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Nebraska State Journal


4 November 1894
page 12

MORE OR LESS PERSONAL.

It is useless to go squirrel hunting with a cannon, and it is useless to level the guns of serious criticism at anything written by Mr. Hoyt .  Mr. Hoyt is not a scheming villain, or a corrupter of public morals; he is simply a very pleasant, clever, brainless man who is exceedingly wise in his generation.  Mr. Hoyt does not know a great deal, but he knows the American public better than any other man connected with the stage.  The one thing about him worthy of respect is his staunch Americanism.  He is really and sincerely American.  He is really the exponent of the average American's taste in the matter of comedy.  Of course the public taste will some day outgrow "A Trip to Chinatown" and "A Hole in the Ground."   It will some day be able to feel the more delicate humor which cuts cleaner and deeper, but at present it certainly is not.  One charm about Mr. Hoyt is that he is so very unpretentious, anything will serve him for a theme, any little existing annoyance that we have all felt and fretted over.  His plays can't last long because their interest is entirely local, but he is not writing plays for posterity, but for the living present and the box-office receipts of the living present.

          

The "Green Carnation" is both a clever and an inane book.  Clever in that it is a bright satire, inane in that it devotes itself to parodying a school almost wearisome to parody.  It is not immoral as the publishers for business reasons have advertised, mere epigrams cannot be immoral.  The book is a collection of epigrams on and off the subject.  It certainly ought to succeed in disgusting people with Mr. Wilde's epigrammtic school once and for all.  It turns and twists those absurb mannersisms and phrases of Wilde's until they appear as ridiculous as they really are.  The hero thinks jam must be immortal because it is so good; his friend thinks deviled kidneys must be wicked because they are so beautiful.  So the books strings on from driveling effeminacy to maudliness.  In a sense it is a timely book for the English speaking world needs prodding in the matter of epigrams.  There are a number of really talented young writers who are sacrificing the strength, vitality and common sense of their style in straining after the epigramatics.  So far as the writer remembers no really great English author has ever been epigramatic.  It's not in the blood—or the climate.  The Frenchman is born with an epigram on his lips.  He uses them unconsciously.  When he is a child and fights over his marbles he disputes in epigrams.  The peasants speak in epigrams.  But the English were made for slower, heavier speech.  The Frenchman cuts like a rapier, but the Englishman crushes like a sledge.  If he studies French word fencing he only makes a clown of himself.  He can never apply his power through a slender blade and he is at best only a poor imitation.  The affectation poisons his style, his vigor and his whole personality.  He loses not only his art but his manhood.  The Anglo-Saxon must be content to plod heavily along as his fathers did before.  He can be good or wicked or great whichever he chooses, but be cannot be all three at once.  He cannot discuss art and vice in the same breath.  The Frenchman may live en concubinage with his muse, but the Englishman must live in wedlock, chaste and holy and devoted, "forsaking all other and clinging to her only."  He may be basely, sordidly, contemptibly wicked if he wishes, but he can never be gracefully or artistically wicked.

          

In all that dreary b ok there is one refreshing character, Lady Lock's little boy Tommy .  He is lively and healthy and eats strawberries instead of making aphorisms about them.  We hope that he grew up to be a big English trooper, and that he drank scotch whisky and smoked Turkish tobacco and swore only as an Englishman can, and that he never even learned the meaning of that despicable word "artistic."

          

It is not customary to praise existing institutions, that is generally reserved for the institutions of the seventeenth century.  But the present condition of the state penitentiary can be praised with all fairness.  It would be hard to find a better kept prison anywhere.  Warden Beemer has humanized the whole place and made it like a dwelling place of men.  There are window plants in every window of the big work shop, there is a greenhouse and a fish pond in the yard, the convicts now eat at long tables instead of having their food thrown to them in their cells.  The dirty old flagging of the old cell room has been removed and new laid.  The whole place is as clean and trim as the army barracks.  The old sullen discontent has died off the prisoners' faces and many of them seem to be receiving an actual education there.  The old idea that a prison is a place of punishment is one of the most barbarous.  It is generally conceded that as a rule the men who are there are there because they lack the finer distinction between right and wrong, and because one seems to them quite as good as the other.  If prisons are to do any good beyond keeping the more dangerous element of society away from the less harmful, it must be in cultivating whatever aesthetic sense its inmates may happen to have.

