Eleonora Duse

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Duse, Eleonora

(do͞o`zə, Ital. ālāōnô`rä do͞o`zā), 1859–1924, Italian actress. From a theatrical family, she made a successful appearance at 14 as Juliet and in 1879 gained recognition in Emilé Zola's Thérèse Raquin. In 1893, in New York and London, her portrayal of Dumas's La Dame aux camélias was extraordinarily sensitive and deep. With her portrayal in 1895, in Paris, of Magda in Hermann Sudermann's Heimat, she became the only rival of Sarah BernhardtBernhardt, Sarah
, 1844–1923, stage name of Rosine Bernard, French actress, b. Paris. At age 13 she entered the Paris Conservatory, and later attracted attention during appearances at the Odéon (1866–72).
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. For some years a romantic attachment existed between Duse and the Italian poet Gabriele D'AnnunzioD'Annunzio, Gabriele
1863–1938, Italian poet, novelist, dramatist, and soldier, b. Pescara. He went to Rome in 1881 and there began his literary career. Considered by some to be the greatest Italian poet since Dante, he expressed in many of his works the desire to live in
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, whose plays she was often the first to present and champion. She appeared in the film Cenere (1916), which she also directed. A great interpreter of Ibsen, she made her farewell appearance (1923) in his Lady from the Sea in New York. Duse's acting was characterized by simplicity, subtlety, and a lack of theatrical artifice. She excelled in emotional parts, and her dramatic power, however restrained, was tremendous in its effect. A slender woman of melancholy appearance, she was an independent and enigmatic personality who disdained publicity.


See biographies by J. Stubbs (1971), E. Le Gallienne (1966), W. Weaver (1984), and H. Sheehy (2003).

Eleonora Duse
Eleonora Giulia Amalia Duse
BirthplaceVigevano, Italy

Duse, Eleonora


Born Oct. 3, 1858, in Vigevano; died Apr. 21, 1924, in Pittsburgh, USA. Italian actress.

Duse was born into a family of actors. Beginning at the age of four, she performed with touring companies. She played the parts of Desdemona and Ophelia in Shakespeare’s Othello and Hamlet and Therese Raquin in Zola’s play of the same name, among others. She became Italy’s most popular actress in the late 1880’s, performing also with great success in most West European countries as well as in the USA, Latin America, and Egypt. In 1891-92 and in 1908 she toured Russia. Her creative work drew on contemporary Italian and foreign drama. She was the first in Italy to perform roles in Ibsen’s plays (for example, Nora in A Doll’s House, Hedda Gabler in the play of the same name). The roles performed in the plays of G. D’Annunzio (Anna in La città morta, Francesca inFrancesca da Rimini, and others), M. Maeterlinck (the title role in Monna Vanna), A. Dumas fils (Marguerite Gautier in La Dame aux camélias, one of her best roles), and V. Sardou occupied an important place in her work. Duse proved particularly adept at portraying nervous, passionate women, dissatisfied with the present and terrified of the future. A special quality of humaneness and a charming femininity characterized her portrayals. Her art, developed in the mold of psychological realism, was imbued with the desire to express the important thoughts and true feelings of people. Duse left the stage in 1909 but returned to it in 1921.


Kugel’, A. R. Teatral’nye portrety. Petrograd-Moscow, 1923.
Stanislavskii, K. S. “Moia zhizn’ v iskusstve.” Sobr. soch., vol. 1. Moscow, 1954.
Signorelli, O. Eleonora Duse. Milan, 1959.