Charles Macklin: An Actor's Life

Charles Macklin: An Actor's Life

Charles Macklin: An Actor's Life

Charles Macklin: An Actor's Life

Excerpt

Charles Macklin's life spans virtually the entire eighteenth century. As an actor he links the age of Cibber with the age of Kemble. Overshadowed by Garrick, he is remembered today, if at all, as an interpreter of Shylock and for his part in effecting a change in acting styles. His career was a tempestuous one, but it has an interest beyond the merely sensational. His lifelong struggle against the piracy of his plays helped to pave the way for the later laws of literary property. His successful suit against the Covent Garden rioters to a very real degree furthered the actor's status. Above all, his fastidious attention to staging and interpretation contributed much to the evolution of the modern stage director.

The four biographies of Macklin are long since out of print. The earliest, by Congreve, is generally accurate but sketchy in the extreme. The subsequent accounts by Kirkman and Cooke, though essential to our knowledge of the man, are at times erratic and untrustworthy. The last, by Parry, though more reliable, is essentially a pastiche of the preceding ones.

It has been my good fortune to have had access to a considerable body of manuscript sources, and I feel deeply grateful to the Huntington Library, the Harvard Theatre Collection, and the Folger Library for permitting me to make use of these materials. Among other institutions which have generously aided me in my research and permitted me to draw on their resources I should like to mention the National Library, Dublin; the Royal Irish Academy; the Office of . . .

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