Two actors, one from a philistine American frontier and the other from a more settled tradition, duel obliquely while, in a manner, performing the same Shakespearean tragic role in New York. Last season’s farcical I Hate Hamlet, where John Barrymore’s ghost accosted a Hollywood actor about to play Hamlet? No, the recent melodrama by Richard Nelson, Two Shakespearean Actors, at the Cort Theatre. During the week between May 3 and 10, 1849, the English tragedian William Charles Macready was performing Macbeth at the Astor Place Opera House in downtown New York City, while the American tragedian Edwin Forrest, the nation’s first theatrical idol, was at the Broadway Theatre in repertory with both Macbeth and a melodrama called Metamora, a sort of pastiche of Fenimore Cooper, largely concocted by Forrest himself, that featured eloquently perishing noble Indian savages. Unruly theatergoers, apparently...


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