This gold medal was awarded to Thomas (later Robert Treat) Paine (1773–1811) for writing the best prologue in celebration of the opening of the Federal Street Theatre on February 3, 1794. In 161 lines, Paine traces the history of Western theater from ancient Greece to post-revolutionary America. Insisting that plays can display “heroic virtue” and expose vice to shame, Paine celebrates the coming of theater to the new Republic, concluding:
And now, thou dome, by Freedom’s patrons
With beauty blazon’d and by taste revered;
Apollo consecrates thy walls profane,—
Hence be thou sacred to the muses’ reign!
And Athens, Rome, Augusta, blush to see
Their virtues, beauty, grace, all shine—
combin’d in thee.
Courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society