Tile showing Mrs Lessingham as Ophelia


By the 18th century, leading female actors were becoming celebrities, and merchandise such as this decorative tile was being sold to the theatre-going public. The tile shows Jane Lessingham (1738/9–1783) in the role of Ophelia from Hamlet.

Lessingham’s naval officer husband divorced her when she gave birth while he was at sea, and she probably became an actor to support herself. She became the mistress of Thomas Harris, the manager of the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, and during a dispute over control of the theatre she argued for her rights, including a private dressing room and the role of Imogen in Cymbeline.

Full title:
Liverpool delft transfer-printed theatrical tile with trelliswork borders interrupted at the sides with theatrical trophies, and printed in black; Mrs Lessingham in the character of Ophelia (4 15/16 inches)
1777–80, Liverpool
Guy Green
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Folger 241098 ART (realia) (B2d). Used by permission of the Folger Shakespeare Library under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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Folger Shakespeare Library
Folger 241098 ART (realia) (B2d)

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