This engraving depicts William Charles Macready and Helen Faucit as Lear and Cordelia in a key production of King Lear from 1838. It features in an illustrated edition of the works of Shakespeare from the 1850s. From the image, we can tell something about the staging of the performance. Macready kept with British theatrical tradition (started by Garrick in 1756) by playing Lear dressed in a scarlet robe trimmed with ermine. The painted backdrops showed epic, prehistoric landscapes to heighten the tragedy of the play. As is evident from this image, Macready reinstated Shakespeare’s tragic ending in which Cordelia has been murdered in prison, an ending that had been cut from Tate’s adaptation of the play, which had dominated the stage for 150 years.
- Article by:
- Alice Rylance-Watson
Alice Rylance-Watson tells the story of a late-18th century art venture, the Boydell Shakespeare Gallery, which occasioned some of the most beautiful and iconic paintings of Shakespearean scenes. She discusses the relationship between commerce and fine art, and outlines the important role Boydell's enterprise played in the rise of British bardolatry.
- Article by:
- Kiernan Ryan
- Tragedies, Power, politics and religion
Professor Kiernan Ryan argues that the subversive spirit of King Lear remains as powerful as ever, four centuries after it was first performed.