Specimens of English Dramatic Criticism, XVII-XX Centuries

By A. C. Ward | Go to book overview

IRVING IN SHAKESPEARE

Hamlet: Lyceum Theatre, November 1874

ALTHOUGH Mr. Irving has on several occasions played Hamlet in the provinces, he has now assumed the part for the first time in London. His performance attracted a very large audience, and, it may be said at once, secured every evidence of complete success. Mr. Irving was applauded as though he were another Garrick; he was recalled at every opportunity, and rewarded with as many crowns of laurel wreaths and bouquets of flowers as though he had been Mdme. Patti herself. This enthusiasm was no doubt excessive, but it may not be condemned as spurious, although certainly containing a suspicious element. Mr. Irving's Hamlet is the conscientious effort of an intelligent and experienced player, and presents just claims to respectful consideration and a fair measure of approval. It seemed, however, that the audience were predisposed to form an exaggerated estimate of the merits of the performance. In truth, the difficulty of winning favour in such a part as Hamlet is less great than is generally supposed. The character is well known among players to be secure of applause to any representative possessed of certain physical qualifications, some knowledge of the stage, and thorough acquaintance with the words of the play. Indeed, it is difficult to call to mind any representation of Hamlet which did not elicit abundance of applause for its leading player: the actor of Hamlet is so helped by the nature

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1
Extracts from Dutton Cook's extended notices of these productions.

-162-

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