          

"Yes." said the leading man with a sigh, "I played two years with the Kendalls , and I have the warmest admiration for their acting.  Personally?  Oh, 'Willie' is a finefellow, but he is of course somewhat the worse for long years of subjugation.  Originally he was the greatest actor of the two.  You don't think he has done as much as his talents warranted?  Good heavens!  he has lived with Mrs. Kendall , what more do you expect of one man?  I don't believe there is another man in England who is artist enough to have done that.  All a lie about temper?  Well, I guess not.  He doesn't dare to say a word at rehearsals, she assigns him his parts and his stage business and he meekly carries them out.  The public will never know the price that man has paid for his wife's good name. Her temper is no better than Lillian Russell's , only Lillian never found so patient a man.  Time was when William Kendall promised to be the greatest emotional actor in all England, now he will go down into history as Mrs. Kendall's leading man.  You see it's the subjection that has done it.  No artist can stand subjection, it kills all his best possibilities.  He has cared more for her work and fame than he has for his own.  He has endured all her violence, gratified all her whims, and because he has endured, because he has prostrated himself completely, the world calls Mr. Kendall good.  Thralldom like that always seems wrong to me even when it's legal and has been sanctioned by a parson.  It has hurt him just as it has ruined poor Bob Mantell , though his is of the respectable kind and Mantell's is shocking.  The only difference is that Kendall is slated for life and Mantell might some day shake Berrens off.  Willie Kendall had the chance to be known as a great artist—is known as a very amiable husband.  Well, that's one way of using talent.  I hope he has enjoyed it.  He is one of the men who wasn't selfish enough to be great.  Ah, well, it's all in a lifetime.  It's one way of spending 'a fire God meant for other ends.'  I see by your smile you know the preceding line of that quotation.  No reflection on Madge at all.  Good night."

          

Mrs. Burton Harrison is writing on etiquet for the Ladies' Home Journal .  That is exactly where Mrs. Harrison belongs and we rejoice that she has found her level at last.  Her novels are discussions on gowns and table manners, interspersed with dialogue.  If she omits the dialogue and confines herself to etiquet proper she may do some good in the world and will certainly cause less pain.

          

The Nineteenth century is rich in mechanical inventions.  Pictures, music, statues are made by machinery, as well as the more practical things of life, but Dr. Owen is the first man who has made literature by machinery.  For the benefit of those who may be fortunate enough to be in ignorance of Dr. Owen and his so-called Baconian cycles, it may be stated that he has invented a wheel which he runs over the pages of the works of Shakespeare , Marlowe , Greene and others, and which selects certain words on that page arranged with mathematical precision which tell a story of their own.  These cipher productions Dr. Owen has published in several volumes and is still busily at work grinding out poetry.  Dr. Owen interprets that Lord Bacon wrote the works of Shakespeare, Marlowe, Greene, Burton and several others, besides the twenty odd stout volumes that are accredited to him.  In short he claims that Lord Bacon was the author of the Elizabethan age. In the first volume of the cipher Bacon tells his own story.  He claims that he, and, indeed, a goodly share of the rest of the population of England, are the sons and direct heirs of Elizabeth .  Then his lordship proceeds to speak in a very naughty and unfilial way of his mamma and calls her all the unpleasant names which Shakespeare, Marlowe, Greene and all the rest of them ever called women, and they all could be pretty hard on the ladies when they felt so disposed.  The list of sins which he assigns to the queen is remarkable and unique: the only difficulty is that no one woman's life would be long enough to accomplish so much wickedness The meter in which these startling revelations is set forth is also remarkable; there is none which can equal it in lameness and faultiness unless it is that of the awful epic on America entitled " The Columbiad ," which was perpetrated somewhere about the beginning of this century.

