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This essay establishes a link between Garrick’s operatic adaptation of The Tempest, which opened at Drury Lane on 11 February 1756, and the imminent escalation of the French and Indian War (1754–63) into the Seven Years’ War (1756–63). In this essay, Massai argues that Garrick’s Tempest, generally dismissed as a flop and as an embarrassing misjudgement on his part, takes on greater topical significance and political resonance if reconsidered alongside the ‘Dialogue’ that Garrick wrote to be performed as prologue to the opera. By means of a close analysis of both texts, alongside Dryden and Davenant’s earlier adaptation of The Tempest (1667), Massai shows how Garrick’s opera and ‘Dialogue’ are in fact representative of wartime uses of Shakespeare, which, as this collection shows, often served as an important platform for the fashioning of current attitudes towards military conflict.
The ‘Crimean’ or Russian War (as its contemporaries termed it) was fought as a worldwide imperial struggle for power that took place on many fronts including in the Arctic. Just as tensions between Britain and Russia were coming to a head, The Taming of the Shrew premiered at the Royal Arctic Theatre on the HMS Resolute. Announced by a playbill that suggested monarchical patronage, the production employed all the conventions of London theatricals: grand decorations and costumes, a prologue and afterpiece, music and dancing. Threaded throughout with patriotic references, the theatre event culminated in a rousing rendition of ‘God Save the Queen’. Encouraging social cohesion and boosting morale, Shakespeare served as a reminder of shared British values and cherished traditions. Such expressions of unity and resolve were essential in anticipation of the war that was finally declared on 28 March 1854. William T. Mumford’s playbill brings to light this rich, complex, and forgotten moment in British wartime history in which ‘Shakespeare’ played a unique part as catalyst for affirming national identity, British naval pride, and loyalty to the Crown.
Built around two visits to Westminster Abbey, this short coda compares early eighteenth-century attitudes to theatrical transitions to William Hazlitt's and Charles Lamb's writing about actors. Both Lamb and Hazlitt emerge as hostile to what I have called the art of transition, as they each denigrate the performance of a character in favour of the study of that figure’s psychological constitution.
This chapter reveals the elaboration of a set of critical priorities, transition prime among them, crystallised by Aaron Hill in the 1730s. Offering what he claimed to be a purified version of pantomime’s techniques for arresting attention, Hill wrote of how actors could become a ‘true FAUSTUS’ for the theatres through transition, creating iconic and dynamic moments of suspension during which they could shift mind and body from one passion to another. Hill’s emphases continue into the time of David Garrick, whose transitions into ‘pensively preparatory attitudes’ were praised as intellectual achievements and blamed as pantomimical tricks. Ultimately, pauses and the transitions that occurred upon them became moments when an actor could be described as asserting their artistic autonomy and the focal point of critical attention. The realisation of Hill’s dreams — a theatre where sophisticated emotion replaced slapstick motion as the key source of spectacle — soon, however, risked becoming a Faustian pact, for an insight into the transitions of a play seemed to demand as much private attention to the page as public engagement with the stage.
King Lear was considered as David Garrick’s most significant part. I argue that this judgement depends on the extent to which this play (following Nahum Tate’s and Garrick’s alterations of Shakespeare’s text) offered a remarkable sequence of contrasting emotions through the performance of madness. The representation of Lear’s insanity required a mastery of the art of transition, yet Garrick’s practice of such an art was not without its challenges. While his critics explored the aesthetic, sociological, and psychological questions of how to perform a king’s madness, performance editions and promptbook markings reveal Garrick’s own efforts to render the part’s transitions with everything from innovative make-up to minute textual editing. Such transitions, and those of Edgar’s pretend madness, ultimately performed an essential function, moderating and so maintaining spectators’ emotional engagement in the Tate-Garrick tragedy. Such moderation is alien to Shakespeare’s play of 1608, and, while the eighteenth-century Lear can tell us much about a celebrated performance in Georgian London, it thus also serves as a critical standpoint for re-evaluating the structures of Jacobean tragedy.
Francis Gentleman recorded that David Garrick’s performance of Thomas Otway's Jaffeir ‘beggars description, by an amazing variety of transitions, tones and picturesque attitudes’. I use Gentleman's commentary to introduce here the concept of transition with respect to three things: theatrical practice, theories of the passions, and the eighteenth-century understanding of the mind in wonder. My argument throughout is that the identification of transitions leads to simultaneous recognition of the iconic and dynamic qualities of an object.
