By Alexander Nemerov
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Additional resources for Acting in the Night: Macbeth and the Places of the Civil War
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. Yet the very uniformity of applause her performance elicited was as a handful of pebbles thrown into that same water—a chaos of indiscriminate energies, everyone taking from her what they might. Throw into that same water a handful of sand and the now inﬁnite particulars of Washington and the surrounding countryside on October 17 become visible: thousands of tiny circles spreading and shifting and dissolving in a pool where the single stone struggles and fails to make its radiance clear.
Was this her morbid speed, that of a person who could be the bullet and the photograph (and even the telegraph with news of the death the bullet caused) all in one devastating extension of the self ? Then she would send messages with the force to petrify even remote persons. Cushman’s aim, however, was somewhat diªerent. It was neither exactly morbid nor exactly decorous. In turning the world symbolically to stone, she did not wish to make a morgue. Neither did she wish to make spirit sculptures or tableaux of genteel deportment.
94 Photography kept pace with this penchant for self-freezing, adding an especially morbid dimension. By the late 1850s the new medium could make even the busiest street as eerily still as Bridges’s Marble Isle. “It is the oriental 40 a stone’s throw Fig. 14. Boston Music Hall organ, with Thomas Crawford’s Beethoven in front on left, ca. 1863–84. From New England Conservatory of Music Archives, Boston, Massachusetts. Fig. 15. Broadway on a rainy day, ca. 1860. 9 cm). Courtesy of George Eastman House, International Museum of Photography and Film, Rochester, New York.