Sunday, April 21, 2013
Duse was born in Lombary October 3, 1858, and was literally an actor all her life--her father and grandfather had a troupe, and she started appearing regularly onstage from the age of 4. As she grew older, she toured Europe, South America, the US, and Russia, gathering fame wherever she went as well as reputation for a naturalistic style (which she called "elimination of the self," a disappearing into a role). She became best-known for her roles in plays by Ibsen and d'Annunzio.
As well as a very busy life onstage, she had a turbulent love life. After an affair with journalist Martino Cafiero, which ended after a stillborn child followed soon after by Cafiero's own death, she married actor Teobaldo Checchi in 1881 (they had one daughter, but the marriage ended in divorce when Duse fell in love with another actor, Flavio Ando). After Ando, there was poet (and Verdi librettist) Arrigo Boito. Around the same time she started her own troupe, which added management responsibility onto her acting and made her already poor health worse. Her affair with playwright Gabriele d'Annunzio (which was both professional and romantic) ended when he gave the lead role in his new play La Citta more to her great rival Sarah Bernhardt. (Unlike Bernhardt, who was flamboyant and loved attention, Duse was very private and low-key, both in her life and her acting style. She said, "If I had my will, I would live in a ship on the sea and never come nearer to humanity than that!" Among others, Shaw and Chekov preferred Duse). Later in life she had affairs with women, including Italian suffragist Lina Poletti, and possibly Isadora Duncan)
She suffered from bad health all her life, made worse by constant touring, and died in Pittsburgh on a US tour in 1924. Her body lay in state for a few days in New York City before being sent back to her home in Asolo, where she was buried in the cemetery of Sant'Anna, which is still a pilgrimage site for theater lovers.
A couple sources on her fascinating life:
William Weaver, Duse: A Biography (1984)
Helen Sheehy, Eleanora Duse: a biography (2003)
Monday, April 15, 2013
(And if you like it and leave a review on Amazon, I will also send you a copy of Two Scandalous Secrets!)
(Also, if you know where I could send some foreign language copies, let me know...)
One Naughty Night at Amazon....
Sunday, April 14, 2013
Juana was born in Toledo on November 6, 1479, the 3rd child (2nd daughter) of Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile (whose marriage brought the 2 kingdoms into personal, but not official, union, which would have immense consequences for poor Juana). She was well-educated, not just in court etiquette, dancing, music, and religious studies, but also in languages, to prepare her for an important marriage. She was also said to be pretty, with reddish hair, pale skin, and blue eyes (much like her youngest sister Catalina, who would go on to become Catherine of Aragon, queen of England!) In 1496, she was betrothed to Philip of Burgundy (Philip the Handsome), son of Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor, and Duchess Mary of Burgundy (not really the greatest of marriages at first, since she was just a duchess and not a queen like her sisters, but with potential). The proxy marriage took place in August, and she set out on a long journey to Flanders, where the official wedding took place on October 20. She had 6 children, 2 emperors and 4 queens, but the marriage was an infamously bad one, passionate but stormy and unhappy, marred by her husband's blatant infidelities and his abusive treatment of her.
Philip was also not happy about this, not wanting to give up any power to his father-in-law. The couple left for Spain in January 1506, but storms sent them to England, where Juana got to see her sister Catherine one more time. They didn't arrive in Spain until April, when civil war was looming in Castile. Philip apparently considered landing in Andalusia and summoning the nobles to take up arms against Ferdinand in Aragon. Instead, he and Joanna landed at on 26 April and the Castilian nobility abandoned Ferdinand. Ferdinand met Philip on 20 June 1506 and handed over the government of Castile to his "most beloved children", promising to retire to Aragon. Philip and Ferdinand then signed a second treaty, agreeing that Joanna's mental instability made her incapable of ruling and promising to exclude her from government. Ferdinand then proceeded to repudiate the agreement the same afternoon, declaring that Joanna should never be deprived of her rights as Queen Proprietress of Castile. A fortnight later, having come to no fresh agreement with Philip and thus effectively retaining his right to interfere if he considered his daughter's rights to have been infringed upon, he abandoned Castile for Aragon, leaving Philip to govern in Joanna's stead.
After her father's death in 1516, her oldest son, 17-year-old Charles (eventually Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor) took over the ruling of Castile and Aragon, and kept his mother just as closely confined. (He wrote to the convent, Charles wrote to the Convent of Santa Clara caretakers: "It seems to me that the best and most suitable thing for you to do is to make sure that no person speaks with Her Majesty, for no good could come from it"). There was a brief possibility of revolt, which came to nothing, and her condition deteriorated. She died at age 75 and was buried in the Royal Chapel at Granada with her parents and husband.
It's now thought she suffered from clinical depression (exacerbated by an unhappy marriage and long years of unwilling imprisonment) and possibly schizophrenia, inherited from her maternal grandmother Isabella of Portugal, who also spent years suffering under severe mental illness.
A couple of interesting sources on Juana's sad life (she also features in many novels and a recent movie, Mad Love):
Maria Gomez, Juana of Castile: History and Myth of the Mad Queen (2008)
Julia Fox, Sister Queens: The Noble, Tragic Lives of Catherine of Aragon and Juana Queen of Castile (2012)