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“The Old Glory” Reconsidered

- Abstract

WHEN The Old Glory, Robert Lowell’s trilogy of plays, was first produced in 1964, it appeared to offer a new direction in American theater. Concerned with the materials of American history and literature, brooding, intellectual, yet punctuated by eruptions of violence, The Old Glory promised to satisfy the requirements of both intellectuals and theatergoers. Moreover, as Robert Brustein put it at the time, Lowell’s plays also seemed to fulfill the requirements of literary modernism. They had “the thickness and authority of myth.” In them, “ritual and metaphors abound; traditional literature and historical events begin to function like Greek mythology, as the source and reflection of contemporary behavior.” Lowell, Brustein predicted, “may very well come to revolutionize the American theater.”

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