The America Play

by

Suzan-Lori Parks

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Our American Cousin Term Analysis

A 1858 play by British dramatist Tom Taylor, which ran primarily in the United States. Abraham Lincoln was watching this play at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C., when he was assassinated by the actor John Wilkes Booth. The play takes on a significant role in The America Play, most of all because the work’s most famous line, “You sockdologizing old man-trap!,” repeats every time the Foundling Father reenacts the Lincoln assassination. (Booth really did assassinate Lincoln during this line, because he knew the audience’s laughter would mask the sound of his gunshot.) As the title indicates, the plot of the play revolves around a long-lost American relative visiting his estranged family in England, and its comedy is based on the perceived differences between American bluntness and British politeness. Two scenes from Our American Cousin interrupt Act Two of The America Play in the “Echo” sections, including the scene that ends with, “You sockdologizing old man-trap!” Arguably, Parks’s title also references Our American Cousin, and specifically the fact that one of the most important events in American history took place during a play that made a mockery of American culture.

Our American Cousin Quotes in The America Play

The The America Play quotes below are all either spoken by Our American Cousin or refer to Our American Cousin. For each quote, you can also see the other terms 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:
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The America Play PDF

Our American Cousin Term Timeline in The America Play

The timeline below shows where the term Our American Cousin 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
...(the distance Lincoln and the stage, the people sitting with him, the principal actress of Our American Cousin , and the play’s plot). Another woman interrupts him to reenact the murder, and the... (full context)
Act 2, Part B: Echo
History, Narrative, and Multiplicity Theme Icon
Theater and Reality Theme Icon
Death, Mourning, and Resurrection Theme Icon
The Foundling Father declares to the audience: “Ladies and Gentlemen: Our American Cousin , Act III, scene 5.” The scene between a Mr. Trenchard and a Miss Keane... (full context)
Act 2, Part D: Echo
History, Narrative, and Multiplicity Theme Icon
Race and American Identity Theme Icon
Theater and Reality Theme Icon
The Foundling Father announces “ Our American Cousin , Act III, scene 2.” In this brief act, the American Mr. Trenchard clumsily flirts... (full context)