Acting in the Night: Macbeth and the Places of the Civil War by Alexander Nemerov

By Alexander Nemerov

What can the functionality of a unmarried play on one particular evening let us know concerning the international this occasion inhabited so in brief? Alexander Nemerov takes a functionality of Macbeth in Washington, DC on October 17, 1863—with Abraham Lincoln in attendance—to discover this query and remove darkness from American artwork, politics, expertise, and existence because it was once being lived. Nemerov’s idea is Wallace Stevens and his poem “Anecdote of the Jar,” within which a unmarried item organizes the barren region round it within the recognition of the poet. For Nemerov, that evening’s functionality of Macbeth reached around the tragedy of civil battle to recognize the horrors and vacancy of an international it attempted and finally did not change.

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The telegraph was also a part of this newly vast world. Samuel Morse’s invention of 1844 allowing for the quick distribution of thoughts across vast distances was faster than letters and a staple of newspaper coverage. ”41 By the 1860s the telegraph was in wide use, and the Civil War was famously a telegraphic conflict, with the Lincoln administration using wires for strategic and morale-building eªect. 42 Like Lincoln, she also received messages from afar. 43 For a specially attuned person— a person, like Cushman, who wished to know what was happening all around her—that power might even be clairvoyant.

Nineteenth-century melodrama, the literary critic Peter Brooks writes, tried to spread out and give meaning to the vast and newly empty postrevolutionary world through gesture. Where was cosmological order in a world without gods and kings? It would have to be searched for—in extravagant tones and movements. ” It also indicated a presence—a return to a primal, prelinguistic way of cre- 46 a stone’s throw ating meaning. The gesture conjured “forces held to be beyond the possibilities of rational apprehension and literal statement.

She became famous for her eªorts, but she also spread herself thin. Tending to so many of the wounded and personally supervising the search for 63,182 of the missing after the war, Barton gave of herself until the famous sign outside her Washington o‹ce and lodging— “Missing Soldiers,” “Miss. 53 Cushman, in theory, had the same problem. The person who was everywhere was nowhere. In world-changing aspiration, her performance was like the drop of a heavy stone in the water, sending out circle after concentric circle of radiating eªect.

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