Modjeska, Helena

Modjeska, Helena

(məjĕ`skə), 1844–1909, Polish actress who achieved fame in the United States primarily for her Shakespearean interpretations. After initial acclaim in Warsaw, she emigrated in 1876 to the United States with her second husband. Despite her faulty English, she was an immediate success in Adrienne Lecouvreur in San Francisco a year later. Her portrayal (1883) of Nora in A Doll's House at Louisville, Ky., marked the first production of Ibsen in the United States. After playing opposite Edwin Booth (1889–90) she toured the United States with Otis Skinner and Maurice Barrymore.


See her Memories and Impressions (1910, repr. 1969); biographies by A. Gronowicz (1956), M. Coleman (1969), and B. Holmgren (2011).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Modjeska, Helena


(also H. Modrzejewska). Born Oct. 12, 1840, in Kraków; died Apr. 8, 1909, in Newport, Calif. Polish actress.

Modjeska was educated in a convent. After taking private acting lessons, she performed in the Kraków Theater from 1865 to 1869 and in the Wielki and Rozmaitosci theaters in Warsaw between 1869 and 1876. She toured Great Britain and the United States. Her acting style combined realistic character portrayal with romantic inspiration. Her great tragic parts were the title roles in Słowacki’s Maria Stuart and Racine’s Phèdre and Amalia in Schiller’s The Robbers. She was universally acclaimed for her Shakespearean roles, Lady Anne in Richard III and Lady Macbeth. Her poetic and realistic portrayals made Modjeska one of the best performers of S. Wyspiański’s plays.


Wspomnienia i wrazenia. Kraków, 1957.
Korespondencja, vols. 1–2. Warsaw, 1965. (K. Chlapowski.)


Got, J., and J. Szczublewski. Helena Modrzejewska. Warsaw, 1958.
Terlecki, T. Pani Helena. Lublin, 1962.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.