This chapter traces the fortunes of Aaron Hill’s English translation (1735) of Voltaire’s tragedy Zaïre (1732), from its first performance under Hill’s direction outside the patent theatres to David Garrick’s reworking of it at Drury Lane. I show that Zara’s scepticism of established religion and her father’s deathbed proselytising are used by Hill to produce what his friend John Dennis called an ‘enthusiastic’ passion and suggest that Voltaire’s work appealed to Hill for its handling of religious material capable of producing extreme sequences of sublime emotions. At the same time, Hill’s Zara is also an exposition of what Hill described as ‘dramatic passions’. Those who read, saw, or performed Zara could witness the outward marks of many passions and trace on stage and on the page their performance through transition to the very instant. Such opportunities made the play perfect for what Hill called an ‘Experiment’ on English tastes and acting. When Garrick came to revive this experiment in the 1750s, its passions become the property of Garrick himself, as he rewrote sections of the play to favour his character of Lusignan.
This chapter tests the claim made by Peter Brook: that through the live practice of drama, the work of Shakespeare offers ‘the greatest school of living’ that we know. Using the resources of philosophy, psychology and neuroscience, it tries to show how the sudden, deep language of Shakespeare, in particular in Macbeth and King Lear, dramatically discloses lost and neglected forms of being, in a primary emotional aliveness that is denied or tamed within more conventional world-orders. Where other writers give us only secondary versions or paraphrases of nature, Shakespeare, said Hazlitt, offers ‘the original text’ of life.
This chapter is organized around Diderot, who gave much attention to the craft of acting, and remains the best-known eighteenth-century theorist of acting. In two essays of the 1750s, Diderot conjured up a vision of twentieth-century naturalism, echoing Saint-Albine’s fashionable emphasis on feeling, while in his later Paradox on the Actor he argued that the best actors reproduce emotion on stage through cold analysis. Diderot invoked numerous contemporary actors, and this chapter establishes how the point of view of these actors differed profoundly from that attributed to them by Diderot. Antoine-François Riccoboni: who emphasized core technique for the benefit of amateurs. Marie-Jeanne Riccoboni: patronizingly dismissed by Diderot, who went on to adopt her arguments. Marie-Madeleine Jodin: a rebellious protégée who rejected his advice. Michel ‘Kelly’ Sticotti: a jobbing actor whose ideas had a complex genesis. Hyppolite Clairon: a remarkable actress and teacher whose published account of the acting process offers a more subtle analysis than Diderot. François-Joseph Talma: an articulate actor who challenged Diderot’s attack on Sticotti. Coda: theatre and oratory: two modes that remained closely related, despite claims that theatre somehow ‘liberated’ itself from oratory.
The term ‘declamation’ shifted its meaning from a training and display exercise undertaken by orators to a mode of speech used by tragic actors. By the end of the seventeenth century, the logic of grammar had suppressed the vagaries of orality, and the term ‘declamation’ served to define that which separated dramatic speech from the speech of everyday life. Because speech is driven by the breath and produced by the body, the thought or idea expressed by the actor could not be dissociated from their feeling or passion. In the sixteenth century and for much of the seventeenth century the dramatic text was conceived as sonorous matter, a visual sign of corporeal actions. The second phase follows from words becoming the arbitrary signs of ideas. From the perspective of a modern taste for self-expression, the earlier conception of the text as a score places unwelcome constraints upon the actor’s freedom.
In this essay Michael Dobson considers the evolution of certain habitual cuts to the text of Hamlet between the seventeenth and early twentieth centuries, identifying in particular a tendency to increase the abruptness with which the play's last act interrupts its otherwise digressive movement. Looking in particular at the fate of Fortinbras, he examines changes to the ways in which these cuts have been indicated to readers, arguing that a decisive separation between the play as read and as acted makes itself felt at the turn of the nineteenth century. He concludes with a discussion of when and why it became desirable to advertise not manageably edited stage versions, but ‘uncut’ marathons. Michael Dobson is Director of the Shakespeare Institute in Stratford-upon-Avon and Professor of Shakespeare Studies at the University of Birmingham. His publications include the co-editorship of The Oxford Companion to Shakespeare, Shakespeare and Amateur Performance, Performing Shakespeare's Tragedies Today, and The Making of the National Poet.
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