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Ira Aldridge in the Collections

Playbill - Othello at the Royal Shakespearean Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon

By the time Ira performed at the Royal Shakespearean Theatre in Stratford in April 1851 he was becoming a star. The blurb on this playbill shows how he has been received critically up to this point as well as highlighting attitudes at the time, praise is still given through a prism of prejudice.

A common phrasing is repeated on this playbill: "As the African Roscius is the only actor of colour that ever was known, and probably the only instance that may occur..." This curious sentence could of course just be a marketing tool to create hype. It may encourage the audience to come and see the production on the implication that Aldridge may be the first and last black actor so they would be privileged to catch him. Of course this could now be seen as false advertising. The same "memoir" is used describing Aldridge's supposed background in Senegal and ends:

"...and wended his way to the shores of Old England, where his talented histrionic exertions have been most warmly and kindly patronized, as a triumphant answer to those advocates of the slave trade, who founded their defences of that nefarious traffic on the inferiority of African intellect and feeling."

A review from a previous performance in Leeds is included on the playbill which gives an inclination of his growing stardom and popular appeal with audiences:

"At the close of the play, Mr. Aldridge was called before the curtain and briefly thanked the audience for their warm greetings. ...the house was densely crowded in every part."