In the eighteenth century, Shakespeare became indisputably the most popular English dramatist. Published editions, dramatic performances and all kinds of adaptations of his works proliferated and his influence on authors and genres was extensive. By the second half of the century Shakespeare's status had been fully established, and since that time he has remained central to English culture. Shakespeare in the Eighteenth Century explores the impact he had on various aspects of culture and society: not only in literature and the theatre, but also in visual arts, music and even national identity. The eighteenth century's Shakespeare, however, was not our Shakespeare. In recovering the particular ways in which his works were read and used during this crucial period in his reception, this book, with its many illustrations and annotated bibliography, is the clearest way into understanding this key phase in the reception of the playwright.
Frans De Bruyn
So much has been written about Shakespeare over the centuries that it is impossible to keep track of everything that has been published, let alone read it all. This guide cannot, therefore, claim to be comprehensive, but it does offer, in Samuel Johnson's phrase, an ‘extensive view’ of the eighteenth-century literary and theatrical landscape, in which Shakespeare figured very prominently. Scholars and students will find ample materials here to direct them in their exploration of Shakespeare on both stage and page in the period. The guide lists published works (eighteenth-century editions and criticism, and modern critical studies), as well as adaptations of Shakespeare by eighteenth-century dramatists and theatre managers, visual representations by illustrators and artists, and thumbnail biographies of major editors, critics, actors, theatre managers and artists. The following analytical table of contents shows how the guide is organized.
1 Editing, annotating and publishing Shakespeare 350
1.1 Major eighteenth-century editions
1.2 Shakespeare editors and critics: thumbnail biographies
1.3 Modern critical studies: editing and annotation
2 Eighteenth-century critical commentary364
2.1 A chronological checklist of eighteenth-century critical works
2.2 Modern reprints of and guides to eighteenth-century Shakespeare criticism
2.3 Modern scholarly studies of eighteenth-century Shakespeare criticism
2.4 Periodical essays and performance reviews
2.5 Modern guides to eighteenth-century periodicals and reviews
3 Staging and adaptation383
3.1 Eighteenth-century adaptations
3.1.1 List of adaptations (by original play title)
3.1.2 Collections and editions of adaptations and acting versions
3.2 Shakespeare adapters, actors and managers
3.2.1 Published sources for the lives of eighteenth-century theatre personnel
3.2.2 Leading stage personnel: thumbnail biographies
3.3 Eighteenth-century commentary on staging and performance
3.4 Modern critical studies: staging and adapting Shakespeare
3.4.1 Key modern reference works
3.4.2 Modern critical studies
4 Visual representations of Shakespeare415
4.1 Book illustrations and series of engravings
4.2 Major artists and their works
4.3 Modern critical studies: art and illustration
5 Other modern criticism425
5.1 Literary history, reception, cultural studies
5.2 Biographical studies
5.3 Shakespeare on the continent and in America
This checklist of editions includes the major scholarly editions, edited by Rowe, Pope, Theobald, Warburton, Hanmer, Capell, Johnson, Steevens, Reed and Malone, as well as other noteworthy editions of the period. The list is not exhaustive. For a descriptive account of the eighteenth-century editions and a bibliographical chronology, see Andrew Murphy, Shakespeare in Print: A History and Chronology of Shakespeare Publishing (Cambridge University Press, 2003). Murphy lists all ‘complete play/collected-works editions’ published down to 1821. See also William Jaggard, Shakespeare Bibliography: A Dictionary of Every Known Issue of the Writings of Our National Poet and of Recorded Opinion Thereon in the English Language (Stratford-upon-Avon: Shakespeare Press, 1911).
Rowe's edition was reissued in 1714 in three versions, the first two versions being eight volumes each. The third version includes the Gildon edition of the poems published by Curll and Sanger (see previous entry) as a ninth volume. In the 1730s Tonson reissued the Rowe playtexts individually; they were gathered into a collected eight-volume set in 1735, but the volume title-pages are mistakenly dated 1635. Each play in the set has its own title-page, dated 1734 to 1736. These individual playtexts were sold cheaply to counter the threat posed by Robert Walker, a rival publisher who began issuing cheap editions of individual plays in 1734. The sudden availability, for the first time, of inexpensive and accessible editions was a turning point in making Shakespeare more widely and accurately known as an author.
Two editions were issued in 1728, one in eight and the other in ten volumes. The two supplementary volumes are vol. Ix, containing Pericles and six attributed (but spurious) plays, and vol. X, containing Shakespeare's poetry. Further editions and reissues of Pope's edition appeared in 1766 (Glasgow) and 1768 (Birmingham). Andrew Murphy reports (p. 315) that he has been unable to trace a 1731 edition listed by Jaggard (p. 499).
Bell, John (1745–1831), publisher and bookseller. An enterprising publisher who took advantage in the 1770s of the legal rejection in England of monopolistic publishing practices to produce multi-volume editions of Shakespeare, English theatrical texts, and English poets. His ‘acting edition’ of Shakespeare, based on prompt books used at the Covent Garden and Drury Lane theatres, was an innovation that offers valuable evidence of the ways in which Shakespeare's texts were actually performed. This edition of Shakespeare, as well as the subsequent ‘literary’ edition, is important for its fine illustrations, which include portraits of contemporary actors and actresses.
