By Alexander Nemerov
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Extra resources for Acting in the Night: Macbeth and the Places of the Civil War
1863–84. The Bostonian Society Library and Special Collections. ”64 Instead of these fated, gloomy meditations on the past—far-seeing visions of what had been—Cushman spoke 26 a stone’s throw Fig. 6. Interior of Music Hall, Boston, Centennial Year, 1876. The Bostonian Society Library and Special Collections. 65 Cushman, reciting Fields’s “Dedication Ode,” stood as a national ﬁgure. She was not just the localized expositor of a subjective viewpoint but an impersonal spokeswoman, a broadcaster almost, of a message larger than any one person.
58 Onstage Cushman herself was like a cue ball breaking a pack, and maybe her acting at Grover’s, that place of billiards, was itself a type of American caroms. Foremost, however, Cushman and others in the mid-nineteenth century did not strive for such randomness. On the contrary, they believed in a controlled butterﬂy eªect. One action would not unleash a hurricane but a force virtually identical to the initiating impulse. Telegraphic communications, carrying sentimental and ideological messages, exempliﬁed these predictable ﬂows.
Nydia also listens in vain for the technological-political-national world. 116 It wanted nothing more than to know the larger world, as did Cushman. Melodramatic art would gladly lay claim to powers fully commensurate with the telegraph and the railroad. It would love to be a mechanistic force, petrifying and rendering the world, in even its remotest corners, a type of souvenir, frozen in thrall to its radiating power. But it did not have the power to live out this fantasy of encompassing command.
Acting in the Night: Macbeth and the Places of the Civil War by Alexander Nemerov