Published online by Cambridge University Press: 24 August 2022
Harley Granville-Barker is widely recognized for his innovative approach to the presentation of Shakespeare on stage. By removing elaborate scenic décor in favour of a more open stage, Barker broke with the traditions of Victorian Shakespeare, which had prioritized an aesthetic of scenic realism. His approach allowed for far fewer cuts to the playscript – often needed in past productions of Shakespeare because of the time it took to change the scenery – and a faster pace of delivery and action. His productions of The Winter’s Tale and Twelfth Night (1912) and his A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1914) at the Savoy Theatre revolutionized the staging of Shakespeare and would come to define ‘modern’ Shakespeare production, influencing generations of directors, from Peter Brook and Peter Hall to Richard Eyre and Adrian Noble. Barker had been planning on staging Macbeth, but his Shakespeare productions were interrupted by the outbreak of World War I, after which he largely turned his back on theatre in favour of academic study.1 Barker moved from London to the relative isolation of Devon, before emigrating to Paris in 1930. He fled Paris for the US in 1940, shortly before the fall of France, returning to Paris in 1946 and passing away the same year.