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Arts Toolkit

Arts Toolkit: Drama Video Clips

Melodrama: Uncle Tom’s Cabin



This reader’s theater performance spotlights a scene from George Aiken’s 19th-century dramatization of the novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The book, written by Harriett Beecher Stowe, was the best-selling novel of the 19th century and was both praised for its anti-slavery stance and criticized for perpetuating racial stereotypes. In this scene, escaped slave Eliza reunites with her husband, George, and their friend Phineas. She recounts how she crossed the Ohio River with her child while fleeing from slave hunters. The scene shows the exaggerated language and performance typical of melodramas, the popular theater style of the time. Director Robert Pickering provides contextual information.

Suggested Uses:

  • Show to initiate a discussion of melodrama.
  • Show and compare to the novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
  • Have students write and perform melodramatic scenes based on books they have read.
  • Have students research the origins of the character of Uncle Tom, said to be based on Josiah Henson of Henderson, KY.
  • Have students discuss how melodrama exists today (in soap operas, etc.).


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