Capell, Edward (1713–81), literary historian and editor. In an age when editors promised more in the way of collation and reference to early texts than they delivered, Capell stood out for his uncompromising dedication to textual accuracy. Rather than working from a recent print edition of Shakespeare, he insisted on going back to the earliest existing sources. He argued for the importance of the early Quartos, as opposed to the first Folio, as authentic sources for the Shakespearean text. Although he did not achieve conspicuous success with his edition of Shakespeare, he was eventually recognized as a groundbreaking editor for the scholarly quality and importance of his work.
Farmer, Richard (1735–97), literary historian and academic. He was Master of Emmanuel College at Cambridge University, where he also served as Vice-Chancellor. His major critical contribution on Shakespeare was An Essay on the Learning of Shakespeare (1767), a work that addresses the vexed question of Shakespeare's knowledge of ancient languages and classical literature and culture. Farmer sought to establish whether Shakespeare's access to classical culture was direct or reliant on translation. Farmer found that Shakespeare did not have much knowledge of ancient or modern foreign languages, a conclusion that spoke directly to the period's fascination with the nature of Shakespeare's genius.
Gentleman, Francis (1728–84), actor, critic and playwright. He was author of The Dramatic Censor (1770), a collection of essays on the drama, a significant number of which are devoted to Shakespeare. His essays frequently eulogize Garrick, and they provide valuable descriptions of Garrick's Shakespearean acting. Gentleman also contributed introductions and notes to Bell's ‘acting edition’ of Shakespeare.
Griffith, Elizabeth (1727–93), playwright, novelist and critic. Griffith's The Morality of Shakespeare's Drama Illustrated (1775) was dedicated to Garrick. She declared that Elizabeth Montagu's example ‘stirred up my emulation to this attempt’, and indeed, her work, together with that of Montagu, Lennox and the Shakespeare Ladies Club, signals the important contribution women made to Shakespeare's growing reputation. Her critical model was Samuel Johnson, whom she recognized as the only editor ‘who has considered Shakespeare's writings in a moral light’.
Hanmer, Thomas (1677–1746), politician and editor. He produced an opulent edition of Shakespeare for the Clarendon Press at Oxford. The edition had no editorial value, as it simply reproduced the text of Alexander Pope, but it was lavishly illustrated and bound.
Johnson, Samuel (1709–84), critic, editor, essayist, literary biographer, lexicographer. His edition of Shakespeare, published in 1765, is not the most innovative or significant in terms of its textual scholarship, yet it stands as a milestone in the history of Shakespeare editing, both for its Preface and its extensive, critically acute annotations. The edition appeared in the same decade that saw David Garrick's Jubilee celebration at Stratford in 1769, and as such it marks the apotheosis of Shakespeare as England's national poet. The Preface is a landmark critical statement that rejects a narrowly neoclassical evaluation of Shakespeare in favour of a broadly empirical, mimetic approach that values Shakespeare as the pre-eminent poet of nature and that canonizes him as a classical writer on the basis of his enduring reputation with successive generations of readers.
Lennox, Charlotte, née Ramsay (c.1730–1804), novelist and literary scholar. Her Shakespear Illustrated (1753–4) is a pioneering study of Shakespeare's sources. She identified and reproduced a number of sources, and she commented on Shakespeare's use of them. Her study of the playwright's reliance on source texts led her to conclude that his strength lay more in characterization than in invention. In her introductory remarks, she expresses concern that Shakespeare's admirers may regard her critical project as injurious to his reputation.
Malone, Edmond (1741–1812), literary scholar, editor and biographer. His ten-volume edition of Shakespeare, which appeared in 1790, is rightly regarded as both a culmination of eighteenth-century editing and a new departure in Shakespeare scholarship. In producing his edition Malone brought to bear high standards of accuracy, based on painstaking archival research and documentary evidence. He also uncovered fresh materials for the life of Shakespeare and undertook the first sustained effort to ascertain the chronology of Shakespeare's plays. Throughout, Malone's concern was to recover the authentic, original Shakespeare by returning to the earliest possible editions and by tracking down documents from the playwright's own time. He was also active in exposing the literary forgeries of William Henry Ireland.
Montagu, Elizabeth, née Robinson (1718–1800), bluestocking and literary author. She was encouraged by Elizabeth Carter to write An Essay on the Writings and Genius of Shakespear (1769), a defence of Shakespeare against foreign critical strictures, especially those of Voltaire. Appearing in the same year as Garrick's Shakespeare Jubilee, her work exemplifies the increasingly nationalistic treatment of Shakespeare in the middle decades of the eighteenth century. Her correspondence with Carter indicates that Samuel Johnson, whom she regarded as an overly narrow critic of Shakespeare, was also a target of her criticism in the Essay.
Oldys, William (1696–1761), literary historian and critic. An acknowledged expert on the early English drama, Oldys accumulated notes towards a biography of Shakespeare that were mined by Samuel Johnson, George Steevens, Isaac Reed and Edmond Malone for their editions of Shakespeare's plays.
Pope, Alexander (1688–1744), poet, translator, critic and editor. Pope brought his poetic sensibility to bear on his editing of Shakespeare. Though he was aware of the philological and textual duties of an editor in his time, he was more concerned to polish the rough jewel that he perceived Shakespeare to be and to present a text that met the expectations of eighteenth-century readers. An indication of this is his editorial policy of marking ‘shining passages’ with commas or asterisks and relegating ‘suspected passages which are excessively bad’ to footnotes. Despite his deficiencies as an editor, Pope produced an important critical statement in his Preface, praising Shakespeare as a genius and a poet of nature. Pope's edition prompted Lewis Theobald to respond in Shakespeare Restored with a refutation of his errors and, subsequently, an important Shakespeare edition of his own.
