May 1, 2012

As we saw in yesterday’s post, the Wenceslaus Hollar drawings of the Globe theatre show the theatre within the broader context of London, and highlight the competing demands on the attentions of audiences for Shakespeare’s plays.  The theatre, soon to disappear from that landscape, was re-invented in 1997, in quite different context but as historically-based facsimile, as “Shakespeare’s Globe.”   

This arc–from Globe to “Shakespeare’s Globe,” from playwright to English national icon–is one of the themes traced by the Remembering Shakespeare exhibition.    As Matt Hunter has already remarked, the Jubilee festival organized by David Garrick in Stratford upon Avon in 1769 was a significant moment in the “em-Barding” of Shakespeare as an English national treasure.  Three items on loan to the exhibition from the collections of Yale University’s Lewis Walpole Library capture the astonishing visual pageantry that Garrick planned for the Shakespeare Jubilee.  Below, the first of these:  a 1769 engraving of Mr Garrick reciting the Ode in honor of Shakespeare at the Jubilee at Stratford; with the musical performers

Mr Garrick reciting the Ode in honor of Shakespeare at the Jubilee at Stratford [London, 1769].  From the collections of the Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University

Garrick, shown here at center, gazed upon by an adoring statue of Shakespeare behind, was nothing if not the master of this type of performance.  The “musical performers” can be seen here with their song-books, ready to burst into chorus: “Let Rapture sweep the strings, / Fame expand her wings, / With her trumpet-tongues proclaim, / The lov’d, rever’d, immortal name! / SHAKESPEARE!  SHAKESPEARE!  SHAKESPEARE!”

And yet, of course, this chorus, and Garrick’s ode, were for the most part read, rather than heard, and the spectacle itself seen in print, as here, rather than in performance.  One of Garrick’s achievements was to bring Shakespeare performed–or lauded–out of the Jubilee and its later re-staging in the London theatre, and into the visual cultures of print.  While not without detractors, some measure of Garrick’s success, and that of his Jubilee, can be seen in William Smith’s 1781 Lessons in elocution, in which Garricks’ Ode follows “Perturbation” (Lear and Merry Wives of Windsor), “Chearfulness” (Titus Andronicus), and Hope (Merchant of Venice) in an appendix of “proper concluding pieces” on the art of speaking, and speaking well, in English.

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