Penn Library Exhibitions

Robert Montgomery Bird: Writer and Artist

The Broker of Bogata
The Broker of Bogota, the tragedy of a father betrayed by his son, was among Bird's major theatrical successes. Dr. Bird's mature plays, such as The Broker, drew large and enthusiastic audiences, even in England. When Forrest and his company toured that country--then, perhaps even more than now, suspicious of American pretensions to "culture"--his repertory daringly and successfully alternated Shakespeare . . . and Bird.

Until Quinn edited it in 1917, The Broker was known only through Forrest's productions. The various manuscripts show how much care Bird lavished on its composition. Also exhibited is a heavily annotated copy of a late edition of Quinn's printed version. It shows the care with which Quinn's Penn students--Godfrey Frank Singer, who marked this copy, was one of them--had to read it.

The great Penn champion of American drama Professor Arthur Hobson Quinn sought long and hard to establish a genuinely American dramatic tradition and history independent of England's. He found in Bird's plays much "fine achievement"; but his judgment strikes later readers as overstated and Bird's plays have generally disappeared from American theater history. This disappearance is a loss. If they are less wonderful than Quinn believed, they still repay reading.

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