Topdog/Underdog

by

Suzan-Lori Parks

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Lincoln Character Analysis

One of only two characters seen onstage during the play, Lincoln is living with his brother, Booth, because Lincoln’s wife, Cookie, has left him. An intelligent man who likes to drink, he works at an arcade as an Abraham Lincoln impersonator, dressing in an old overcoat, a top hat, and a fake beard. Because he is a black man, he has to go to work in “whiteface,” smearing white paint over his skin in order to look more convincingly like Abraham Lincoln. At the arcade, he sits with his back turned to customers, who come up behind him and shoot him with cap guns in a reenactment of John Wilkes Booth’s assassination of the president at the end of the Civil War. Before working at the arcade, Lincoln used to be a virtuosic hustler who played Three-Card Monte on the streets and conned people out of their money. Now, though, he’s trying to stay away from hustling, hoping to live an honest life in his brother’s apartment until he can get back on his feet. Both he and Booth have painful personal histories, since their parents abandoned them as children, each parent leaving separately. When their mother left, she gave Booth an “inheritance” of $500, and when their father left, he gave Lincoln the same amount. Lincoln has long since spent his cash, but he knows Booth hasn’t. He takes advantage of this when, after refusing time and again to play cards with his brother, he relents and cons Booth out of his inheritance—a fatal mistake, since Booth can’t stand to lose and, in an effort to regain a sense of dominance, shoots and kills Lincoln.

Lincoln Quotes in Topdog/Underdog

The Topdog/Underdog quotes below are all either spoken by Lincoln or refer to Lincoln. 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:
Deception Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Theatre Communications Group edition of Topdog/Underdog published in 2001.
Scene One Quotes

I got her this ring today. Diamond. Well, diamond-esque, but it looks just as good as the real thing. Asked her what size she wore. She say 7 so I go boost a 6 and a half, right? Show it to her and she loves it and I shove it on her finger and its a tight fit right, so she cant just take it off on a whim, like she did the last one I gave her. Smooth, right?

Related Characters: Booth (speaker), Lincoln, Grace
Page Number: 10
Explanation and Analysis:

She was putting her stuff in bags. She had all them nice suitcases but she was putting her stuff in bags.

(Rest)

Packing up her shit. She told me to look out for you. I told her I was the little brother and the big brother should look out after the little brother. She just said it again. That I should look out for you. Yeah. So who gonna look out for me. Not like you care. Here I am interested in an economic opportunity, willing to work hard, willing to take risks and all you can say you shiteating motherfucking pathetic limpdick uncle tom, all you can tell me is how you dont do more what I be wanting to do. Here I am trying to earn a living and you standing in my way. YOU STANDING IN MY WAY, LINK!

Related Characters: Booth (speaker), Lincoln
Page Number: 21
Explanation and Analysis:

Lincoln
I cant be hustling no more, bro.

Booth
What you do all day aint no hustle?

Lincoln
Its honest work.

Booth
Dressing up like some crackerass white man, some dead president and letting people shoot at you sounds like a hustle to me.

Lincoln
People know the real deal. When people know the real deal it aint a hustle.

Booth
We do the card game people will know the real deal. Sometimes we will win sometimes they will win. They fast they win, we faster we win.

Related Characters: Lincoln (speaker), Booth (speaker)
Page Number: 22
Explanation and Analysis:
Scene Two Quotes

Lincoln
They say the clothes make the man. All day long I wear that getup. But that dont make me who I am. Old black coat not even real old just fake old. Its got worn spots on the elbows, little raggedy places thatll break through into holes before the winters out. Shiny strips around the cuffs and the collar. Dust from the cap guns on the left shoulder where they shoot him, where they shoot me I should say but I never feel like they shooting me. The fella who had the gig before I had it wore the same coat. When I got the job they had the getup hanging there waiting for me. Said thuh fella before me just took it off one day and never came back.

(Rest)

Remember how Dads clothes used to hang in the closet?

Booth
Until you took em outside and burned em.

Related Characters: Lincoln (speaker), Booth (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Abraham Lincoln Costume
Page Number: 29
Explanation and Analysis:
Scene Three Quotes

Grace Grace Grace. Grace. She wants me back. She wants me back so bad she wiped her hand over the past where we wasnt together just so she could say we aint never been apart. She wiped her hand over our breakup. She wiped her hand over her childhood, her childhood years, her first boyfriend, just so she could say that she been mine since the dawn of time.

