Eleonora DuseEleonora Duse
Italian Actress
1859 – 1924 A.D.

Eleonora Duse, an Italian actress, born at Vigevano. Her childhood and early youth were filled with sorrow, arising from poverty, hardships, and an unworthily bestowed affection. She came from a family of actors, her grandfather having founded the Garibaldi Theatre in Pudua.

As a little girl she was dragged about the minor theatres of Italy in her father’s companies, playing Cosette in Les Miserables at seven. Franceska da Rimini at thirteen, and when she was fourteen she played Juliet to Verona, with brilliant success. But shew as compelled to struggle for some years in itinerant companies, and her privations seriously impaired her health.

Before she was twenty she was married to an Italian actor-journalist, Signor Chechi, but they soon separated. By 1885 she was recognized as the greatest actress of Italy and one of the greatest of her time, and her subsequent career was one of the extraordinary success. After meeting with enthusiastic approval in European capitals, she made her American début in January, 1893, as Camille, at the Fifth Avenue Theatre, New York, where she created a profound impression by the originality, simplicity and sincerity of her acting.

For several years she was closely associated with the poet, Gabriele D’Annunzio, and much of his success as a dramatist was undoubtedly due to her interpretation of his work.

In 1902 she reappeared in America, and later acted at intervals in Italy and in brief European tours, but her health was such that she was compelled for the most part to live in retirement.

In 1923 she again visited the United States and was everywhere received with the honors due to the strain, and she died at Pittsburgh, PA, in April, 1924.

The art of Eleonora Duse was distinguished above all for its naturalness, its subtle intensity of expression, and its strange pantomimic power. In contrast to Sara Bernhardt, who alone among modern actresses could be compared with her, she avoided all accessories of make-up, depending on intense naturalness rather than stage effect, on sympathetic force and poignant intellectuality rather than the theatrical emotionalism of the French tradition. She will be remembered as one of the great actresses of this generation, and as a powerful influence by the modern style of acting.

An eloquent tribute to her dramatic genius may be found in Studies in Seven Arts by A. Symons (London, 1906.


Reference: Famous Women; An Outline of Feminine Achievement Through the Ages With Life Stories of Five Hundred Noted Women By Joseph Adelman. Copyright, 1926 by Ellis M. Lonow Company.

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