May 3, 2012

Continuation of the Procession of Shakespear’s Characters [London, 1769].  From the collections of the Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University.

Eleven characters line up for the Continuation of the Procession of Shakspear’s Characters.  At the tail, the gravedigger from Hamlet mutters that “He that is not guilty of his own Death shortens not his own life.”  At the procession’s head, Wolsey asks “How wretched is that poor Man that hangs on Princes Favours,” closely flanked by Henry VIII himself and Katherine of Aragon; a few heads behind, Shylock requests  “Tell me not of mercy—I’ll have my  Bond.”

These two plates correspond to Garrick’s staging of the processions at the Drury Lane Theatre, a wild spectacle of actors, musicians, gunfire (for effect), and ringing bells.  As Vanessa Cunningham writes, in her Shakespeare and Garrick (Cambridge, 2008), a manuscript of Garrick’s The Jubilee, held in the collections of the Huntington Library, documents Garrick’s plans and expectations for the performance.  “And the audience applauds,” it reads.  “Bravo Jubilee! Shakespeare forever!”

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