          

Dr. Owen is now at work unraveling " The Tragical Historie of Mary Queen of Scots ."  The play thus evolved is a string of meaningless, high sounding words without action, without deeper meaning, utterly unfit for the stage and very unpleasant to read.  The scene between Mary and Elizabeth which Shakespeare would have filled so full of action is but a long tirade of ugly epithets.  Here is a sample of what Mary says to Elizabeth: Oh! Inspeakable injustice! Oh, monstrous, miserable, moth eaten judge! Dame Atropos to thee resigns her fatal knife— Although, no doubt, the murd rous knife is dull and blunt Till it be whetted on thy stone-hard heart— To revel in the entrails of tender lambs! False to thy God, thy father, and thy brother; Conspirant against thy sister; well I wot, Whoever got thee, thou has thy mother's guilt! Had but thy father, Henry, Match'd according to his state, Thou hadst been an anointed queen; But when he took a beggar to his bed, And grac'd thy mother with her bridal day, His honor then he cast away. If ever lady wronged her lord so much, Thy mother took into her blameful bed, Some stern, untutor'd churl; and thus her stock Was graft with crab-tree slip, whose fruit though art.

That is as queenly and as elegant as her language ever becomes.  Compare it with this: Such an act That blurs the grace and blush of modesty, Calls virtue hypocrite, takes off the rose From the fair forehead of an innocent love, And sets a blister there, makes marriage-vows As false as dicers' oaths:  O, such a deed As from the body of contraction plucks The very soul, and sweet religion makes A rhapsody of words:  heaven's face doth glow; Yea, this solidity and compound mass, With tristful visage, as against the doom, Is thought-sick at the act.

This last, which is by no means in Shakespeare's best style, has nothing in common with the first, it is true, except that they both call hard names and are rather unpleasant reading.  The man who could contently and continuously write in the style of the first passage quoted could not write the last. The man who wrote "Mary of Scots" could not have written " Hamlet " or " Lear ."  The end stopped lines, the grotesque exaggerated figures, the false force, all make the passage ring hollow.  The only resemblance it bears to anything ever attributed to Shakespeare is to some parts of " Henry VII. ," which it is generally conceded Shakespeare did not write.  His lines betray the absurd mixture of Shakespeare diluted by inferior dramatists.

          

According to Mr. Owen's theory Bacon's real object in writing at all was to set forth his history and "The Tragical History of Mary Queen of Scots" and the rest of them.  The so called Shakespearian plays are merely disguises to hide what at that time Bacon feared to tell plainly.  Then Bacon certainly made the disguise of his work infinitely more beautiful than his real work.  He lavished more care, art and imagination on the straw in which his marbles were packed than on the statues themselves.  This alone is absurd.  A man's best work goes where his heart is, where his purpose lies.  If the "Tragical History of Mary" were better literature than Hamlet then we might believe Hamlet is only wrapping paper.  If we are to believe Dr. Owen, " Cymbeline ," " A Winter's Tale ," " Romeo and Juliet " are merely dominoes, flimsy masquerade suits in which Lord Bacon's plays have been disporting themselves through the centuries.  If so, we are the more deceived.  It is an appalling practical joke on the world that its greatest literature should be a sham.

