Psychological Distance in Eleonora Duse’s Medievalism

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Arthur Symons (1865–1945) remarked that the acting of Eleonora Duse (1858–1924) was ‘a criticism’, and that she enriched the roles she played. In doing so she fulfilled the author’s intention as well as conveying the character’s tragic passion. In my previous studies on Duse I have explored intensively the explanation of why her acting was such a perfect blend of erudition and skilful vocalisation, giving her the methodology to create an individual character in every part she played. Undoubtedly, she was a cerebral actress and a grand tragedienne. On the one hand, she was able to use all the depths and tones of her voice to generate extraordinarily melodious elocution – hers was a seductively tuneful enunciation that was derived from use of the neoclassical style of the Italian method of the drammatica. On the other, she sculpted her performances, extracting references from paintings, and forged her own performative mannerism within a largely modernist body of work. With her own distinctive subtlety, she achieved transformation of artificial emotion into reality. Her performance was complex in structure but had the virtue of appearing simple. William Archer (1856–1924) wrote that there was ‘a noble simplicity, a searching directness’ in her art. Distinguished contemporary actresses – such as the Catalan Margarita Xirgu (1888–1969) – were greatly inspired by Duse’s modern and cultivated theatricality. Now that her personal library, known as the Murray Edwards Duse Collection and housed in Cambridge (UK), has been reconstructed and the codified system she used for her acting of the drammatica has been deciphered, different insights have been gained into her art. For instance, how and why she was particularly inspired by the pre-Raphaelites’ symbolist creed has been determined. This is one of the principal elements of her method and provides evidence of her modernity and of her strong links with the pre-Raphaelites Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Sir Edward Burne-Jones – and the neo-pagan Rupert Brooke, to whom she accorded much praise
Lingua originaleEnglish
Titolo della pubblicazione ospiteAl di là di un concetto visibile Teatro & e teatralità: musica, poesia, recitazione
Numero di pagine12
Stato di pubblicazionePublished - 2017

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