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,, ' I \ t •• ~, ~ : • .. I I i ' • ~ ' \.·.' I . I . ' I '• SHAKES?EARE AND WILLL~~ POEL / . ARTHUR CoLBY SPRAGUE. ON May 2,,1881, Othello was magnificently revived in London. Irv:ing 1· had invited Edwin Booth, who was' playing with a weak company elsewhere, to visit him at the' Lyceum, and the two great actors alternated' in ·the ·parts of !ago arid the Moor; with Ellen Terry as Desdemona. One hears of the "tumultuous applause" which ~hey received, of the hard- . \ shoving throng at the pit door, .the many ·artists and authors who were present, th~ factions of "Boothites," ((Irvingites/' and "Terryites., It ~ was a_·. production which couid be cited with pride as evidence ((that this_ nineteenth century of ours ... is not whqlly unworthy to enjoy the heritage·of Shakespeare.';1·By comparison, the single matinee of Hamlet at St. George's Hall, the month before, had ·attracted little attention. It had _ been given, tn·deed, by amateurs and quite without scenery. On February 12, the -Academy noted ,that "the issue of facsimiles of the Shakspere quartos by Mr. Griggs and Mr. Furni_ vall has already led to one unexpected good ~esult 1 ••• a member of the New Shakspere Society, Dr. W. Pole; and som~ amateur students and critics have resolved on giving, what· Shakspere. stu,dents and critics have long desire'd to see"-a·representation of the First Quarto edition of Ham/et,' "preserving its ?rder of scenes, following its stage . directions and omissions, and ·correcting .only the manifest blunders -of its ' 'text." A mis-statement in this noti~e was swiftly corrected. Dr. _Pole, ' I' F.R.S., ·"engineer, musician, and authority on whist," dis.claimed any connection with the venture. It was his son, William Poel, to use hi~ stagename , for the young man• was an actor, who was responsible. Furnivall of the New Shakspere Society was likewise interested, si~ce ther~ were theories about this most unorthodox Quart~ which could be tested by seeing ··it played. The 'Academy had another cordial notice on-April 9. The performance is to be "next .Saturday afternoon, April 16,; Elizabethan costumes are' to be worn; instead of elaborate scenery there will only be ((perhaps a little tapestry~ . ... This all sounds as ·if it were going to be distinctly inter~ ' esting." A• scholarly review followed on April 23. Nothing~ indeed, is said of the staging, but the First Quarto proved to be a complete and actable play. 1The performance itself was certainly up to the average of amateur performances of a high ' class. · The only failure was the Ghost.... Hamlet was personated by Mr. W. Poel, who too_ k on himself the burden of getting up ;the play, training the minor actors, and superin,:tending every detail. He_looked the pale and thoughtful student to ·the life, and in some passages moved his audience· to warm applause; but.his voice arid he were hardly up tQ the requirements of his part-who, indeed, is?-and his emphasis was sometime_ s faulty. lMowbray Morris, Essays in Thcatrical _ Crilicism (London, 1882), 9S.· 29 3 'II.,.. , j ·. . \- . •' .. ' - , I t· ' ' '. ,, ! ' • ' I !. I ., . I . I , I :. , \1 .·.·.' '• t1 ' I 'I ' I.,; I ' ' I' .._ .: ..· ' 30 THE UNIVERSITY .OF TORONTO QUARTERLY . ; . ' ' .,~ ~ ,-;·writing many years la-t~-r, Peel claimed for the production that it was ."the first ·revivai'~of the draped stage ... in this country or elsewhere."9 'fhere was no vestige of-scenery, nor even.locality boards; only a raised platform, on .whit]:l, for instance, the:dumb show was pr~sented.3 Wjth no intermission-another instance.of daring-the performance lasted only two hours. A boy appeared as ·th~ Player Queen. As 'tOfelia-,'' Maud Holt (who later became Lady Tree) carried a lute instead of the customary flowers in the Mad Scene.4 · · The conservatives we~e up· in arms at one~. The reductio ad absurdum, - an argument which was often to be used against Poel in the years to c· ome, _, was atteJl1pted in the Saturday Review. Why no·t go further stilLand present the play by daylight or candlelight? Ophelia and Gertrude should be · ' acted by· boys. The costumes, to be consistent, ought certainly to have been mod~rri, not...


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