anglophile!america

Okay so I’m researching for my dissertation and I’ve come across a historical event that (probably shouldn’t be, but is) absolutely hilarious to me. 

So in America in 1849 there was a lot of socio-economic tension between the classes, and this included a tension in the kind of theatre that audiences wanted to consume. As settlers had come over from England, a lot of theatre at the time was being sent over from England, rather than being produced in America, so you had a lot of British touring companies doing their Shakespeare thing around the country. 

The Americans didn’t like this. 

Tension built up between the Anglophile middle classes in America and the working classes who wanted to break away from their British past, and this all came to a (unbelievably bloody) head when a British actor called William Charles Macready and a working class American actor called Edwin Forrest got into a huge, nineteenth century flame war over whether British or American actors were better. Obviously the upper and middle class Americans sided with Macready, and the working class Yanks sided with Forrest. 

This was the original fandom war, guys. 

The nineteenth century folks went really hard when it came to loyalty to their fave actors (there weren’t a lot of acting “stars” back then because beforehand it had been seen as basically a form of prostitution and was only just starting to break away from that stereotype). You wanna know what these super fans did? They started a riot. Forrest’s supporters bought a bunch of tickets to a performance of Macbeth that Macready was acting in at the Astor Palace Theatre in New York, and they egged him while he was on stage. Apparently up to 10,000 people were waiting in the streets outside, and the police and army had to be called in because they were all beating the shit out of each other with their top hats and show bills or whatever. 

TWENTY FIVE PEOPLE DIED (INCLUDING A CHILD) AND HUNDREDS WERE INJURED BECAUSE THEY WERE ARGUING OVER WHO CAN PERFORM SHAKESPEARE BETTER I AM DONE.