          

The proofs of the genuineness of Shakespeare, like that of the New Testament, are internal, not external.  Shakespeare is a truth, a law, not to be influenced by external circumstances or discoveries.  The one invulnerable proof that the plays were written for themselves is their high seriousness and earnestness.  The fact that for three hundred years these plays have wrought the great minds of every nation up to the highest pitch of intensity and emotion, is proof positive that they were written at the white heat of intensity by the greatest mind of all.  They are the most serious product of the most serious of races, the highwater mark of the literature of the world.  Whatever they may conceal they reveal more of the highest triumph of human art, more of the deepest reading of human life than any other of the works of man.  As to Shakespeare himself it doesn't matter much.  "One will say he is in the desert, come forth, and another he is in the inner chamber."  It is immaterial.  But the plays will stand till the judgment after the name of the builder is forgotten, enduring throughout time, the admiration of all generations past, the wonder of all generations to be.

          

It is a peculiar fact that Signora Duse has never allowed her daughter to enter a theatre or to see a play.  It is another evidence of how vastly Duse differs from all other women of the stage.  The love of admiration, of homage, of publicity, the warm fellow feeling for others of the same profession, the genuine affection for the very outside of the theatre which are the almost inevitable accompaniments of an actress' life, seem never to have touched her.  She has moved through the crowd of babbling Thespians without seeing or hearing them, she has worn the motley as though it were a nun's hood, she has gone from theatre to theatre as though she were going from shrine to shrine to perform some religious worship.  Of her own personality, of her private life, the public has never had a glimpse; we know as little of it as we know of Shakespeare.  The most enterprising reporters have never been able to interview her, her answer has always been the same, "I cannot see what the public wants of one off the stage, I am not beautiful and I am ill."  Even the most imaginative newspapers cannot say what wines she drinks, what books she reads, or who are her friends.  In this respect she is greater than any other woman who has ever been before the public.  She has kept her personality utterly subdued and unseen and spoken only through her art.  It is like the music one hears in a convent where the tones awaken and thrill, but the singer is hidden behind the veiled grating of the choir.  No one knows what manner of woman it is that this music comes from.  Apparently she has no confidential friends, there is no man whom she loves, no woman whom she trusts.  She is utterly alone upon the icy heights where other beings cannot live.  She is an actress, yet not of "the profession."  In a calling that is the least austere she leads the life of a nun.  One wonders what great sorrow or what hidden joy it is that Signora Duse guards so closely.

She is the only actress for whom the public never has a word of contempt or a sneering jest.  She has kept her own life so completely secluded that even the newspapers feel an awe of her.  She come and goes "one fall form, companionless."  One night she is as wicked as the wickedest French comedy, another night she is sublime as the sublimest tragedy.  Beyond this we know absolutely nothing except that this woman is great and ill and unhappy, and wants neither the world's ridicule nor its sympathy. 



Notes

Go back Charles Hoyt: Charles Hoyt (1860-1900) was born in New Hampshire, moved west to a cattle ranch in Colorado, became a newspaperman, then wrote his first play and had it produced in 1883; he became one of the most successful producer-playwrights by the late 1880s, perfecting the style of Broadway musical in which a farcical, light-hearted plot gives opportunities for songs and specialty features.

Go back A Trip to Chinatown: In Charles Hoyt's musical "A Trip to Chinatown", Mrs. Guyer, a widow from Chicago, comes to San Francisco and fosters romance among several young couples with the help of a rich man's lost wallet. The song, "The Bowery" (music by Percy Gaunt, words by Charles Hoyt), was one of the first big Broadway show tune hits. Later the song "After the Ball" was added; the two songs came to exemplify two dominant strains of the 1890s stage, the slightly naughty and the overtly sentimental. This was Charles Hoyt's biggest success. It toured the country for nearly a year before opening on Broadway in 1891, where it ran for a record-breaking 657 performances—a record that would not be broken for nearly thirty years. It toured the country for years after.

A 1912 musical, A Winsome Widow, was based on the play, and later commentators have seen many echoes of the plot in the mid-twentieth century hit, Hello, Dolly!

