Sep 19, 2007

Half a Dead Sheep, Plus Grant's Desdemona

Again, there's always entertaining reading in The London Review of Books. Catching up with a recent issue, in a review of Nigel Cliff's The Shakespeare Riots: Revenge, Drama and Death in 19th-Century America, I discovered a bit of audience feedback that makes the rude watering of Mike Daisey seem polite:
At Cincinnati, during the performance of Hamlet, a sportive gentleman threw half the carcase of a sheep upon the stage: but this seems to have been a mere ebullition of amiable vivacity, not an expression of opinion.

The review contains many such pearls. Cliff's book is about the trans-Atlantic rivalry between the Shakespearean actors Edwin Forrest and William Charles Macready, which climaxed in an infamous riot that left 26 dead in Astor Place. As the critic Michael Dobson notes, there's nothing to commemorate this atrocity at the spot. And I suspect there is no photograph or playbill to commemorate the following historical tidbit, in an image almost as hard to conjure as it is to shake:
Awaiting action against the Mexican army in Texas in 1845, the young Lieutenant Ulysses S. Grant played Desdemona.

So that's who's in the tomb.

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