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16 September 2016: The Lesser Known Works of David Garrick

 David Garrick is known for his incredible influence on the practice of theatre. He was a pioneer in the world of the stage, both as an actor and theatre manager. He was vital in the revivification of Shakespeare’s reputation in the 18th century and managed the Drury Lane theatre for twenty nine years. Garrick is remembered for his portrayal of his many Shakespearean roles and his promotion of realistic acting rather than the prior methods of passionating. He decided to reform the behaviour of theatre audiences and attempted to abolish the half-price tickets patrons would receive for coming in after the interval. Garrick’s work as an actor and a theatre reformer is well documented and discussed. However, less is written about his influence on the literary side of theatre.

Elizabeth P. Stein discusses Garrick’s literary efforts in great detail in her book David Garrick, Dramatist. Although Garrick’s abilities as a playwright are often dismissed, he adapted many plays from the Restoration era which may otherwise have been forgotten. Stein discusses Garrick’s French adaptations, pantomimes, burlesques, comedies and more in this interesting text on Garrick’s work.

We have a first edition, presentation copy of Stein’s text. To the endpaper there is a note from Stein addressed to Maurice Evans in appreciation of his performance in Shakespeare’s Richard II and in anticipation of the many more great characterisations he will present in the future. It is signed April 5, 1938. Maurice Evans was a British-American actor who was well-known, like Garrick, for his interpretations of Shakespearean characters. However, he is best known on screen as portraying Dr. Zaius in Planet of the Apes and Samantha Stephens’ father Maurice in Bewitched. Evans was in more American television productions of Shakespeare than any other actor. Parallels can be drawn between him and Garrick for their popularisation of the Bard. American television had never before shown feature-length dramatisations of Shakespeare until those starring Evans were televised. This followed his belief that an actor should lead public taste and not play to it. Clearly, Garrick played influence to Evans’s work as a Shakespearean actor and the provenance of this book adds to its fascinating discussion of a lesser documented side of David Garrick.

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