Reed, Isaac (1742–1807), editor, annotator, biographer and antiquary. As a man of retiring disposition, Reed worked unobtrusively in the background as a commentator on Shakespeare, and almost all of his publications appeared anonymously. Yet he was regarded by fellow Shakespeareans Richard Farmer, George Steevens and Edmond Malone as formidably knowledgeable about English literary history, a knowledge that bore fruit in the 1785 edition of the Johnson/Steevens Shakespeare, which was edited primarily by Reed himself. In 1803, he published what has become known as the first variorum edition of Shakespeare. He also expanded David Erskine Baker's Companion to the Playhouse in 1782, reissuing the work under the title Biographia Dramatica, and produced a second, revised edition of Robert Dodsley's A Select Collection of Old Plays (1780), a twelve-volume collection of fifty-one plays of Elizabethan origin.
Richardson, William (1743–1814), literary scholar. He was Professor of Humanity at Glasgow University. He produced five critical works on Shakespeare during his lifetime. They are pioneering studies of Shakespeare's characters, grounded in the eighteenth-century psychological theory of the ruling passion.
Ritson, Joseph (1752–1803), antiquary. He was a colourful and quarrelsome figure who brought to his Shakespeare criticism his characteristic pugnacity. He assailed the accuracy of Johnson and Steevens's 1778 edition of Shakespeare, and he attacked the work of Reed and Malone as well. He championed the need for a properly collated edition, but his own proposals for an edition never bore fruit. His copious historical knowledge enabled him to detect the manuscripts made public by William Henry Ireland as forgeries.
Rowe, Nicholas (1674–1718), poet and playwright. His edition of Shakespeare inaugurated the modern tradition of Shakespeare editing. He supplied the first biographical account of the playwright, which remained standard for most of the eighteenth century. He made the text of Shakespeare more accessible by modernizing Shakespeare's spelling and punctuation, dividing the plays into acts and scenes, supplying a dramatis personae for each play, and indicating the entrances and exits of characters. At the behest of his publishers, Rowe, like most subsequent eighteenth-century editors, based his edition on the last previously published version, in his case the 1685 fourth Folio.
Steevens, George (1736–1800), literary scholar and editor. His work as a Shakespeare editor began with his contribution of some notes to Samuel Johnson's 1765 edition, chiefly correcting the notes of previous editors. In subsequent editions of Johnson's Shakespeare (1773, 1778, 1785) Steevens played an ever greater editorial role. His wide learning and his extensive knowledge of early English drama were the basis for the hundreds of notes he contributed to each edition, as well as to Isaac Reed's edition of early plays, A Select Collection of Old Plays (1780). Steevens also produced a groundbreaking old-spelling edition of twenty Shakespeare Quarto texts in 1766, making the Quarto texts widely available for the first time, and at his urging, John Nichols published Six Old Plays (1779), an anthology of plays Shakespeare used as sources.
Theobald, Lewis (1688–1744), editor, literary scholar, translator and playwright. One of the great Shakespeare editors, Theobald earned lasting notoriety as the butt of Pope's satire in The Dunciad because he had dared to criticize Pope's edition of Shakespeare in print. In contrast to Pope's aesthetic approach to editing, Theobald was a pioneer in applying to Shakespeare philological methods previously reserved for classical authors. His knowledge of theatrical practice, palaeography and classical scholarship, as well as his extensive reading of Elizabethan drama and other writings, and his encyclopaedic knowledge of Shakespeare's plays, prepared him amply for his role as editor. Theobald advocated a form of conjectural emendation that corrected problems in the Shakespeare text in a way that was sensitive to the original context in which it was produced.
Warburton, William (1698–1779), literary writer, Church of England bishop, and religious controversialist. His interest in Shakespeare dated back to Theobald's edition, which includes some notes by Warburton. His edition of Shakespeare (1747), which contains many obtuse emendations and conjectures, was attacked by Thomas Edwards and Benjamin Heath; it is considered one of the weaker editions produced in the eighteenth century. The question of how much Warburton had contributed to Thomas Hanmer's edition of Shakespeare also aroused controversy when Warburton, in the Preface to his edition, accused Hanmer of ‘trafficking with my Papers without my knowledge’.
Critical commentary on Shakespeare by eighteenth-century writers is extensive, and the volume of printed commentary grew markedly in the second half of the period. As a result, several categories of material have necessarily been excluded from this checklist: reviews and essays in newspapers and periodicals (with some exceptions); poems on Shakespeare or poetic passages that refer to him; and passing mentions or brief discussions in texts written on other subjects. For further details on publications in newspapers and periodicals, see section 2.4, ‘Periodical essays and performance reviews’, below, p. 381. See also section 3.3, below, where a number of titles that focus primarily on matters of staging and performance are listed.
Most of the texts listed here are now available in digitized facsimile form in Eighteenth Century Collections Online (ECCO), Farmington Hills, MI: Gale Cengage, http://galenet.galegroup.com/servlet/ECCO (subscription).
