April 24th

David Garrick, with so many others, helped to turn performances of Shakespeare into commodities of high cultural standing; by the nineteenth century, such performances had taken on such life, popularity, on authority that there was money to be made in selling not just Shakespeare’s works, and not even, as we have seen, illustrations of Shakespeare’s works, but illustrations of the performances of Shakespeare’s plays. Take, for instance, these souvenirs from a showing of Henry VIII, performed in 1892 and featuring the celebrated Shakesperean actor Henry Irving:

Occupying the center of our attention, here, is not the fictive role the actor has taken on–Cardinal Wolsey, Henry VIII, for instance–so much as the actor taking on the role Shakespeare has written.

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