John Wilkes Booth, a successful young star of the era, performed several times at Ford’s Theatre. Though only 26, Booth had enjoyed an early rise to prominence on the American stage, partially due to the fame of his family—his father, the English tragedian, Junius Brutus Booth and his brother, Edwin Booth.
The critics hailed John Wilkes Booth’s dramatic talents on the stage, and his dark good looks made him one of the most popular matinee idols of his time. Booth was best known for his performances in Shakespearean dramas.
As Confederate sympathizers, Booth and his colleagues began to conspire to kidnap Lincoln in 1864. In early 1865, as the imminent defeat of the Confederacy became apparent, Booth switched the group's plans to murder. Booth himself chose to assassinate Lincoln.
Following the assassination, while hiding in southern Maryland and Virginia, Booth was stunned to find himself denounced in the press as “a common cutthroat.” He had expected to be portrayed as a hero. Booth saw parallels between his own story and that of Brutus in Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar.” Caesar, the Roman dictator, was murdered by a group of senators led by Brutus in an attempt to save the Roman republic from becoming an empire.