Graphic Design Critical Essay On Hamlet

Visual Representations of Hamlet, 1709-1900

Alan R. Young

Harold Copping - Hamlet


The format of the New Variorum editions of Shakespeare’s works primarily facilitates two aspects of Shakespeare studies: the history of textual transmission and the history of critical analysis. As such, the New Variorum editions offer an invaluable insight into the critical reception of Shakespeare. But the history of the evolving cultural construct that we know as “Shakespeare” long ago left the carefully charted harbor of bibliographic and critical studies. “Shakespeare” is a cultural phenomenon, we increasingly understand, that has become familiar since the latter part of the seventeenth century through media that often have a self-sustaining life of their own. The works produced in these other media may sometimes be only remotely related to the specifics of Shakespeare’s texts and the huge body of critical writings that have commented upon those texts. Prominent among these other media of cultural transmission are music, dance, film, and the visual arts. What follows here is an attempt to provide a brief account of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century visual representations related to Hamlet and their place within the Shakespeare construct. As will be seen, some visual artifacts, illustrations for printed editions being the obvious example, may have a very close relationship to specific printed texts. Thus, for the student of textual transmission, a pictorial illustration is (or should be) considered as playing an irrefutable role within the totality of an edition, its existence being part of the final editorial artifact. This holds true even if the editor of the text being studied had no control, as was often the case, over the choice of illustration and of its location within the text, those responsibilities having been assumed by publisher or printer. On the other hand, just as valid as records of the Shakespeare construct are visual representations that exist independently of any specific edition and that may at the same time have only a tenuous link to the specifics of Shakespeare’s words.
In what follows rests the assumption that visual representations of Shakespeare’s works need to be seen as integral to the study of Shakespeare and the transmission of his texts. This is because the visual representations help reveal how Shakespeare and his works were perceived within the culture at large. Of key significance here are not just those members of the public who owned copies of Shakespeare’s works or attended performances of his plays, but that much broader spectrum of the literate and not-so-literate who absorbed and responded to Shakespeare in their homes, when browsing in print shops, when reading in coffee houses, or (a rarer experience) when visiting an art gallery or exhibition. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the dissemination of images of the plays in part took place through costly illustrated editions and large and expensive works of art. Many of those artifacts, however familiar to us today through reproduction, may have had an impact upon only a small segment of society. However, at the same time, there occurred an ever-accelerating proliferation of mass-produced works of art, made available, particularly as the nineteenth century unfolded, through new reproductive processes, and made affordable because of new industrial and marketing methods and new developments in transportation. An account of the history of the visual representations of any Shakespeare play must therefore take account of not just the illustrated editions of that play but of the much wider range of images concerning it that were available within the culture at large. (For an account of a number of images that burlesque Hamlet topics, see Young 2007, passim.)

The Earliest Hamlet Images: Tonson’s 1709 Edition

The first ever Hamlet image appeared in Jacob Tonson’s 1709 six-volume edition of Shakespeare, edited by a well-known playwright of the time, Nicholas Rowe. Tonson, an astute businessman, had obtained the copyright for Shakespeare’s plays (Geduld 1969, 198-200). Having already published illustrated editions of Milton’s Paradise Lost and Dryden’s translation of Virgil, Tonson clearly felt that an edition of Shakespeare “Adorn’d with Cuts,” as its title-page stated, would sell. Along with the services of Rowe, he therefore engaged the services of designers and engravers to provide a frontispiece portrait of Shakespeare to be used in each volume and a prefatory engraving for each play that would depict a specific scene from that play. Just who designed and who engraved what, however, remains conjectural in the case of many of the illustrations. Various features of Tonson’s edition – its “modern” orthography, its consistent act and scene divisions, its frequent scene locations, its inclusion of a biography of Shakespeare, and its six-volume octavo format – suggest that Tonson aimed to make Shakespeare more accessible and intelligible to a wider range of potential purchasers than would have been the case for yet another single-volume folio edition. Copies of the new edition printed on normal paper sold for thirty shillings a set, and there appears to have been enough demand that Tonson was forced to reset his type and produce a further edition in 1709. Even so, although Tonson’s work must have been more accessible in size and ease of use than its Fourth Folio predecessor, it was still an expensive affair, affordable only to relatively monied readers. Familiar as its Hamlet engraving may be to us from its many modern reproductions and analyses, it cannot have been familiar to many readers in the eighteenth century.