After mid-century, the modern practice of reviewing both books and theatrical productions evolved rapidly. Limitations of space make it impossible to include a comprehensive list of reviews here; instead, a listing is given of major periodicals and newspapers in which reviews are to be found, as well as modern critical and bibliographical guides to periodical essays and reviews. The reviews and essays themselves are now available in digitized facsimile form in the following electronic databases, which are fully searchable:
British Newspapers 1600–1900 (Gale Group). This database contains the British Library's extensive Burney Collection of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century newspapers.
British Periodicals (Ann Arbor, MI: Proquest Information and Learning). This database has extensive coverage of British periodicals from the 1680s onwards.
Eighteenth-Century Journals: A Portal to Newspapers and Periodicals, c. 1685–1815, ed. Jeremy Black, Brian Cowan, Kevin O’Neill and Laura Mandel (Marlborough, UK: Adam Matthew Publications, 2007–).
These periodicals contain reviews of printed plays, collected editions of Shakespeare, and other books, including critical studies.
The history of Shakespearean adaptations in the eighteenth century is complicated, but the adapted texts produced and published in the period can be divided, broadly, into two categories: (a) radical adaptations, and (b) abridged or reworked plays. The first category consists of drastically rewritten plays, such as Nahum Tate's King Lear or the revised version of Coriolanus by John Dennis. The practice of radically rewriting Shakespeare fell off sharply after the Restoration, and after the mid eighteenth century some of these radical adaptations were revisited, with a view to restoring portions of the original text. The second category of adaptations consists of texts in which changes were introduced as new scenes or as excisions of Shakespearean text, rather than as a wholesale rewriting of that text. In many instances, the interventions are relatively light: speeches are pruned (and sometimes reassigned to different characters), and scenes omitted – theatrical practices that continue to the present day. These more conservative adaptations were often published as acting versions, with the name of the theatre in which the version was performed noted in the title of the publication. The collections by Bell and Kemble listed below include many of these acting versions.
The list of adaptations that follows is organized alphabetically under the original Shakespearean titles. Many of the adaptations listed fall under category ‘a’ (rewritten texts), but some of the more noteworthy acting versions belonging to category ‘b’ are also included. The two categories cannot, in any event, be separated too sharply: the choices an adapter makes in omitting speeches and scenes can be as revealing as the practice of rewriting, and adapters often adopted a combination of the two strategies in their work. The list also includes a number of adaptations dating from the Restoration period, deemed noteworthy because they continued to be staged in the eighteenth century or influenced the direction of subsequent adaptations. Also noted, where appropriate, is the date when the original play was revived; by the term ‘original play’ is meant an acting version substantially true to the Shakespearean text, but containing alterations and abridgements.
The statistics following each title are drawn from Hogan, Shakespeare in the Theatre, 1701–1800, vol. Ii, pp. 716–19. Hogan's statistical summary should be used with caution and is open to correction (he does not, for example, discriminate amongst the various versions of a play that might be performed or the relative prominence given to a Shakespeare play in the billing of the evening's entertainment). The figures indicate each play's relative popularity on the London stage, 1701–1800, compared to other plays by Shakespeare (Rel. Pop.); and the number of times the play was performed on the London stage in the major theatres between 1701 and 1800 (No. Of Perf.). By ‘major theatres’ is meant the royal ‘patent’ theatres officially licensed by the government from the Restoration onwards to perform spoken dramas: the Theatre Royal at Drury Lane; the Lincoln's Inn Fields Theatre, which became the Theatre Royal Covent Garden; and the Haymarket Theatre. In addition, the Goodman's Fields Theatre operated for a brief period in Ayliffe Street, Whitechapel, and there are a number of Shakespeare performances recorded there in the 1730s and 1740s. Noteworthy adaptations produced outside London are also occasionally mentioned.
The list draws on the following works of bibliographical and critical scholarship, to which the reader is directed for more detailed study of eighteenth-century adaptation:
The first eighteenth-century performance of this play took place in 1741 at Goodman's Fields. It was performed infrequently during the second half of the century. The first published acting version, containing omissions of some passages and scenes, appeared in John Bell's edition of acting versions, published in 1773–4. This text was reprinted in 1778 by J. Harrison as All's Well, that Ends Well. A Comedy. As It Is Acted at the Theatres-Royal in Drury-Lane.
Original play revived 1740; performed regularly thereafter in several acting versions.
Original play revived 1741, but a strong tradition of performance in adaptation persists to the present day.
Original play (acting version) revived 1718–21 (nine performances) and 1754–5 (nine performances).
Original play (acting version) revived 1746; play performed regularly thereafter.
The play Double Falshood; or, the Distressed Lovers, prepared for the stage by Lewis Theobald, had its premiere in London in 1727 and was published in 1728. Theobald claimed that the play, based on the interpolated story of Cardenio in Cervantes's Don Quixote, had originally been written by Shakespeare. Theobald further claimed to have in his possession three manuscript copies of a play by Shakespeare, upon which he had based his edition or adaptation. Documentary evidence exists that a play by Shakespeare and John Fletcher, variously called Cardenna and Cardenno, and subsequently referred to as The History of Cardenio, was performed in 1613. Reactions to Theobald's claims in his own time and since have ranged from incredulity to guarded acceptance. A new edition of the play for Arden Shakespeare, edited by Brean Hammond, examines the issue exhaustively. Hammond concludes cautiously that the authorial hands of Shakespeare and Fletcher can indeed be detected in Double Falshood, but that Theobald's play must be regarded as a radical adaptation of the original, with elements incorporated that date from the Restoration period. Theobald's drama is thus to be viewed as the ‘eighteenth-century great-grandchild’ of Shakespeare and Fletcher's lost play (Hammond, p. 8). See Double Falsehood, or, The Distressed Lovers, Arden Shakespeare, ed. Brean Hammond (London: Arden Shakespeare, 2010), and also Hammond's essay in this volume, pp. 78–96.