Related Characters: Booth (speaker), Lincoln, Grace
Page Number: 38
Explanation and Analysis:

Im hot. I need constant sexual release. If I wasnt taking care of myself by myself I would be out there running around on thuh town which costs cash that I dont have so I would be doing worse: I’d be out there doing who knows what, shooting people and shit. Out of a need for unresolved sexual release. I’m a hot man. I aint apologizing for it. When I dont got a woman, I gotta make do. Not like you, Link. When you dont got a woman you just sit there. Letting yr shit fester. Yr dick, if it aint falled off yet, is hanging there between yr legs, little whiteface shriveled-up blank-shooting grub worm. As goes thuh man so goes thuh mans dick. Thats what I say. Least my shits intact.

(Rest)

You a limp dick jealous whiteface motherfucker whose wife dumped him cause he couldnt get it up and she told me so. Came crawling to me cause she needed a man.

(Rest)

I gave it to Grace good tonight. So goodnight.

Related Characters: Booth (speaker), Lincoln, Grace
Page Number: 45
Explanation and Analysis:

Its pretty dark. To keep thuh illusion of thuh whole thing.

(Rest)

But on thuh wall opposite where I sit theres a little electrical box, like a fuse box. Silver metal. Its got uh dent in it like somebody hit it with they fist. Big old dent so everything reflected in it gets reflected upside down. Like yr looking in uh spoon. And thats where I can see em. The assassins.

(Rest)

Not behind me yet but I can hear him coming. Coming in with his gun in hand, thuh gun he already picked out up front when he paid his fare. Coming on in. But not behind me yet. His dress shoes making too much noise on the carpet, the carpets too thin, Boss should get a new one but hes cheap. Not behind me yet. Not behind me yet. Cheap lightbulb just above my head.

(Rest)

And there he is. Standing behind me. Standing in position. Standing upside down. Theres some feet shapes on the floor so he knows just where he oughta stand. So he wont miss. Thuh gun is always cold. Winter or summer thuh gun is always cold. And when the gun touches me he can feel that Im warm and he knows Im alive. And if Im alive then he can shoot me dead. And for a minute, with him hanging back there behind me, its real. Me looking at him upside down and him looking at me looking like Lincoln. Then he shoots.

Related Characters: Lincoln (speaker), Booth
Page Number: 49
Explanation and Analysis:

I slump down and close my eyes. And he goes out thuh other way. More come in. Uh whole day full. Bunches of kids, little good for nothings, in they school uniforms. Businessmen smelling like two for one martinis. Tourists in they theme park t-shirts trying to catch it on film. Housewives with they mouths closed tight, shooting more than once.

(Rest)

They all get so into it. I do my best for them. And now they talk bout cutting me, replacing me with uh wax dummy.

Related Characters: Lincoln (speaker), Booth
Page Number: 50
Explanation and Analysis:

People are funny about they Lincoln shit. Its historical. People like they historical shit a certain way. They like it to unfold the way they folded it up. Neatly like a book. Not raggedy and bloody and screaming. You trying to get me fired.

Related Characters: Lincoln (speaker), Booth
Page Number: 52
Explanation and Analysis:
Scene Five Quotes

I think there was something out there that they liked more than they liked us and for years they was struggling against moving towards that more liked something. Each of them had a special something that they was struggling against. Moms had hers. Pops had his. And they was struggling. We moved out of that nasty apartment into a house. A whole house. It werent perfect but it was a house and theyd bought it and they brought us there and everything we owned, figuring we could be a family in that house and them things, them two separate things each of them was struggling against, would just leave them be. Them things would see thuh house and be impressed and just leave them be.

Related Characters: Lincoln (speaker), Booth
Page Number: 67
Explanation and Analysis:
Scene Six Quotes

All she knew was you couldnt get it up. You couldnt get it up with her so in her head you was tired of her and had gone out to screw somebody new and this time maybe werent never coming back.

(Rest)

She had me pour her a drink or 2. I didnt want to. She wanted to get back at you by having some fun of her own and when I told her to go out and have it, she said she wanted to have her fun right here. With me.

