Playbill advertising Ira Aldridge's appearance as Othello, Richard III and Shylock in Newcastle, 1845


The American Ira Aldridge (1807–1867) was the first black actor to play a Shakespearean role in Britain. He was 17 when he made his debut as Othello at the Royalty Theatre in London’s East End in May 1825. He then travelled widely in Europe, making him one of the most widely seen performers of his day.

Aldridge was best known for playing Othello, but it wasn’t his only Shakespearean success. He widened his repertoire by putting on white makeup to play Richard III, Shylock, Iago, King Lear and Macbeth. He premiered many of his white roles in Hull, the home of anti-slavery campaigner William Wilberforce. By expanding his repertoire he challenged perceptions of black performers’ capabilities and brought a more sympathetic understanding to some roles which were then normally played as out-and-out villains.

Full title:
A collection of playbills from miscellaneous Newcastle-upon-Tyne theatres 1791-1855
1845; 1791–1855, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne
Playbill / Advertisement / Ephemera
Usage terms
Public Domain
Held by
British Library
Playbills 262

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