Forrest, Edwin, 1806–72, American actor, b. Philadelphia. He was the first national idol of the American theater. He appeared at 14 as Young Norval in John Home's Douglas and gained experience supporting Edmund Kean in Shakespearean roles. His New York debut (1826) as Othello established Forrest as one of the century's great tragedians. His acting was bold and forceful, and he was often criticized for ranting. In England in 1845, his Macbeth was received with hostility by those who favored William Charles Macready. Their rivalry brought about the Astor Place riot (1849) in New York, in which partisans of Forrest demonstrated against Macready and many were killed. Throughout his career Forrest championed native dramas and performers.
See biographies by R. Moody (1960) and W. R. Alger (1877, repr. 1972); The Astor Place Riot (1958) by R. A. Moody.
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