The longest of Shakespeare's plays, Hamlet has routinely been shortened in performance, and the eighteenth century was no exception. The play was performed uninterruptedly throughout the period. Numerous acting versions were published: Charles Hogan lists twenty-three of these in his Shakespeare in the Theatre, 1701–1800. All of these are shortened texts, with significant omissions. Kemble published two such acting versions at the end of the century.
One of a very small number of plays never substantially rewritten in the period, Othello and Henry VIII being two others. Popular throughout the century and regularly performed.
Original play revived 1738.
Performed once, 13 March 1738, at Covent Garden, ‘at the request of several ladies of quality’. The ladies in question were the Shakespeare Ladies Club.
Staged only in Philips's adapted version: ten performances in 1723. (Note: Hogan says nine performances; the Index to The London Stage 1660–1800 lists ten performances.)
Performed once, using T. Cibber's adaptation.
Performed regularly throughout the century without drastic alteration.
Performed regularly without drastic alteration. The number of performances fell off steeply in the second half of the century, with no stagings after 1780.
First performed 1737, at the encouragement of the Shakespeare Ladies Club. Performed regularly thereafter.
Original play never performed in the eighteenth century.
Original play revived 1744.
Original play performed at regular intervals throughout the century.
Original play performed regularly throughout the century in acting versions.
Performed almost exclusively in adapted and abbreviated versions.
This play picked up markedly in popularity during the second half of the century. Performed 148 times after 1750.
This play was not substantially adapted or reworked in the eighteenth century.
Acted only three times, in Lillo's version, 1738.
Original play revived 1738–9 in fifteen performances; not performed thereafter.
Performed exclusively in adaptation.
Revived 1744 and performed regularly thereafter.
Original play not performed in the eighteenth century.
Original play (acting version) revived in 1746 and performed regularly thereafter. Garrick produced an acting version in 1757 (published 1773 in Bell's ‘acting edition’) that cuts a number of lines in order to tighten the play.
Performed chiefly in Shadwell's version and very infrequently after 1750.
Original play revived 1741; performed regularly thereafter.
Original play revived 1784 (one performance); revived again by Kemble in 1790 (three performances).
The Two Noble Kinsmen was attributed to Shakespeare and John Fletcher on the title-page of the Quarto edition published in 1634, but eighteenth-century editors resisted the idea that Shakespeare had collaborated in writing this play. The editors of the ten-volume edition of The Dramatick Works of Beaumont and Fletcher (London: T. Sherlock, 1778), assert that they doubt ‘the tradition of his [Shakespeare's] being at all concerned in the piece’ (vol. X, p. 118), and they disparage Alexander Pope for broaching this possibility in the Preface to his edition. The play was not included in eighteenth-century editions of Shakespeare's plays, and Hogan does not cover it in his survey, Shakespeare in the Theatre, 1701 to 1800. The play was performed only once during the century, in Francis Waldron's version.
Original play revived 1741–2 (twelve performances).
Abington, Frances, née Barton (1737–1815), actress. She did not play many Shakespeare roles, but she was deemed pre-eminent as Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing, in which she premiered opposite Garrick in 1776 and which she reprised at Covent Garden in the 1780s and 1790s. Her performance was praised for its wit and incisiveness. Her other Shakespeare roles were Mrs Ford (Merry Wives), Portia (Merchant), and Maria (Twelfth Night).
Baddeley, Sophia, née Snow (1745?–86), actress and singer. She made her debut at Drury Lane in 1764 in the role of Ophelia, for which she earned the admiration of Garrick. She also sang at Garrick's Shakespeare Jubilee celebration at Stratford in 1769; one of the songs she sang, ‘Sweet Willy O!’, subsequently became a favourite in London.
Barry, Ann, née Street (c.1733–1801), actress. She performed in various regional theatres, including Bath, Dublin, Newcastle and York, before debuting on the London stage in 1767, where she played opposite Spranger Barry. She was known for her performances of tragic roles, including Desdemona, Ophelia and Lady Macbeth, and was considered one of the best actresses of her time. She was married three times, to the actors William Dancer, Spranger Barry and Thomas Crawford.
Barry, Elizabeth (c.1658–1713), actress and theatre manager. She is widely acknowledged as the foremost actress of the Restoration period, renowned for her tragic roles, especially in tragedies of pathos and she-tragedies (plays centring upon a virtuous, suffering female protagonist). She played the Shakespearean heroines Cordelia and Juliet in adapted versions of King Lear and Romeo and Juliet. Together with Betterton and Bracegirdle, she broke with the United Company in 1695 to form the Lincoln's Inn Fields Company.
Barry, Spranger (1717?–77), actor and theatrical investor. He was born in Dublin, where he met Garrick, at the Smock Alley Theatre, as well as his future second wife Ann Barry. In the 1750s and 1760s, he was regarded as the only real competition to Garrick, with whom he had an uneasy relationship, sometimes collaborative and sometimes competitive. He was renowned for his Othello but also played other Shakespearean leading roles. He played Hamlet and Macbeth in alternation with Garrick at Drury Lane. After his move to Covent Garden, he played Romeo in direct competition with Garrick.
