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Shakespeare & Beyond

An edition of Richard III "adapted for amateurs"

PR2821 .A367 Sh.Col. back cover
PR2821 .A367 Sh.Col. back cover

Today, we bring you an edition of Richard III adapted and published by J. A. Arneaux, one of the leading black actors on the late 19th-century New York stage.

John A. Arneaux was born in Georgia in 1855, to a Parisian father and an African-American mother of French descent. He moved north to New York around 1870 to study German, Latin, and French, later traveling to Paris for further study. At some point his interests took a turn and, back in New York, he began training and performing as a vaudeville artist.

With encouragement from a local theater manager, his first performance as a dramatic actor took place in 1876. Almost a decade later, and with apparently little other theatrical experience in the meantime, he joined the Astor Place Company of Colored Tragedians, and appeared as Iago in an 1884 production of Othello. His performance was favorably received, and the New York Daily News described it as “the best and truest in the entire cast.” Around this time, Arneaux also began managing the Astor Place Company, founded during the previous decade by his friend and fellow actor Benjamin J. Ford.

The next year, Arneaux starred as the title character in the Astor Place Company’s production of Richard III. Once again, his performance received rave reviews. Throughout 1886, the Astor Place Company traveled between venues in New York, Providence, and Philadelphia, performing Othello and Richard III


[…] An edition of Richard III “adapted for amateurs” by 19th-century Black actor, editor, and journalist J.A. Arneaux. This edition, aimed at amateurs and household productions, includes changes like cutting speeches by minor characters and making the Battle of Bosworth Field a symbolic scene with fewer actors. […]

Richard III: My Kingdom for a Horse - Shakespeare & Beyond — August 24, 2021