Folger Shakespeare Library
Stage and Screen Education and Inspiration The American Identity



Which presidents once acted in Shakespeare’s plays?

Which presidents once acted in Shakespeare’s plays?

Ulysses S. Grant, who did not yet have a beard at the time, briefly played the part of Desdemona in 1846 in a military production of Othello while he was stationed in the Southwest in Corpus Christi. He apparently landed the part because his slender figure (the other officers called him “Beauty”) allowed him to fit into the costume. The officer playing Othello burst into laughter whenever he saw Grant in a dress, however, so a New Orleans actress had to be brought in for the role.

Ronald Reagan liked to tell the story that he acted in The Taming of the Shrew at Eureka College in a “modern dress” performance—but the production was so long ago that modern dress meant plus-four trousers.


Ulysses S. Grant. Library of Congress.