By Alexander Nemerov
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Additional info for Acting in the Night: Macbeth and the Places of the Civil War
She aimed for “massive” and “simple” eªects, to use Winter’s terms, and a photograph of her as Lady Macbeth gives an indication of what she was after (ﬁg. 76 The frozenness of the photographic pose suggests the monumental eªect she aimed to create for an audience. Becoming her character—readying herself for an evening’s performance— was likely one of Cushman’s ways of making herself solid, of girding herself in the materials of a lasting likeness. Mary Braddon, in her novel Aurora Floyd, advertised in Harper’s Weekly on October 17, 1863, notes the backstage preparations of William Macready, the distinguished English actor alongside whom Cushman became famous in the 1840s: “They tell us that Mr.
But she had her formidable voice and presence, delivering Shakespeare’s vast play on a gigantic scale to aid the Union cause to an audience of government notables including Lincoln himself. If some thirty miles away a cap rustled on a soldier’s head, or the moon gleamed on the grease of a railroad wheel, who was to say that these were only meaningless incidents? If the world was even then being carved into a relentless rationality of timetables and other coordinates, Charlotte Cushman’s brand of patriotism aimed to shape that regime of certainty, that eradication of all insigniﬁcant localities.
5. Organ, Music Hall, Boston, ca. 1863–84. The Bostonian Society Library and Special Collections. ”64 Instead of these fated, gloomy meditations on the past—far-seeing visions of what had been—Cushman spoke 26 a stone’s throw Fig. 6. Interior of Music Hall, Boston, Centennial Year, 1876. The Bostonian Society Library and Special Collections. 65 Cushman, reciting Fields’s “Dedication Ode,” stood as a national ﬁgure. She was not just the localized expositor of a subjective viewpoint but an impersonal spokeswoman, a broadcaster almost, of a message larger than any one person.