Prison and Execution

Matthew G. Schoenbachler

in Murder and Madness

Published by University Press of Kentucky

Published in print October 2009 | ISBN: 9780813125664
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780813135373 | DOI:
Prison and Execution

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Though consigned to a dungeon and sentenced to hang, Jereboam Beauchamp had by no means resigned himself to die. The Kentucky Tragedy was not built solely on the Confession and its romantic tropes; it was the Beauchamps' behavior—their literary-inspired performances—as much as their writing that won over their audience. The Beauchamps' strange ability to shape perceptions of the Kentucky Tragedy for almost two centuries is a result of the fact that the couple, well versed in the literature of their day, knew the themes that would resonate with their audience: seduction and villainy and defense of honor. Three days before his scheduled execution and with no hope of getting the Confession published in time, Beauchamp again wrote Governor Desha, requesting yet another thirty days. Having effaced the boundary between life and literature, the Beauchamps pushed further still and made life itself romance. The theme that runs through their lives, their writing, and their performances is an understanding and manipulation of the constructs of their society.

Keywords: Jereboam Beauchamp; Kentucky Tragedy; prison; execution; seduction; villainy; defense of honor

Chapter.  14707 words. 

Subjects: History of the Americas

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