Bellamy, George Anne (1731?–88), actress. She played Juliet opposite Garrick's Romeo at Drury Lane in 1750, in competition with Susannah Cibber and Barry in the same roles at Covent Garden – a celebrated rivalry at the time. She was best known for her performances of tragic parts, including Desdemona and Cordelia.
Betterton, Thomas (1635–1710), actor and theatre manager. He was the dominant actor and theatre manager of his age and played numerous Shakespearean leading roles in adaptations by Thomas Shadwell, John Dryden, Nahum Tate and Charles Gildon. He also wrote several adaptations. He introduced continental theatrical practices, which emphasized spectacle, to the London stage. Late in his career, he travelled to Stratford-upon-Avon to research Shakespeare's life. Nicholas Rowe acknowledged Betterton's assistance in his biography of Shakespeare published in the 1709 edition of the plays. He is frequently mentioned with Richard Burbage, David Garrick and John Philip Kemble as one of the great Shakespearean actors in English theatre history.
Booth, Barton (1681–1733), actor. He attended Westminster School (under Dr Richard Busby), where he met Nicholas Rowe. His acting career began at the Smock Alley Theatre in Dublin, but his subsequent career at Drury Lane cemented his reputation as an accomplished tragic actor. Among his Shakespearean tragic roles were Timon of Athens, King Lear, Othello, Brutus, Horatio and Banquo. He was considered nonpareil in the role of the Ghost in Hamlet.
Bracegirdle, Anne (bap. 1671–1748), actress and singer. She was the foremost leading lady at the beginning of the eighteenth century, known for her breeches roles. She played Lady Anne (Richard III) and Desdemona early in her career, and she subsequently performed the roles of Cordelia, Ophelia and Portia. She retired from the stage at a fairly young age in 1707. Together with Thomas Betterton and Elizabeth Barry, she managed the new Lincoln's Inn Fields company, formed in 1695.
Cibber, Colley (1671–1757), playwright, actor and theatre manager. He achieved celebrity status as an actor and theatre manager, and was appointed poet laureate in 1730, much to the disgust of Alexander Pope and other anti-government writers. As a Shakespearean, Cibber wrote adaptations of Richard III and King John. His adaptation of Richard III, which is a radical revision of Shakespeare that incorporates material from the other history plays, was the sole version performed until the nineteenth century, and it has been suggested that Cibber's version is a more playable piece than Shakespeare's. He played several serious Shakespeare roles, but his talents were best suited to comedy.
Cibber, Susannah Maria, née Arne (1714–66), actress and singer. A member of the musical Arne family, she was the sister of the composer Thomas Augustine Arne. Her stage career began as a singer, but at the height of her career she played opposite Garrick in such roles as Cordelia, Ophelia and Perdita. She also played opposite Quin (as Desdemona) and Barry (as Juliet). She was briefly and disastrously married to Theophilus Cibber.
Cibber, Theophilus (1703–58), actor, theatre manager and writer. His career was as colourful as that of his father, Colley Cibber, but his behaviour, both in theatrical circles and private life, was considerably more unpleasant and quarrelsome. He produced a youthful adaptation of Henry VI. He was instrumental in bringing his father's adaptation Papal Tyranny in the Reign of King John (written in the 1720s) to the stage in 1745. He appeared opposite his daughter Jenny (aged fourteen), as Romeo to her Juliet, in his own adapted version of the play; he also appeared with her as Othello to her Desdemona.
Colman, George (the Elder) (1732–94), playwright and theatre manager. He was a friend of Garrick, with whom he collaborated. In 1767 he acquired a share in the ownership of the Covent Garden Theatre. He promoted William Powell as a Shakespearean actor, for whom he adapted King Lear, restoring Shakespeare's design in some measure by eliminating the Edgar/Cordelia love plot, but retaining the happy ending and omitting the Fool. In 1769 he wrote Man and Wife; or, The Shakespeare Jubilee, a comedy that capitalized on the excitement surrounding Garrick's celebration in Stratford. In 1776 he assumed management of the Haymarket Theatre, where he produced summertime programmes that included productions of Shakespeare.
Cooke, George Frederick (1756–1812), actor. He spent much of his career acting in provincial theatres, but he finally made his mark in London with a spectacular debut in 1800 as Richard III, a role for which he became famous.
Cumberland, Richard (1732–1811), novelist and playwright. He adapted Timon of Athens for Garrick at Drury Lane in 1771. Cumberland anonymously defended Garrick against Samuel Foote's satirical attack on Garrick's adaptation of Hamlet.
Dance, James (1721–74), actor and writer, who performed under the name James Love. He debuted on Garrick's stage at Drury Lane in the character of Falstaff, which came to be regarded as his best role. In 1768 he published an adaptation of Shadwell's version of Shakespeare's Timon of Athens.
Foote, Samuel (1721–77), actor and playwright. He received early training from Charles Macklin and made his Shakespeare debut at the Haymarket as Othello opposite Macklin's Iago. Notorious in his day as a satirist and controversialist, Foote was also a writer who produced some trenchant and capable literary criticism.
