familial relations between the spy and other characters in the plays. The article concludes that both plays use these familial parallels in order to establish a symbolic brotherly bond with the other side of the conflict, and thus promote the idea of equality and unity of the formerly contestant sides in the respective wars.
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