Playbill: http://www.musicals101.com/News/chinatownpbl.jpg

Go back Oscar Wilde: Writer and wit Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) was born in Ireland, and educated at Oxford University, where he first began to make his name not only as a writer but as a representative of and spokesman for the aesthetic movement in England. His style—in dress, life, and writing—was satirized by the humor magazine Punch and by Gilbert and Sullivan in Patience. In 1882 he made a lecture tour of the United States. Wilde married Constance Lloyd in 1884, and had two sons; he was then working as a journalist in London. He published essays, including "A Defence of Lying;" a collection of allegorical fairy tales, The Happy Prince, in 1888; a novel, The Picture of Dorian Grey in 1891; and then the first of his witty, satirical society comedies, Lady Windermere's Fan in 1892. It was followed by A Woman of No Importance in 1893, and An Ideal Husband and The Importance of Being Earnest in 1895.

Wilde had met Lord Alfred Douglas, son of the Marquess of Queensbury, in 1891. Queensbury objected to their relationship, calling Wilde a sodomite. Wilde sued for criminal libel, but the jury upheld Queensbury and Wilde was arrested. After two trials, he was condemned to two years hard labor in jail in May 1895. Out of this experience came his most famous poem, the "Ballad of Reading Gaol" (1898). On his release in May 1897, Wilde went to France to live.

Go back Warden Allan D. Beemer: Allan D. Beemer (1842-after 1904) was born in Pennsylvania, and served four years with the Eleventh Pennsylvania Cavalry in the Civil War. He came to West Point, Nebraska, in 1868, engaging in real estate and livestock, as well as serving as sheriff of Cumming County for six years. In 1886 he founded the town of Beemer and its bank. He served as warden of the Nebraska State Penitentiary from 1893-95, and again in 1902-1904. He was preceded by James P. Mallon (1893) and D. H. Hopkins (1892). The Nebraska report in the 1895 Report of the Conference of Charities and Correction noted that the prison had made steady progress in the improvement of conditions under Warden Beemer.

Beemer married Belle Akerley in 1873.

Go back Kendals: Madge (née Margaret Robertson) Kendal (1849-1935) was born in an established English theatrical family (her brother Tom Robertson was a well known playwright), and was made a Dame of the British Empire in 1929. Her husband, William Hunter Kendal (1843-1917) was less celebrated than his wife; as a shrewd actor manager, he produced plays to showcase his wife.

Go back Lillian Russell: Lillian Russell, born Helen Louise Leonard (1861-1922) in Clinton, IA, was educated in Chicago, and then in New York, where her mother took her to study in hopes of an opera career. Her first appearance on the New York stage was in the chorus of a production of Pinafore in 1879; Tony Pastor, owner of one of the best variety theaters in New York, gave her the new name, Lillian Russell, and billed her as "The English Ballad Singer." Her blonde beauty, lovely singing voice, and fashionable figure quickly made her a star, one of the highest paid in America. She starred at the Casino Theatre from 1888 to 1891, when she headed her own company at the Garden Theatre. In 1899 she joined the Weber and Fields company, staying with them until 1904. Her voice had suffered over the years, so she toured in comedy from 1906-1908.

Russell was famous for the number of her husbands and for her long liason with "Diamond Jim" Brady. Her first husband was the Pinafore company's orchestra leader, Harry Graham. Her second husband, composer Edward Solomon, was arrested for bigamy in 1886, after two years of marriage. She married her third husband, John Chatterton, known as Giovanni Perugini, in 1894; they were divorced in 1898. Russell retired from the stage after marrying her fourth husband, Alexander Moore, owner of the Pittsburgh Leader. She wrote columns and articles on love and beauty for women, and advocated woman suffrage.

Lillian Russell epitomized the stage beauty of the 1890s. A movie was made of her life in 1940, starring Alice Faye, with Henry Fonda as her fourth husband. Her character also appears in various other movies about the theatrical life of the time.

Image available at New York Public Library Digital Gallery.

