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Staging the Other in Nineteenth-Century British Drama

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Edited By Tiziana Morosetti

The body of the «Other» – exotic, unfamiliar, fascinating – is the topic of this collection of essays on nineteenth-century British theatre. Arranged chronologically, the volume traces visual representations of the Other across the nineteenth century as well as their legacy in contemporary theatrical culture. Essays explore the concept, politics and aesthetic features of the «exotic» body on stage, be it the actual body of the actor or actress, or the fictional, «picturesque» bodies brought on stage.
Far from focusing exclusively on the subaltern, colonial subject, this volume addresses the Other in its wider meaning, focusing on case studies as famous as Edwin Forrest and Ira Aldridge or as neglected as that of the Māori who appeared on the London stage in the 1860s. Written by an international group of scholars, this collection offers an informed, updated insight into the extensive and multifaceted presence of the non-British in both Georgian and Victorian drama, investigated through new lenses and materials to shed light on the complex engagement of nineteenth-century British culture with alterity.
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Arthur W. Bloom - Edwin Forrest: The Exotic American Body on the Nineteenth-Century English Stage

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ARTHUR W. BLOOM

Edwin Forrest: The Exotic American Body on the Nineteenth-Century English Stage

ABSTRACT

In 1836 the exotic body on the English stage was male, white, muscular and American. It belonged to the melodramatic tragedian Edwin Forrest who chose to introduce himself to English audiences as Spartacus the tragic hero of Robert Montgomery Bird’s The Gladiator, a role that allowed him to appear in a topless tunic that emphasized his muscle builder physique. He was likened to the Farnese Hercules in stature, and English audiences and critics, accustomed to the refined characterizations of Kemble, Siddons and Macready saw in Forrest an American version of Edmund Kean. He seemed quintessentially American in his lack of subtlety, ‘a savage newly caught from out of the American backwoods […] replete with a rough music befitting one who in his youth has dwelt a free barbarian among the mountains’. Forrest was an American other, and his otherness was a complete fabrication. He was born and brought up in Philadelphia, one of the most genteel of American cities, had spent only four years in what was then the American west (Cincinnati, Louisville, New Orleans) and had become a theatrical sensation opening as Othello at the Bowery Theatre in New York on November 6, 1826. His acting style and the plays in which he performed were designed to create an American persona and to reinforce English assumptions about what that persona would be. Both as Spartacus and...

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