French classical actress, the daughter of Alsatian-Jewish traveling peddlers. Her talent was discovered when she was singing in the streets as a young girl, and nurtured in drama school in Paris. Her fame spread throughout Europe following a sensational success in London in 1841, and became particularly associated with the works of Racine, Voltaire, and Corneille, touring in Brussels, Berlin, and St. Petersburg. When Rachel first stepped on the stage of Comedie Francaise, French classical tragedy was not dying but dead. Regardless, Rachel would remain true to her classical roots. She aroused audiences with an undeniable craving for the tragic style of great writers like Corneille, Racine and Molière. She evoked a high demand for classical tragedy to remain on the stage. She created the title role in Eugène Scribe's Adrienne Lecouvreur. Her acting style was characterized by clear diction and economy of gesture, and represented a major change from the exaggerated style of those days. Out the doors of Rachel’s theatre was a battle of artistic desires. Society was beginning to demand the highly emotional, realistic, instinctual acting styles of the Romantics. Rachel completely turned her back on the Romantic Drama movement happening in nineteenth century France. She was best known for her portrayal of the title rôle in Phèdre. Eliza Rachel, as the actress was also known, was reportedly a great tragédienne.
Rachel’s private life was scandalous, and was chronicled with lip-licking relish by the European press: the Leeds Intelligencer, for example, noting her withdrawal from the role of Cleopatra, said her “success was becoming more questionable every day,” as if an immaculate private life was essential for success in that role ( Leeds Intelligencer , 8 Jan 1848). Her health was as fragile as her morals, and she died of consumption. Blackwell Reference Rachel_(actress) Rachel