Lillian Russell

Go back Robert Mantell: Robert Bruce Mantell (1854-1928) was born in Scotland and educated in Belfast, Ireland, where he apparently got his first training for the stage. He came to the U.S. about 1878, and joined Modjeska's company for a time, before starting his own company. He was a popular exponent of Shakespearean roles, as well as the standard romantic dramas, but never achieved much critical success in New York or London. He was popular elsewhere, however (his portrait appeared on cigar bands), and he toured with considerable success well into the twentieth century; he appeared also in some silent films before his death.

Mantell was married five times, the last three to his leading ladies, one of whom (Charlotte Behrens) is said to have died in suspicious circumstances in 1898. By his last wife, Genevieve Hamper, he had a son, Robert B. Mantell, Jr. (1912-1933), who was apparently married briefly to 1930s film star Marian Marsh.

Go back Charlotte Behrens: American actress Charlotte Behrens (1866-1898) was born in New York but grew up in San Francisco, where she made her theatrical debut at the age of sixteen. By 1882 she was a leading lady with Frank Mayo's touring troupe; at about the same time she married theater manager Edwin E. Hume. She made a success in Zitka and toured in that with Gustave Levick, and also toured with William Gillette in his Civil War drama, Held by the Enemy in 1888. She became a part of Robert Mantell's company soon after; by December 1891 her husband was threatening to kill Mantell for alienating her affections. Behrens and Mantell were named as co-respondents in divorce suits brought by Mantell's first wife, actress Marie Sheldon, and by Hume in 1893. They were married in March 1894, the day after the divorces were finalized. Behrens continued in Mantell's company until an undiagnosed illness led to her death in 1898.

Go back Mrs. Burton Harrison: American writer Constance Cary (Mrs. Burton) Harrison (1843-1920) was born in Virginia of distinguished families: Lord Fairfax of Virginia was one of her ancestors and her father was a great nephew of Thomas Jefferson. She married lawyer Burton Harrison (a relative of both presidents Harrison) in 1867. One of her first successful stories was Golden Rod, an Idyll of Mount Desert (1879), set in Bar Harbor, Maine, where the Harrisons had a summer place. Mrs. Harrison wrote mostly stories of New York society life and stories of the old South. She also wrote a few plays; one of them, The Unwelcome Mrs. Hatch (1901) was made into a silent film (1914) starring Henrietta Crossman.

Mrs. Harrison's story Crow's Nest (c. 1892) may have inspired the title of Cather's short story, "The Count of Crow's Nest" (1896).

Go back William Shakespeare: William Shakespeare (1564-1616) was born in Stratford-on-Avon, in Warwickshire, England. Documents of the time show his father, John Shakespeare, to have been a well-respected tradesman who held office in the town. His mother, Mary Arden, came from an old land-owning family. He was probably educated at the grammar school in Stratford; at the age of eighteen he married Anne Hathaway, by whom he had three children. Not until eight years later, in 1592, does his name start to appear connected with the London stage. By 1594 he was a part of the Lord Chamberlain's company, which by 1598 had their home at the Globe theater. His plays were successful with both the public and royalty, enabling Shakespeare to buy various properties in London and Stratford. He retired to Stratford about 1613, where he died.

Many anecdotes and legends grew up in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries about Shakespeare's life, whose authenticity cannot be now be proven, but some of which have been widely accepted: that his father was a butcher, that Shakespeare as a youth got into trouble poaching deer, that he held horses at the stage doors when he was trying to break into the London theater, that he was lame, or that he caught the fever of which he died in a drinking bout, for instance.

Some of his fellow actors collected his plays in 1623 in what is now known as the First Folio. The only works Shakespeare himself seems to have published are the early poems Venus and Adonis (1593) and The Rape of Lucrece (1594), both dedicated to the Earl of Southampton, a young nobleman who may also have been the subject of many of Shakespeare's sonnets, apparently written over the decade from 1593-1603.

