The Eternal City

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The Eternal City is a play by Hal Caine (1853–1931)[1].

The original text

A story of romance and intrigue that begins in Rome in 1900, it was the only work by Caine first conceived as a play, though the first published version of the tale was a serialised novel, that appeared in The Lady's Magazine, London, and Collier's Weekly, New York, in 1901. Published in book form by Heineman in the same year, it became his greatest commercial success and the first novel to sell over a million copies worldwide.

Caine's own stage adaptation opened at His Majesty's Theatre, London on 2 October 1902, produced by actor-manager Herbert Beerbohm Tree, with incidental music by Italian composer Pietro Mascagni (1863-1945). The American production opened on 17 November, at the Victoria Theatre, New York City, with Caine supervising the rehearsals. By the end of 1903 six companies were performing The Eternal City, in England, USA, Australia and South Africa.

Caine republished the novel in a ‘theatre edition’ in 1902, based on the plot of the play and eschewing the political sections of the original novel.

Translations and adaptations

Filmed in 1915 as a silent film[2], was released by produced by Adolph Zukor and the Famous Players Film Company, directed by Hugh Ford and Edwin S. Porter.

Filmed once more in 1923, directed by George Fitzmaurice, from a script by Ouida Bergère and based on Caine's novel, starring Barbara La Marr, Lionel Barrymore and Bert Lytell.

Performance history in South Africa

1902-3: Performed by Leonard Rayne and company at the Opera House, Cape Town, under the auspices of the Mouillot-De Jong Company, as part of a season of musical comedy and light opera beginning in December of 1902 and running into 1903.


D.C. Boonzaier. 1923. "My playgoing days – 30 years in the history of the Cape Town stage", in SA Review, 9 March and 24 August 1923. (Reprinted in Bosman 1980: pp. 374-439.)

F.C.L. Bosman. 1980. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel II, 1856-1912. Pretoria: J.L. van Schaik: p. 414

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