Manchester, December 1899
MR. BENSON, whom nothing seems to tire, played Richard II on Saturday afternoon and Petruchio in the evening. Of the latter one need not at this time of day say much. Like his Hamlet--of which by a misprint we were made to say the other day that it was one of his 'least known' instead of one of his 'best known' pieces of acting,--it is familiar to every Manchester playgoer. It is unconventional, and in that sense contentious; when it was seen in London ten years ago those of the critics who hold a brief for the conventions of the moment were scandalised at the notion that anything Shaksperean or partly Shaksperean should be played in a vein so boisterous. By this time one would hope that Mr. Benson must have brought it home to everybody that the play is itself a roaring extravanganza, only to be carried off at all upon the stage by a sustained rush of high spirits that leaves no time to think. Is is full of legible notices to this effect--the burlesque bidding for Bianca, for instance, and the 'my horse, my ox, my ass' speech, and endless others. Mr. Benson's gusty and tearing Petruchio, with a lyrical touch of romance in the voice and look here and there in his delivery of lines like
Such wind as scatters young men through the world, To seek their fortunes further than at home, Where small experience grows,
strikes us as not only the best Petruchio we have seen but the only reading of the part that will hold water.