Shakespeare's authorship of the plays ascribed to him began to be seriously questioned only in the late eighteenth century, largely on the ground that he was too humbly born and poorly educated to be capable of writing such great works. The most serious alternatives—and the question was warmly debated in the nineteenth century—put forth were Sir Francis Bacon, Christopher Marlowe, and the Earl of Oxford.

Go back Elizabeth Tudor: Elizabeth Tudor (1533-1603) was the younger daughter of Henry VIII and his second wife, Anne Boleyn. Although Henry declared the marriage invalid after beheading Anne for adultery and treason, Elizabeth was declared third in the succession when her half-brother Edward was born. She survived a childhood and youth of plots by others under Edward and her elder half-sister, the Roman Catholic Mary I, before ascending to the throne in 1558 at the age of twenty-five. The rigorous education, self-control, and political skill she had learned as princess, in addition to her choice of wise and loyal counselors, enabled her to lead England to a place as one of the major powers of Europe. Nonetheless, she had to contend with plots against her at home and abroad, some of the most dangerous of which centered on Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, whom Roman Catholics saw as the legitimate heir to the throne; Elizabeth reluctantly signed Mary's death warrant in 1587. Despite the many offers for Elizabeth's hand in marriage, she remained "the Virgin Queen," and as a symbol of her country, gave her name to England's golden age of literature and power.

Go back Mary of Scotland: Mary Stuart (1542-1587) became queen of Scotland when her father, James V, died six days after she was born. Her French mother had her brought up at the court of Henri II and Catherine de Médici, whose eldest son, Francis, she married in April 1558. When Elizabeth Tudor became queen of England in November 1558, Henri claimed the throne on Mary's behalf—she was the great-niece of Henry VIII and was next in the succession, though Elizabeth refused to admit that claim. Henri died in 1559 and Mary became briefly queen consort of France before her husband died in 1560. Mary returned to Scotland in 1561, the French-bred Roman Catholic queen of a fractious Presbyterian country. She married her cousin Henry Stuart, earl of Darnley in 1565. The following year Darnley had her secretary, Rizzo, murdered in her presence. She was accused of having an affair with James, earl of Bothwell, and plotting the death of Darnley in 1567. After that Bothwell abducted her and forced her into marriage, but the Scots rose up and imprisoned them both, deposing Mary in favor of her one-year-old son, James. Mary fled to England, where Elizabeth kept her a prisoner for the next eighteen years. Discovery of a Roman Catholic plot in 1586 to put Mary on the English throne convinced Elizabeth that Mary would always be a danger. Mary was tried by an English court and condemned to execution, a fate she met with great dignity.

Go back False to thy God, thy father, and thy brother...thy sister: Because Elizabeth I was a Protestant, Cahtolics accused her of being an enemy of the Roman Catholic Church and thus to God. Henry VIII, Elizabeth's father, named her an heiress to the throne, after her half-brother, Edward VI, and her sister, Mary I.

Go back thy mother: Anne Boleyn (c. 1500-1536), second wife of Henry VIII, was the mother of Elizabeth I. After miscarrying in a later attempt to bear a son to Henry, she was accused of adultery; this led to later claims that Elizabeth was not the daughter of Henry and thus had no claim to the throne. Anne was executed for treason in 1636.

Go back such an act...: This passage is from Shakespeare's Hamlet, Act 3, scene 4, where the Queen asks Hamlet, "What have I done, that thou darest wag thy tongue / In noise so rude against me?" He replies with the speech Cather quotes here: "Such an act . . .".

Go back Hamlet: Shakespeare's Hamlet, Prince of Denmark (written 1599-1601), a five act tragedy, is widely considered the greatest play in English. It was apparently based on a 12th century history, or on a preceding play on the same subject, possibly by Thomas Kyd. The play deals with murder, revenge, madness, and man's will. It contains some of the most famous lines in English, especially Hamlet's soliloquy, "To be or not to be" as well as such famous scenes as Ophelia's mad scene, and Hamlet with Yorkick's skull.

