The America Play

by

Suzan-Lori Parks

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The Lincoln Beards Symbol Icon

When he first addresses the audience in Act One, the Foundling Father carries a box of beards with him. these are, of course, the beards for his Abraham Lincoln act, which range from a stunning blonde “fancy  beard” and a festive “holiday beard” to a “beard of uncertainty.” He explains that his barber helped him make these beards, and it is even possible that he made them out of Lucy’s hair (in Act Two, she lists “Thuh hair from off my head” as one of the many things the Foundling Father has taken away from her). Notably, as with the bust of Lincoln, the beard box and one of the beards turn back up in Act Two as one of Brazil’s “wonders,” as he reinterprets his father’s junk as real historical treasures.

While the Foundling Father’s various beards point to the way that his character is only knowable through his relationship to Lincoln, and that in this sense he is constantly in disguise, it also shows how history branches apart in this play, with multiple and often inconsistent narratives emerging about the past. Recognizing that “some inaccuracies are good for business,” he intentionally plays Lincoln the character from history, with little interest in how Lincoln actually may have been. Indeed, his creativity with Lincoln’s character suggests not only that single truths are not recoverable in history—or even worth recovering in it—but also that interpreting history is what really brings it to life and makes it relevant and valuable to people in the present day.

The Lincoln Beards Quotes in The America Play

The The America Play quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Lincoln Beards. 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

There was once a man who was told that he bore a strong resemblance to Abraham Lincoln. He was tall and thinly built just like the Great Man. His legs were the longer part just like the Great Mans legs. His hands and feet were large as the Great Mans were large. The Lesser Known had several beards which he carried around in a box. The beards were his although he himself had not grown them on his face but since he’d secretly bought the hairs from his barber and arranged their beard shapes and since the procurement and upkeep of his beards took so much work he figured that the beards were completely his. Were as authentic as he was, so to speak. His beard box was of cherry wood and lined with purple velvet. He had the initials “A.L.” tooled in gold on the lid.

Related Characters: The Foundling Father (speaker), Abraham Lincoln
Related Symbols: The Lincoln Beards
Page Number: 159-160
Explanation and Analysis:
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The America Play PDF

The Lincoln Beards Symbol Timeline in The America Play

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Lincoln Beards 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
...Mans” long legs and big hands and feet. The man carries a box full of beards, which he made from hairs his barber sold him, and which “were as authentic as... (full context)
History, Narrative, and Multiplicity Theme Icon
Death, Mourning, and Resurrection Theme Icon
...him “that he and the Great Man were dead ringers.” He comments that his holiday beard and shoes are “a little much” together and notes that Lincoln’s son did not look... (full context)
History, Narrative, and Multiplicity Theme Icon
Theater and Reality Theme Icon
Death, Mourning, and Resurrection Theme Icon
...“gave a shape to the [Lesser Known’s] life and posterity.” He shows the audience his beard and shoes, and notes that the Lesser Known started “record[ing] his own movements” just in... (full context)
History, Narrative, and Multiplicity Theme Icon
...echoes) turned out to get “louder not softer.” (He shows the audience his yellow “fancy beard,” which “deviate[s] too much” from Lincoln’s dark hair to convince his audience.) All alone, he... (full context)
History, Narrative, and Multiplicity Theme Icon
Race and American Identity Theme Icon
Theater and Reality Theme Icon
The Foundling Father explains that he is putting on Lincoln’s “beard of uncertainty,” the one he used in the early days of the Civil War. He... (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
...this woman exits, the Foundling Father decides that it is time to “wear the yellow beard,” for “variety.” He notes that Lincoln did not really wear his famous hat indoors, “but... (full context)
Theater and Reality Theme Icon
Family, Trauma, and Personal Identity Theme Icon
...side effects” from his job, besides “a slight deafness in this ear.” He takes his beard off and goes “clean-shaven,” since “the face needs air.” He remarks that “the Lesser Known... (full context)
Act 2, Part E: Spadework
History, Narrative, and Multiplicity Theme Icon
Death, Mourning, and Resurrection Theme Icon
...intuh” for Pa, and Brazil finds “uh bag of pennies,” and then the yellow Lincoln beard. (full context)