Nowadays, a pantomime occasionally pulls off a coup by engaging a guest star with an unquestionable thespian reputation, as was the case with the Christmas 2004 production of Aladdin that featured Sir Ian McKellen as Widow Twankey,
In the 18th century, laws forbidding the performance of plays were passed in Massachusetts in 1750, in Pennsylvania in 1759, and in Rhode Island in 1761, and plays were banned in most states during the American Revolutionary War at the urging of the Continental Congress. In 1794, president of Yale College, Timothy Dwight IV, in his "Essay on the Stage", declared that "to indulge a taste for playgoing means nothing more or less than the loss of that most valuable treasure: the immortal soul."
In his famous travelogue Democracy in America, the French writer Alexis de Tocqueville remarked on the popularity of Shakespeare across the new nation in the 1830s: “There is hardly a pioneer's hut that does not contain a few odd volumes of Shakespeare. I remember that I read the feudal drama of Henry V for the first time in a log cabin.”
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