home button

timeline button

editor's choice button

biographies button

places, things, concepts button

subject browse button

multimedia button

activities button

help button

Aldridge, Ira Frederick

(born c. July 24, 1807, New York, N.Y., U.S.—died Aug. 7, 1867, Lódz, Pol.) black tragedian, considered one of the greatest interpreters of his day.

Accounts of his life in the United States are conflicting. The great British-American actor James William Wallack is believed to have engaged him as a personal attendant while on a passage from the United States to England, where Aldridge established himself in the mid-1820s. In 1833 he made a highly successful debut in London as Othello at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden. Billed as the “African Roscius,” after the great Roman comic actor, he made triumphant tours of Europe in several Shakespearean roles, including Othello, King Lear, and Macbeth. After 1853 he played mostly on the Continent, receiving honours from the Emperor of Austria, in Switzerland, and in Russia, among others.

Aldridge, detail from an engraving by T. Hollis, 1833.
By courtesy of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Aldridge was planning a trip back to the United States, but it is doubtful that he ever returned; he became an English citizen in 1863.

Copyright © 1994-2005 Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.