Go back "Henry VIII.": Shakespeare's play, The Life of Henry VIII (1612 or 13), was printed in the First Folio (1623), but some scholars ascribed in it part to John Fletcher. King Henry must deal with the machinations of the greedy, ambitious Cardinal Wolsey; at the same time he begins to fall in love with Anne Bullen. Wolsey tries to foment a divorce between Henry and his wife, Katherine of Aragon, so Henry can marry a French princess. The Protestant Archbishop Cranmer and other judges declare the divorce legal and Henry's marriage to Anne valid. Henry defends Cranmer against various plots, in the end making him godfather to the infant Princess Elizabeth, for whom Cranmer predicts a great future.

A number of plays have been attributed to Shakespeare; scholars in the early eighteenth century attributed various anonymous plays to him on what they considered to be internal evidence. The play Henry VII would seem to be one of these, seeming to fit neatly between the three parts of the early plays of Henry VI and the late Henry VIII.

Bacon wrote The History of the Reign of Henry VII (1622); the similarity of an image in the play and the history, of parasitic ivy on a tree, has been used as an evidence of Bacon's authorship of Shakespeare.

Go back Cymbeline: Cymbeline (c. 1610) is a romance or tragicomedy from Shakespeare's late period. Cymbeline, king of Roman Britain, marries a second time; the new queen has a loutish son, Cloten, by her first marriage, whom she plans to marry to Cymbeline's daughter and heiress, Imogen (Cymbeline's twin sons had been kidnapped as very young children and are believed dead.) However, Imogen has secretly married her childhood sweetheart, Posthumus, and she warns him to flee to Rome. There he makes a bet with Iachimo on Imogen's fidelity. When Iachimo brings him false proofs, Posthumus joins the Roman army then invading Britain, but helps to rescue Cymbeline before being taken prisoner. When he and the other Romans are brought before Cymbeline, villains confess, disguises and false identities are discarded, and truths are revealed; Imogen and Posthumus are reunited and her missing brothers are restored to their father.

Go back Romeo and Juliet: Shakespeare's early romantic tragedy, Romeo and Juliet, was written c. 1594-95. Romeo and Juliet come from families feuding with each other, the Montagues and Capulets, but fall immediately in love. They are forced to meet in secret—the balcony scene being the most famous in all of Shakespeare—and try to marry in secret. The friar gives Juliet a potion that simulates death, and Romeo, in despair, kills himself. When Juliet awakes to find Romeo dead, she kills herself.

Go back Eleonora Duse: Eleonora Duse (1859-1924) was born into an impoverished Italian acting family and began performing at an early age; when her mother became ill, Duse had to take over her roles. Her first success was as Juliet in 1873, though her career did not take off until 1879, after performing in Zola's Thérèse Raquin. She toured Italy and by 1885 was acclaimed as Italy's greatest living actress. After a tour in South America, Duse formed her own company in 1886, with a large repertoire ranging from classical and contemporary French drama to Shakespeare and Ibsen. She met with great success in Paris, where she was considered Bernhardt's only rival. In 1893 Duse came to the U.S., where the restraint and naturalism of her style (for many years she wore no makeup on stage) were also acclaimed. She became the type of the actress who subsumes herself in her art. Her health was fragile, and she retired from the stage in 1911, returning to it in 1921; she toured Europe and then the U. S. in 1923. She collapsed and died in Pittsburgh in April 1924; her body lay in state there and then was taken to be buried in Asolo, Italy.

Duse became known for her love affairs, both with men and (perhaps lesser known at the time) with women. She was married to actor Teobaldo Checchi in 1881, with whom she had a daughter; they were divorced in 1885 after an affair with another actor. The most famous affair was a tempestuous one with Italian poet and playwright Gabriele d'Annunzio, whom she met in 1895; he wrote several verse dramas for her.

Image available at the New York Public Library Digital Gallery.

Eleonora Duse Eleonora Duse


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