Tyler, Royall

1757 – 1826

Dramatic Works tyler

The Contrast (1787)

The Contrast (1787)

Production & Reception History

Production HistoryThe Contrast was first performed at the John Street Theatre in New York by the Old American Company (Hallam-Douglas group).

Reception History: Jeffrey Richards described it as “the first hit, measured in the terms of the time” (4).

Print & Publication History

Published (under an Assignment of the Copy-Right) by Thomas Wignell, from the Press of Prichard & Hall, in Market Street, between Second and Front Streets, Philadelphia, 1787

published anonymously by “a citizen of the United States”

Genre & Structure

  • Comedy in five acts
  • Prefatory material
    • Prologue “Written by a young Gentleman of New York, and spoken by Mr. Wignell”

Additional Information

Royall Tyler is often described as one of the first successful American playwrights. The Contrast is widely believed to be “the first full-length comic play by an American to be performed by a professional [theater] company”  (Richards 4).

Tyler also wrote a novel, The Algerine captive; or, The life and adventures of Doctor Updike Underhill six years a prisoner among the Algerines, published in 1797, and, according to Richards, “several satirical prose pieces [… and] several religious plays” (1).


Richards, Jeffrey H, Ed. Early American Drama. NY, London: Penguin Books, 1997. 1-57.

Secondary Sources

Richards, Jeffrey H. “Royal Tyler.” Early American Drama. NY, London: Penguin Books, 1997. 1-5. (includes a selected biography)