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Edwin Booth

Booth, Edwin, 1833–93, one of the first great American actors and the most famous of his era, b. "Tudor Hall," near Bel Air, Md. After years of touring with his father, Junius Brutus Booth, serving his theatrical apprenticeship, he appeared in New York City (1857) and later toured (1861–63) England. By his mid-20s, Booth was at the pinnacle of the acting profession. On returning to New York he leased the Winter Garden Theatre, where in 1864 he presented his famous 100-night run of Hamlet. He was celebrated for his realistic style, which broke with the declamatory acting that preceded it, and for his identification with the characters he portrayed, many of them from the Shakespearean repertoire. His productions at the Winter Garden terminated in 1865, when his brother John Wilkes Booth assassinated President Lincoln. The ensuing scandal forced Edwin Booth to retire, but he returned to the Winter Garden in 1866. When it burned down, he built Booth's Theatre, New York (1869). He again toured England in 1880–82; his last appearance was in 1891.

See his letters, ed. by D. J. Watermeier (1971); recollections by his daughter E. B. Grossman (1894, repr. 1969); biographies by E. Ruggles (1953), W. Winter (1893, repr. 1968), and R. Lockridge (1932, repr. 1971); C. H. Shattuck, The Hamlet of Edwin Booth (1969); N. Titone, My Thoughts Be Bloody: The Bitter Rivalry between Edwin and John Wilkes Booth (2010).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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