Forrest, Edwin

Forrest, Edwin,

1806–72, American actor, b. Philadelphia. He was the first national idol of the American theater. He appeared at 14 as Young Norval in John Home's Douglas and gained experience supporting Edmund KeanKean, Edmund,
1787?–1833, English actor. Kean's acting expressed the ideal of the romantic temperament. A small man with a wild spirit and a gruff voice, he was lauded for his facial mobility; according to Coleridge he had the power to reveal Shakespeare by "flashes of
..... Click the link for more information.
 in Shakespearean roles. His New York debut (1826) as Othello established Forrest as one of the century's great tragedians. His acting was bold and forceful, and he was often criticized for ranting. In England in 1845, his Macbeth was received with hostility by those who favored William Charles MacreadyMacready, William Charles
, 1793–1873, English actor and manager. The son of a provincial manager, he first appeared as Romeo in his father's company in 1810. His London debut (1816) was as Orestes in The Distressed Mother.
..... Click the link for more information.
. Their rivalry brought about the Astor Place riot (1849) in New York, in which partisans of Forrest demonstrated against Macready and many were killed. Throughout his career Forrest championed native dramas and performers.


See biographies by R. Moody (1960) and W. R. Alger (1877, repr. 1972); The Astor Place Riot (1958) by R. A. Moody.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

Forrest, Edwin

(1806–72) actor; born in Philadelphia. He was a strikingly handsome, flamboyant man who excelled in tragic roles. A great favorite among ordinary theater-goers, his acting style was seen as a breath of fresh air in contrast to the more tightly restrained British model. But he was criticized by those who found vulgar his tendency to show off his physique and powerful voice. His first stage role was in 1817 when he stood in for an actress in the small role of a harem girl; his true debut was in 1820 in Douglas. After this he toured for a time, then made his extremely successful New York debut as Iago in Othello (1826). A pugnacious character who had numerous financial and marital problems, his rivalry with actor William Macready led to the 1849 Astor Place Riots, in New York City, where 30 were killed during a fight between the actors' adherents. Forest fell out of favor as new styles of performance became popular. His last performance was in 1872 at the Globe Theatre in Boston.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.