(Rest)

And then, just like that, she changed her mind.

(Rest)

But she’d hooked me. That bad part of me that I fight down everyday. You beat yrs down and it stays there dead but mine keeps coming up for another round. And the bad part of me took her clothing off and carried her into thuh bed and had her, Link, yr Cookie. It wasnt just thuh bad part of me it was all of me, man, I had her. Yr damn wife. Right in that bed.

Related Characters: Booth (speaker), Lincoln, Cookie
Page Number: 93
Explanation and Analysis:

And ooooh you certainly was persistent. But you was in such a hurry to learn thuh last move that you didnt bother to learning thuh first one. That was yr mistake. Cause its thuh first move that separates thuh Player from thuh Played. And thuh first move is to know that there aint no winning. Taadaaa! It may look like you got a chance but the only time you pick right is when thuh man lets you. And when its thuh real deal, when its thuh real fucking deal, bro, and thuh moneys on thuh line, thats when thuh man wont want you picking right. He will want you picking wrong so he will make you pick wrong. Wrong wrong wrong. Ooooh, you thought you was finally happening, didnt you? You thought yr ship had come in or some shit, huh? Thought you was uh Player. But I played you, bro.

Related Characters: Lincoln (speaker), Booth
Page Number: 106
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Topdog/Underdog LitChart as a printable PDF.
Topdog/Underdog PDF