Garrick, David (1717–79), actor, playwright and theatre manager. He was the most celebrated Shakespearean actor of the eighteenth century and one of the most famous of all time. He was widely credited with introducing a more naturalistic style of acting that projected tragic roles such as Richard III as individuals rather than as representatives of universal passions, although he did not altogether dispense with the prevailing rhetorical method of acting. He played most of Shakespeare's tragic roles but was considered best as King Lear. As theatre manager at Drury Lane he worked tirelessly to improve standards, promote the respectability of the stage, and foster the careers of many prominent actors. As a Shakespearean, he presided over the apotheosis of the playwright as a national icon at the Stratford Jubilee in 1769, an event dogged by disaster but rescued by Garrick's creation of a stage pageant, The Jubilee, that brought the event to London in ninety-one performances at Drury Lane during the 1769–70 season. He was a prolific adapter of Shakespeare's plays, and many of his adaptations held the stage beyond his lifetime.
Henderson, John (1747–85), actor. He had great success as a leading actor in the provinces (Bath, Bristol, Dublin, Liverpool), where he played numerous Shakespearean roles. His London career was short; he was invited by Colman to the Haymarket in 1777, where he made his London debut as Shylock. He was known also for his roles as Hamlet and Iago.
Hull, Thomas (1728–1808), actor and playwright. He had a long career in London playing secondary roles: no fewer than 200 characters. As a playwright, he adapted The Comedy of Errors twice, produced a version of Timon of Athens (based on Shadwell's adaptation) at Covent Garden in 1786, and abridged The Winter's Tale.
Johnson, Charles (1679–1748), playwright and poet. His main connection with Shakespeare was as an adapter. He adapted As You Like It as Love in a Forest, adding elements of A Midsummer Night's Dream to the final act. The Cobler of Preston, an adaptation of The Taming of the Shrew, capitalized on topical interest in the first Jacobite rebellion.
Jordan, Dorothy [Dorothea] (1761–1816), actress. She played prominent female Shakespearean roles, including Viola, Rosalind, Julia, Ophelia and Imogen. While active on the stage, she was mistress to the Duke of Clarence, later King William IV.
Kemble, Charles (1775–1854), actor, playwright and theatre manager. He was a younger brother to John Philip Kemble and Sarah Siddons, overshadowed by his more celebrated siblings. His London debut came at Drury Lane in 1794, playing Malcolm to his elder brother's Macbeth. In the years that followed, he played a number of other junior roles to his brother's leading Shakespeare roles. Eventually he achieved part ownership of the Covent Garden Theatre at a time when the patent theatre monopoly was under attack.
Kemble, John Philip (1757–1823), actor, playwright and theatre manager; brother to Sarah Siddons and Charles. After performing in the provinces for some years, he made his debut at Drury Lane in 1783, in the role of Hamlet. During the years that followed he performed numerous leading tragic roles, many opposite his sister Sarah in the female lead (Othello/Desdemona, Macbeth/Lady Macbeth and Lear/Cordelia, for example). After assuming the management of Drury Lane in 1788, he dominated the London theatre scene for three decades. He acquired part ownership of Covent Garden in 1803 and moved there as manager and leading actor. He adapted most of Shakespeare's plays and was particularly associated with roles in the Roman plays, such as Coriolanus. His approach to acting was characterized by studious research and preparation. Numerous visual records survive of his productions, as well as portraits of him in prominent Shakespeare roles.
King, Thomas (1730–1805), actor and theatre manager. He developed his skills as a comic actor under Thomas Sheridan at the Smock Alley Theatre in Dublin. Upon his return to London in 1759, he embarked upon a career as chief lieutenant to Garrick and, subsequently, Richard Brinsley Sheridan at Drury Lane. He was an important participant in Garrick's celebration of the Shakespeare Jubilee at Stratford in 1769. He was widely considered the greatest comic actor of his age.
Macklin, Charles [Melaghlin, MacLaughlin] (1699–1797), actor and playwright. He became famous for his performance in the role of Shylock when The Merchant of Venice was revived in 1741: his interpretation of the role was serious and dignified, though unsympathetic, a stark contrast with the commedia dell’arte portrayal of Shylock as a low-life character in Granville's adaptation, The Jew of Venice. In the role of Macbeth, he pioneered a new mode of staging Shakespeare that replaced contemporary costuming with a more historicizing attention to time and place. Irascible and litigious in character, he had an uneasy relationship with Garrick, marked by both collaboration and rivalry. He is recognized, along with Garrick, as a key innovator in eighteenth-century theatrical practice, fostering a less artificial, more natural style of acting and staging.
Pope, Elizabeth, née Young (c.1740–97), actress. Beginning in 1768, she performed a number of female Shakespearean roles for Garrick, among them Imogen, Juliet, Miranda, Portia, Viola, and Perdita in Florizel and Perdita (Garrick's adaptation of The Winter's Tale). Trained by Garrick, she exemplified in her work his views on acting. She was known for her ingénue roles, though her acting exhibited a broad range.
Pritchard, Hannah, née Vaughan (1709–68), actress and singer. She was a leading female performer in her day. Her first major success in a Shakespearean role was as Rosalind in the revival of As You Like It in December 1740. She first played opposite Garrick as Gertrude in Hamlet and as Elizabeth in Richard III, the beginning of a strong relationship between the two players. Her role as Lady Macbeth, again with Garrick, brought her great acclaim, and she was recognized as the greatest Lady Macbeth before Sarah Siddons. Her performance was reportedly one of great physical intensity. Both Johan Zoffany and Henry Fuseli produced visual representations of her in the role. Other performances under Garrick's direction included Beatrice, Viola and Emilia. After her death, a marble commemorative tablet was erected in Westminster Abbey, next to the Shakespeare monument.
