Behind the Scenes with Edwin Booth

By Katherine Molony Goodale | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XLI
THE LAST TIME OF ALL

THE bill for the closing night was The Merchant of Venice, and I stayed behind until Mr. Booth's acting was over. Madame Modjeska again sent Sophie for me, and once more asked, 'Does Mr. Booth know you are here?'

Having been enjoined to keep out of Shylock's way in the old days, no rôle was less familiar to me than Shylock, except his scenes with Jessica. Tonight Shylock absorbed me. It was Shylock's reaction to the 'Quality of Mercy Speech' and not Modjeska's beautiful rendering of the lines that I was watching. It was Mr. Booth's acting-art of listening that compelled all my attention. As so often before, tonight I again lost all consciousness of myself in the hypnotic spell of his acting. I lived with Shylock. I followed that trial as if I had never seen it before! -- as if the verdict were unknown to me. When it was decreed by the Court that Shylock must be baptized a Christian, I saw his soul twist with the shame of it. It was agonizing to see. With other Shylocks my sympathy had been with Antonio. Tonight I forgot Antonio and his cause -- I saw only Shylock and his cause!

Mr. Booth for his final exit did not stagger off; he dragged off. His knees were feebly bending, his shoulders were pitifully drooping. His Shylock was dying before the curtain fell. One felt he was going out to slow death of body and horrible rebellion of mind.

Unveiling of the Slatue of Edwin Booth in Gramercy Park, New York, November 13, 1918

Brander Matthews is speaking. Mr. Booth's daughter and only child is at the right-hand end of those sitting, and her son, Edwin Booth Grossman, who, with Booth Waterbury Tilton, the two-year-old great-grandson of the actor, unveiled the statue, stands second to the left of the speaker and just to the right of the vacant seat. John Drew is the third from the right of those seated. The statue, which shows Booth in the character of Hamlet, is the work of Edmond Quinn.

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