Lincoln Character Timeline in Topdog/Underdog

The timeline below shows where the character Lincoln appears in Topdog/Underdog. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Scene One
Masculinity, Sexuality, and Violence Theme Icon
History Theme Icon
Brotherhood and Competition Theme Icon
As Booth practices “throwing the cards,” his brother Lincoln enters the apartment wearing an old frock coat, a top hat, and a fake beard.... (full context)
Masculinity, Sexuality, and Violence Theme Icon
Booth tells Lincoln he hates to see him “wearing that bullshit” in his apartment. He instructs his older... (full context)
Deception Theme Icon
“You boosted a ring?” Lincoln asks. “Yeah,” Booth replies. “I thought about spending my inheritance on it but—take off that... (full context)
Deception Theme Icon
History Theme Icon
Lincoln sees the makeshift cardboard table and asks if Booth is making bookshelves. In response, Booth... (full context)
Deception Theme Icon
Brotherhood and Competition Theme Icon
The brothers eat Chinese food, and Lincoln complains about having to sleep in the reclining chair. “Its my place,” Booth replies. “You... (full context)
Brotherhood and Competition Theme Icon
When Booth mentions his inheritance, Lincoln says Booth might as well not have any money at all, since he never intends... (full context)
Brotherhood and Competition Theme Icon
“My new names 3-Card,” Booth announces while Lincoln cleans. He declares that he’ll shoot anybody who refuses to call him 3-card, and though... (full context)
Deception Theme Icon
History Theme Icon
Brotherhood and Competition Theme Icon
Lincoln tries to tell Booth that throwing cards isn’t as simple as he has made it... (full context)
History Theme Icon
Brotherhood and Competition Theme Icon
...long pause, Booth abruptly starts talking about the day their mother abandoned the family. While Lincoln was at school, Booth crept back home  because he “was feeling something going on, […]... (full context)
Deception Theme Icon
History Theme Icon
Apologizing, Lincoln reiterates that he doesn’t want to “hustle” anymore. “What you do all day aint no... (full context)
History Theme Icon
Brotherhood and Competition Theme Icon
Frustrated by Booth’s harshness, Lincoln says, “Dont push me,” and Booth tells him he’s going to have to move out... (full context)
Scene Two
Deception Theme Icon
Brotherhood and Competition Theme Icon
...evening and Booth enters the apartment wearing multiple layers of clothing. When he sees that Lincoln isn’t home yet, he starts taking off each layer, revealing to the audience that he’s... (full context)
Deception Theme Icon
Brotherhood and Competition Theme Icon
As the brothers prance around and delight in their money, Booth tells Lincoln to look around (wanting him to notice the suit he stole for him). “You rush... (full context)
Deception Theme Icon
...look so handsome in his new suit that Grace will ask him to marry her. Lincoln, for his part, takes pleasure in these new clothes because he’s forced to wear an... (full context)
Deception Theme Icon
History Theme Icon
After admiring their new suits, the brothers budget out Lincoln’s paycheck, setting aside portions for rent, food, alcohol, and utilities. As they do so, Lincoln... (full context)
History Theme Icon
Brotherhood and Competition Theme Icon
After disparaging his brother’s job, Booth finally suggests that Lincoln “jazz up” his Abraham Lincoln act if he doesn’t want to get fired. “Elaborate yr... (full context)
Scene Three
Masculinity, Sexuality, and Violence Theme Icon
History Theme Icon
Lincoln awakes in the armchair hours later. Still dressed as Abraham Lincoln, it’s clear he’s been... (full context)
Masculinity, Sexuality, and Violence Theme Icon
Brotherhood and Competition Theme Icon
Lincoln asks if Grace and Booth had sex. “Course she let me do it,” Booth says.... (full context)
Masculinity, Sexuality, and Violence Theme Icon
Brotherhood and Competition Theme Icon
Lincoln asks Booth if he’ll help him practice his new Abraham Lincoln death routine. Booth declines,... (full context)
Masculinity, Sexuality, and Violence Theme Icon
Brotherhood and Competition Theme Icon
...him cause he couldnt get it up and she told me so,” he levels at Lincoln. “Came crawling to me cause she needed a man.” (full context)
Deception Theme Icon
Brotherhood and Competition Theme Icon
...long silence passes between the brothers. Eventually, Booth looks beyond the divider to see if Lincoln is sleeping and the two men make eye contact. Lincoln tells Booth that he can... (full context)
Masculinity, Sexuality, and Violence Theme Icon
Brotherhood and Competition Theme Icon
Lincoln points out that Booth will have to get a gun if he wants to start... (full context)
Masculinity, Sexuality, and Violence Theme Icon
...strangers,” Booth asks what kind of people come to the arcade and pretend to shoot Lincoln, but Lincoln can’t answer because he doesn’t turn around to look at the shooters. However,... (full context)
History Theme Icon
Lincoln’s boss wants to replace him with a wax dummy. Hearing this, Booth insists again that... (full context)
Masculinity, Sexuality, and Violence Theme Icon
Booth reminds Lincoln that, if he does indeed get fired, they can join together as brothers and hustle... (full context)
Scene Four
Deception Theme Icon
History Theme Icon
On Saturday, Lincoln wakes up before Booth and takes off his costume. In doing so, he rips the... (full context)
Deception Theme Icon
History Theme Icon
Talking to himself, Lincoln comments on his own decision to stop hustling and his realization that he wanted to... (full context)
Deception Theme Icon
History Theme Icon
Just for fun, Lincoln sits down and practices his Three-Card Monte moves. His banter has much more fluidity to... (full context)
Scene Five
