Document Type

Book Chapter


Final Published Version

Publication Title

Domina Illustris: Essays for Judith P. Hallett

Publication Date



In mid-nineteenth-century Philadelphia, plays with classical subjects were nearly as popular as Shakespeare. Contemporary reac- tion to one of these plays, Thomas Talfourd’s Ion, or The Foundling of Argos, reveals its audiences’ expectations about gender on stage and in society. American audiences, unlike their English counterparts, expected to see the role of Ion played by a woman. Especially in the 1830s, actresses playing Ion faced audiences who expected to see their feminine qualities preserved. They were disguised as a boy on the edge of manhood, but to be successful, the disguise had to fail by preserving their essential character as women.

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