DUSE, ELEANORA (1859- ), Italian actress, was born at Vigevano of a family of actors, and made her first stage appearance at a very early age. The hardships incident to touring with travelling companies unfavourably affected her health, but by 1885 she was recognized at home as Italy's greatest actress, and this verdict was confirmed by that of all the leading cities of Europe and America. In 1893 she made her first appearances in New York and in London. For some years she was closely associated with the romanticist Gabriele d'Annunzio, and several of his plays, notably La Città morta (1898) and Francesca da Rimini (1901), provided her with important parts. But some of her great successes during the 'eighties and early 'nineties - the days of her chief triumphs - were in Italian versions of such plays as La Dame aux camélias, in which Sarah Bernhardt was already famous; and Madame Duse's reputation as an actress was founded less on her "creations" than on her magnificent individuality. In contrast to the great French actress she avoided all "make-up"; her art depended on intense naturalness rather than stage effect, sympathetic force and poignant intellectuality rather than the theatrical emotionalism of the French tradition. Her dramatic genius gave a new reading to the parts, and during these years the admirers of the two leading actresses of Europe practically constituted two rival schools of appreciation. Ill-health kept Madame Duse off the stage for some time; but though, after 1900, it was no longer possible for her to avoid "make-up," her rank among the great actresses of history remained indisputable.
See also a biography by L. Rasi (1901); A. Symons, Studies in Seven Arts (1906).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)