Margaret Fleming


Margaret Fleming
   Considered the first American drama to adopt the "social problem play" realism pioneered by Henrik Ibsen, James A. Herne's drama focuses on Margaret Fleming's discovery that her husband, Philip, has fathered a child by a young woman working in his mill. When the child's mother dies in childbirth, Margaret, who suffers from near blindness due to the birth of her daughter, takes responsibility for the child. Devastated by her husband's deceit and its sudden revelation, Margaret loses her eyesight. In a sequence that shocked audiences, Margaret suckles the illegitimate child at her own breast.
   In the original version Margaret rebuffed Philip's plea for reconciliation, but Herne's revision concludes with a reconciliation. First produced on 4 May 1891 for one performance at Boston's Chicker-ing Hall, Margaret Fleming shocked audiences with what Hamlin Garland called its "radical" depiction of marital infidelity and its consequences. Herne won the label of the "American Ibsen." His wife, Katharine Corcoran Herne, played Margaret. William Dean Howells called Herne the greatest U.S. playwright of the era.

The Historical Dictionary of the American Theater. .

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