The America Play

by

Suzan-Lori Parks

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John Wilkes Booth Character Analysis

The prominent American actor, white supremacist, and Confederate sympathizer who famously assassinated Abraham Lincoln in Ford’s Theater on April 14, 1865. In The America Play, a variety of people dressed as Booth repeatedly reenact the Lincoln assassination by shooting the Foundling Father throughout Act One. Notably, during these scenes, the dialogue and stage direction are actually written for “Lincoln” and “Booth,” which is a sort of commentary on not only the gap between actors and the roles they play, but also Booth’s profession and the theatrical setting of Lincoln’s murder.

John Wilkes Booth Quotes in The America Play

The The America Play quotes below are all either spoken by John Wilkes Booth or refer to John Wilkes Booth. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
History, Narrative, and Multiplicity Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Theatre Communications Group edition of The America Play published in 1994.
Act 1: Lincoln Act Quotes

“You sockdologizing old man-trap!”

Related Characters: The Foundling Father (speaker), Abraham Lincoln, John Wilkes Booth
Page Number: 160
Explanation and Analysis:

(A Man, as John Wilkes Booth, enters. He takes a gun and “stands in position": at the left side of the Foundling Father, as Abraham Lincoln, pointing the gun at the Foundling Father’s head)
A MAN: Ready.
THE FOUNDLING FATHER: Haw Haw Haw Haw
(Rest)
HAW HAW HAW HAW
(Booth shoots. Lincoln “slumps in his chair." Booth jumps)
A MAN (Theatrically): “Thus to the tyrants!”
(Rest)
Hhhh. (Exits)

Related Characters: The Foundling Father (speaker), Abraham Lincoln (speaker), John Wilkes Booth (speaker)
Page Number: 164-165
Explanation and Analysis:

LINCOLN
BOOTH
LINCOLN
BOOTH
LINCOLN
BOOTH
LINCOLN
BOOTH
LINCOLN

Related Characters: The Foundling Father (speaker), Abraham Lincoln (speaker), John Wilkes Booth (speaker)
Page Number: 172
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The America Play LitChart as a printable PDF.
The America Play PDF

John Wilkes Booth Character Timeline in The America Play

The timeline below shows where the character John Wilkes Booth appears in The America Play. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1: Lincoln Act
History, Narrative, and Multiplicity Theme Icon
Race and American Identity Theme Icon
Theater and Reality Theme Icon
Death, Mourning, and Resurrection Theme Icon
Suddenly, “A Man, [dressed] as John Wilkes Booth, enters” and “point[s] the gun at the Foundling Father’s head.” The Foundling Father starts laughing... (full context)
History, Narrative, and Multiplicity Theme Icon
Race and American Identity Theme Icon
Theater and Reality Theme Icon
The reenactment repeats: the same man enters dressed as John Wilkes Booth, the Foundling Father laughs, “Booth shoots,” and “Lincoln ‘slumps in his chair.’” This time, the... (full context)
History, Narrative, and Multiplicity Theme Icon
Race and American Identity Theme Icon
Theater and Reality Theme Icon
...and he notes that he found the murder the most interesting—but a woman dressed as Booth interrupts him to reenact the murder. He laughs, she shoots, and she proclaims, “Strike the... (full context)
History, Narrative, and Multiplicity Theme Icon
Theater and Reality Theme Icon
Family, Trauma, and Personal Identity Theme Icon
Death, Mourning, and Resurrection Theme Icon
...from his own unpublished writing about Lincoln’s radiant hair and comments on how John Wilkes Booth “broke his leg” jumping from Lincoln’s seat onto the stage, and how Mary Todd “hysteric[ally]”... (full context)
History, Narrative, and Multiplicity Theme Icon
Theater and Reality Theme Icon
A man dressed as Booth comes inside and shoots the chuckling Foundling Father, then yells “Thus to the tyrants!” After... (full context)
Act 2, Part D: Echo
History, Narrative, and Multiplicity Theme Icon
Race and American Identity Theme Icon
Theater and Reality Theme Icon
...to “the pulling of the trigger” and “the screaming of Todd” to “the shouting of Booth ‘Thus to the tyrants!’” and, finally, “the silence of the nation.” He rambles on about... (full context)