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Dramaturg’s Note | THE LOYALS

Finding Yourself During the Revolution, Or How Benedict and Peggy Arnold Doomed Their Fates

by Dramaturg, Victoria Isotti

PEGGY: Major General Benedict Arnold, what most do you deserve?

BENEDICT: Respect. Honor. Position.

PEGGY: I will fight for nothing less. What action are you prepared

to take?

BENEDICT: Anything. What are you willing to risk?

PEGGY: Everything.

The overarching theme for Emerson Stage’s 2022-2023 season is finding one’s place in the world. Within this theme, we ask: What happens when the world no longer looks like it once did? And how do we react to these changes? 

Allison Gregory’s new play, The Loyals, dramatizes the American Revolution and Benedict Arnold’s infamous espionage. So how does the story of Benedict Arnold and Peggy Shippen fit this theme? 

Benedict Arnold was one of eleven children. A major general during the Revolutionary War, Arnold strived for his name to be known and to garner the respect he felt he deserved. After injuring his leg multiple times, being underpaid by Congress, and then being accused of multiple crimes (which he did in fact commit), Arnold was becoming jaded when he met Peggy. 

Peggy Shippen grew up in Pennsylvania. Peggy was the daughter of the well-known Judge Edward Shippen, and the family was very wealthy. Dubbed the “Princess of Philadelphia” due to her beauty, socialite status, and many Loyalist friends, she came of age right as the American Revolution was ramping up. Her father’s favorite of the Shippen children, Peggy was expected to marry well, have many children, and stay neutral about politics. 

Benedict Arnold and Peggy Shippen Arnold find themselves in an era where the world is changing right before their eyes. Pressure to identify as Americans versus British colonial subjects, and tensions between each side, were growing at this time. Despite this, they both expected to be in places of glory for the rest of their lifetimes. What exactly happened that made their plans go wrong? 

The Loyals explores the decisions the Arnolds made in reaction to the changes in America, and their downfall in American society. The show invites audiences to witness the events that took place, see both Benedict’s and Peggy’s points of view, and decide for themselves what the true catalyst was for Benedict and Peggy that altered their futures so dramatically.

I hope everyone enjoys the show!

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