When she was just four years old, she began touring with her father's theatrical troupe.
She is portrayed by Elisa Cegani in the 1947 film Eleonora Duse.
Her brief marriage to actor Teobaldo Checchi resulted in a daughter named Enrichetta. Following her divorce from Checchi, she had a number of high-profile affairs; her best-known lovers are perhaps the poet Arrigo Boito and the writer Gabriele d'Annunzio.
The famous English actress Sarah Bernhardt was one of Duse's major theatrical competitors.