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Murder and MadnessThe Myth of the Kentucky Tragedy$
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Matthew G. Schoenbachler

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780813125664

Published to Kentucky Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.5810/kentucky/9780813125664.001.0001

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Prison and Execution

Prison and Execution

(p.175) Chapter 8 Prison and Execution
Murder and Madness

Matthew G. Schoenbachler

University Press of Kentucky

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

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