History Theme Icon
Brotherhood and Competition Theme Icon
Lincoln suddenly tries to open the door, but Booth darts over and keeps him from entering.... (full context)
Brotherhood and Competition Theme Icon
Lincoln muses aloud about returning to the arcade the following day and begging for his job... (full context)
History Theme Icon
While Booth looks for Grace out the window, Lincoln sips from a bottle of whiskey and reminisces about their childhood, talking about a house... (full context)
History Theme Icon
“Why do you think they left us, man?” Lincoln asks Booth, referring to their parents. When Booth doesn’t give him a satisfying answer, he... (full context)
History Theme Icon
Brotherhood and Competition Theme Icon
Hearing his brother’s tirade about Grace, Lincoln reveals that their mother told him to never get married, and Booth confirms that she... (full context)
Deception Theme Icon
Brotherhood and Competition Theme Icon
As Lincoln and Booth sit drinking whiskey and reminiscing, Booth says, “I didnt mind [our parents] leaving... (full context)
Deception Theme Icon
Masculinity, Sexuality, and Violence Theme Icon
Brotherhood and Competition Theme Icon
When Lincoln hears Booth use the word “customer,” he instructs his brother that hustlers call the customer... (full context)
Masculinity, Sexuality, and Violence Theme Icon
Brotherhood and Competition Theme Icon
Lincoln instructs Booth, saying, “Theres thuh Dealer, thuh Stickman, thuh Sides, thuh Lookout and thuh Mark.... (full context)
Deception Theme Icon
Brotherhood and Competition Theme Icon
“I’ll be thuh Side,” Booth determines, and finally Lincoln agrees. Commencing with the lesson, he says, “First thing you learn is what is. Next... (full context)
Deception Theme Icon
After having sized up the crowd, Lincoln says, “Dealer dont wanna play!” Booth explodes at this, reminding his brother that he promised... (full context)
Deception Theme Icon
Brotherhood and Competition Theme Icon
Lincoln instructs Booth, telling him that a mark pays attention to the dealer using two “organs”:... (full context)
Deception Theme Icon
Brotherhood and Competition Theme Icon
In their second practice round, Lincoln adds banter to his routine, speaking quickly and saying things like, “Who see thuh black... (full context)
Masculinity, Sexuality, and Violence Theme Icon
Brotherhood and Competition Theme Icon
Now Lincoln gives Booth the cards. As Booth slides them around the table, his hands move awkwardly... (full context)
Scene Six
Masculinity, Sexuality, and Violence Theme Icon
The following night, Lincoln barrels into the apartment, drunk and in high spirits. Pulling a wad of money from... (full context)
Masculinity, Sexuality, and Violence Theme Icon
Brotherhood and Competition Theme Icon
As Lincoln brags to himself, Booth silently emerges from behind the partition between the bed and the... (full context)
Masculinity, Sexuality, and Violence Theme Icon
Brotherhood and Competition Theme Icon
As Lincoln finds a suitcase and begins packing, Booth says, “Just like that, huh? ‘No sweat’?! Yesterday... (full context)
History Theme Icon
Brotherhood and Competition Theme Icon
After asserting that Grace is “cool” with who he is, Booth watches Lincoln pack and wonders aloud why their father didn’t take his clothes with him when he... (full context)
Masculinity, Sexuality, and Violence Theme Icon
History Theme Icon
Brotherhood and Competition Theme Icon
As Lincoln packs his Abraham Lincoln costume, Booth admits he’s going to miss seeing his brother come... (full context)
Masculinity, Sexuality, and Violence Theme Icon
History Theme Icon
Brotherhood and Competition Theme Icon
...the night Cookie came to the apartment, revealing that she wanted to get back at Lincoln by sleeping with another man, and when Booth encouraged her to do so, she made... (full context)
Masculinity, Sexuality, and Violence Theme Icon
Brotherhood and Competition Theme Icon
Lincoln tells Booth he doesn’t think about Cookie anymore. Booth then criticizes him, suggesting that Lincoln... (full context)
Deception Theme Icon
Brotherhood and Competition Theme Icon
“I’m gone,” Lincoln says, heading for the door. Suddenly, his brother screams “Fuck that!”, startling Lincoln into staying.... (full context)
Deception Theme Icon
Brotherhood and Competition Theme Icon
After receiving Lincoln’s compliment, Booth tells him to throw the cards “for real.” Lincoln upholds that he already... (full context)
Deception Theme Icon
Brotherhood and Competition Theme Icon
Lincoln refutes Booth’s claim that he’s holding back, since he bet money and “money makes it... (full context)
Deception Theme Icon
Brotherhood and Competition Theme Icon
Looking at Booth’s inheritance, Lincoln says, “Dont put that down,” but Booth urges him to throw the cards. “I dont... (full context)
Deception Theme Icon
Brotherhood and Competition Theme Icon
Booth tells Lincoln he thinks they are, indeed, brothers, and after a very long pause, Lincoln urges him... (full context)
Deception Theme Icon
History Theme Icon
Brotherhood and Competition Theme Icon
“Woah,” Lincoln says, struggling with the nylon stocking, “she sure did tie this up tight, didnt she?”... (full context)
Deception Theme Icon
Brotherhood and Competition Theme Icon
Once again, Lincoln express how baffled he is that Booth never once opened the stocking to count the... (full context)
Deception Theme Icon
Masculinity, Sexuality, and Violence Theme Icon
Brotherhood and Competition Theme Icon
Right as Lincoln is about to cut the stocking, Booth says, “I popped her.” Lincoln pauses in confusion,... (full context)
Masculinity, Sexuality, and Violence Theme Icon
Brotherhood and Competition Theme Icon
Lincoln tries to convince his brother to take back the stocking. Booth refuses, suddenly insisting that... (full context)