Quin, James (1693–1766), actor and manager. He was a leading actor in the early part of the eighteenth century, best known as a Shakespearean for his performance in the role of Falstaff. His Shakespearean roles were varied and included Othello, Cymbeline, Lear, and the Duke in Measure for Measure. He is identified with a stately, rhetorical, declamatory style of acting that began to be superseded by the end of his career by the more natural performances of Macklin and Garrick.
Robinson, Mary, née Darby (1758–1800), actress, poet and novelist. She was known as Perdita for her performance of that role in The Winter's Tale. She also performed numerous other Shakespearean roles, beginning in 1776 with Juliet, and went on to play Ophelia, Lady Anne, Lady Macbeth, Viola and Rosalind. She subsequently had a career as a poet and, perhaps most importantly, novelist.
Sheridan, Thomas (1719–88), actor, educator and orthoepist. He began his theatrical career in Dublin, where he played Richard III in 1743, and he subsequently managed the united companies of the Aungier Street and Smock Alley theatres. He had an uneven career in London, where he made his debut as Hamlet in 1744. Though he elicited comparisons to Garrick, he was a lesser performer who was not very well suited to heroic leading roles. His son was the brilliant playwright, theatre manager and politician, Richard Brinsley Sheridan.
Siddons, Sarah, née Kemble (1755–1831), actress. She was the eldest child of the great Kemble acting family, which included brothers John Philip and Charles. Her debut on the London stage in 1775 as Portia in The Merchant of Venice did not go well, and Garrick did not re-engage her for the following season. She turned to the provincial stage and made her reputation at Bath from 1778 to 1782, when she was acclaimed in the roles that subsequently made her famous: Constance in King John, Queen Katherine in Henry VIII, and Lady Macbeth. When she returned to the London stage in the early 1780s she swept all before her with the intensity of her performances, especially in tragic roles. Her portrayals of vulnerable, betrayed or thwarted women appear to have resonated powerfully with the female members of her audience. Her performance of Lady Macbeth, in particular, was legendary: illustrations of her in the role circulated widely, and it remains definitive to this day. She played many Shakespearean roles opposite her brother John Philip, and her performances of Queen Katherine and of Volumnia (in Coriolanus) contributed to the success of her brother's productions of Shakespeare in the Romantic period.
Woffington, Margaret (Peg) (1720?–60), actress. Like those of many eighteenth-century Shakespeareans, her formative years were on the Dublin stage, and she divided her career between Dublin and London. She played a wide variety of Shakespearean roles and achieved early success as Cordelia. She played Queen Anne opposite Garrick's celebrated Richard III. For several years she was in an affair with Garrick, who considered marriage, but their relationship foundered. She was assertive in the pursuit of her career and profession, and as a result her personal reputation suffered in later years.
Woodward, Henry (1714–77), actor and pantomime player. He began his career in pantomime, taking on the prime role of Harlequin after training under John Rich, manager of the Lincoln's Inn Fields Theatre. From this beginning, he branched out into straight acting parts, where he excelled in comic roles, building on his experience as a pantomimist. From 1748, he worked under Garrick, winning acclaim in the role of Mercutio and playing Petruchio opposite Kitty Clive.
Yates, Mary Ann (1728–87), actress and theatre manager. As a Shakespearean actress, she performed tragic roles with Garrick in the 1760s, supporting and eventually succeeding Susannah Cibber and Hannah Pritchard. Among her roles were Cleopatra, Constance, Imogen, Desdemona and Cordelia. In 1767 she moved to Covent Garden under Colman, where she expanded her repertoire of Shakespeare roles. Between the death of Cibber and the ascendance of Sarah Siddons, she was the leading tragic actress on the London stage. In 1773 she briefly joined with Frances Brooke in managing the King's Theatre, where opera was performed.
For eighteenth-century critical commentary not specifically focussed on contemporary performance, see section 2.2, above. For guides to eighteenth-century periodicals and performance reviews, see sections 2.4 and 2.5, above.
The London Stage, 1660–1800; a Calendar of Plays, Entertainments and Afterpieces, Together with Casts, Box-receipts and Contemporary Comment. Compiled from the Playbills, Newspapers and Theatrical Diaries of the Period, 5 vols. in 11(Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1960–8): Part 1: 1660–1700, ed. W. Van Lennep, introd. E. L. Avery and A. H. Scouten; Part 2: 1700–1729, ed. E. L. Avery, 2 vols.; Part 3: 1729–1747, ed. A. H. Scouten, 2 vols.; Part 4: 1747–1776, ed. G. W. Stone, 3 vols.; Part 5: 1776–1800, ed. C. B. Hogan, 3 vols.; Index to The London Stage, compiled by Ben Ross Schneider, Jr (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1979). Judith Milhous and Robert D. Hume are currently engaged in a project to update The London Stage; a draft of parts of the updated version (for 1700–11) is currently accessible online. See Milhous and Hume, ‘The London Stage, 1660–1800: A New Version of Part 2, 1700–1729’, www.personal.psu.edu/faculty/h/b/hb1/London%20Stage%202001.