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3. 19th Century

1814

Edmund Kean makes his London debut at the Drury Lane Theatre as Shylock in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. Kean was to become one of the leading actors of his time. He excelled in several important Shakespearian roles, including Richard III, Othello, Hamlet, and Lear.

Edmund Kean as Hamlet
Edmund Kean as Hamlet. The Life of E.K., 2 Volumes, 1835. British Library, 10825.bb.1, v. 1, p. 97. Larger image

1844-1862

The actor Samuel Phelps presents seasons of serious drama, notably Shakespeare, at the Sadler’s Wells Theatre. He gives plays by Shakespeare not seen since the dramatist’s own time, for example Pericles. He also restores (as far as possible) the early Shakespearean texts, for example Richard III.

1850-1859

Charles Kean, the son of Edmund Kean and also an actor, presents Shakespeare’s history plays in spectacular productions intended to recreate medieval and Tudor England. He also presents The Merchant of Venice set in Renaissance Italy, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream set in classical Greece.

1853-1865

Publication of a 16-volume folio edition of Shakespeare’s plays by James Orchard Halliwell-Phillipps. This limited edition is extensively illustrated.

1861-1871

Facsimiles of the early quarto editions of Shakespeare’s plays, produced by lithography, published by James Orchard Halliwell-Phillipps and Edmund William Ashbee.

1864

Tercentenary of Shakespeare’s birth celebrated at Stratford-upon-Avon, with a variety of entertainments inspired by Garrick’s Shakespeare Jubilee of 1769. There are also celebrations in London.

1864-1866

Facsimile of the First Folio, produced by photolithography, published ‘under the superintendance’ of Howard Staunton. The facsimile is issued in 16 monthly parts, which are gathered to form a single volume.

1874

Henry Irving plays the title-role in Hamlet in London for the first time. The production at the Lyceum Theatre is a triumph and runs for 200 performances.

1878-1902

Henry Irving manages the Lyceum Theatre, where he presents Shakespeare in lavish productions with designs influenced by leading painters. His productions are large in scale, with many supernumeraries for crowd scenes, trying to recreate the historical contexts of Shakespeare ’s original plays.

Macbeth and Macduff
'Macbeth and Macduff', by A. Fredericks, reflecting the historical style of productions by Irving and others. Austin Brereton, Shakespearean Scenes and Characters, 1886. British Library, 11765.i.3, plate opposite p. 55. Larger image

1879

Opening of the first Shakespeare Memorial Theatre at Stratford-upon-Avon, with a production of Much Ado About Nothing.

1888-1890

The Henry Irving Shakespeare published in 8 volumes. The set of volumes has many illustrations by the painter Gordon Browne, which suggest the style of Irving’s productions.

1895-1905

The actor-manager William Poel tries to recreate the stage conditions of Shakespeare’s times in productions for the Elizabethan Stage Society. The plays include Hamlet, performed in 1900 with an all-male cast.

 
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