Bogumil D. Dawison

* 15.05.1818 in Warsaw; ✝ 01.02.1872 in Dresden




The son of a poor Jewish family, Dawison began his stage career in 1837 in Warsaw, Vilna and Lemberg, where from 1841 onwards he had the opportunity to appear at the German Theatre. He made guest appearances in Hamburg in 1847, and in Vienna in 1849 at the Burgtheater, where he was employed, thanks to Heinrich Laube’s support, on a six year contract. This was where he enjoyed his first great successes, but it seems that he felt the theatre was holding him back, for in 1853 he forced his redundancy so that he could move to Dresden. As early as July 1852 he appeared for the first time as Hamlet at the Dresden Court Theatre, which, in 1853, honoured him with a contract for life.

His energetic and passionate interpretation of character roles made him one of the celebrated virtuosos of his time, and was the cause of his rivalry with Emil Devrient, with whom he competed for the favour of Dresden audiences. From Dresden he energetically set about making guest appearances, which took him to numerous cities inside and outside Germany, further increasing his popularity and preeminence. In 1864 Dawison dissolved his Dresden contract in order to make further guest appearances, the apogee being without doubt his legendary tour of America in 1866, which is supposed to have yielded a net profit of $ 50 000. It is likely, though, that these many journeys permanently undermined his health, and he returned in 1867 a gravely ill man to Dresden, where ‘brain-fever’ forced him to retire from the stage. He died in 1872.

His contemporaries were fascinated by Dawison not only on account of what was regarded as a revolutionary acting style, but also because his life seemed such a model of how Jews could assimilate. Thus he appeared in Karl Emil Franzos’ novel Der Pojaz (published posthumously in 1905) as a representative figure. His illness, however, was interpreted by anti-Semitic authors as symptomatic of a way of life which must, in the final analysis, be judged ‘unnatural’.

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Citation and Licence

Dawison, Bogumil D., in: The Digital Shakespeare Memorial Album. Edited by Christa Jansohn. URI: (Accessed on 23.07.2024)

This text is published under the following licence: CC BY-ND 3.0 DE. Digitzed media reproduced with the permission of the library of Birmingham.

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