The engraving in question appeared in Volume Five. It depicted the Closet Scene at the moment when the Ghost made his dramatic appearance. Now generally assumed to have been designed by François Boitard and engraved by one of Tonson’s team of engravers, Elisha Kirkall (Hammelmann 1968, 1-4), the engraving has engendered a great deal of speculation. Is the bewigged figure of Hamlet, with his “down gyved” stocking, his contemporary mourning dress, and his “start” in reaction to the Ghost intended as a likeness of Thomas Betterton, who had last performed the role in 1706? Is the engraving intended to reflect the contemporary staging of the Closet Scene? If so, the appearance of the Ghost in full armor, complete with truncheon, is significant, as are the two portraits on the wall at the rear, suggestive of how Hamlet would have made his mother compare the features of her two husbands. The heavy drape at top left, hanging as though from a proscenium, the bare floor, the general lack of furniture, Hamlet’s overturned chair (a familiar piece of stage business), and the two wall sconces that provide illumination in a fashion common in theaters at the time are all further features suggesting that Boitard is recording what he may have observed in the theater. And yet, as with so many images of Shakespeare’s plays, the temptation to use such a picture as evidence for performance history requires an extremely cautious response.

The Earliest Hamlet Images: Tonson’s 1714 Edition

Tonson’s endeavors to sell Shakespeare’s works to a broader readership took a further small step forward in 1714 when he published a new eight-volume (with the poems, nine-volume) edition in a smaller format, duodecimo. However, at £1 7s., the advertised price in 1715 (Ford 1935, 15), the new version of Rowe’s edition (Tonson may actually have engaged someone else as editor while keeping Rowe’s name on the title-page) was only marginally cheaper than its predecessor. It therefore remained a somewhat expensive item, though, one should note, very much more affordable than Tonson’s first issue of Pope’s Shakespeare that appeared in six large unillustrated quarto volumes in 1723-5 and cost £6 6s. One should note, too, that the usual price of quarto texts of individual plays by the beginning of the eighteenth century appears to have been one shilling and sixpence (McKerrow 1927, 134-5), while a duodecimo Hamlet printed by Darby and Wellington in 1718 was priced on the title page at one shilling. Tonson’s price for the collected plays was arguably, then, a bargain. To illustrate his edition, Tonson hired Louis du Guernier to work with Kirkall to produce a mix of new and revised engravings for the new duodecimo format. The engraving for Hamlet was both designed and engraved by Du Guernier. It depicted the arrival of the Ghost in the Closet Scene and kept fairly close to the composition of its 1709 predecessor. However, it included the intriguing addition of a bed and dispensed with the overturned chair (Young 1998, 339-41). Four years later appeared the single-volume duodecimo Hamlet printed by Darby and Wellington just mentioned above. It contained a reversed reworking of Du Guernier’s work by an anonymous artist who included the two wall portraits that Du Guernier had had but made one of them represent a woman. Like Du Guernier’s inclusion of a bed, such details suggest that we have drifted very far from theatrical reality, even supposing, that is, that Boitard’s Closet Scene had some relation to theater practice.

The Earliest Hamlet Images: Some Further Eighteenth-Century Editions

Tonson reused Du Guernier’s design, reworked by F. Foudrinier, in his second edition of Pope’s Shakespeare in 1728 and again in a duodecimo players’ edition of Hamlet in 1734 (Franklin 1991, 202). This latter was issued as part of an ongoing price war between Tonson and a rival printer, Robert Walker. Prices dropped to as low as a penny per play (Ford 1935, 42; TLS 30 Nov 1922, 788; TLS 28 Dec 1922, 876), theoretically permitting the purchase of the entire Shakespeare canon for thirty-seven pence, surely a sign that there existed a potentially far broader market for Shakespeare’s texts if the price was right. Walker’s rival Hamlet text included its own version of the Closet Scene designed by Bartholomew Dandridge and engraved by J. (probably Jacob) Smith. Dandridge’s design is far more successful than those of Boitard and Du Guernier in capturing the shock and drama of the Ghost’s entrance. Hamlet holds Gertrude’s wrist as he stares at the Ghost, while Gertrude has risen from her chair (in the earlier pictures she remains seated) and stares perplexed into Hamlet’s face. For his part, the Ghost extends his truncheon towards Hamlet. By contrast, in the earlier engravings he remained a rather stiff figure, with the truncheon either raised in a gesture of surprise (1709) or pointing slightly downwards towards Hamlet (1714), though in a manner that also seems to call attention to Gertrude’s genital area (see Kliman 1993, 9). The situation is now much more dynamic and we see something of the responses of the three characters to each other. As is the case with Boitard’s design, there is a strong temptation to speculate that the engraving reflects contemporary theater performance practice, perhaps even offering us a glimpse of the performers named in the list of dramatis personae, in this instance Robert Wilks (Hamlet), Mrs Porter (Gertrude), and Barton Booth (the Ghost).
The three earliest images of Hamlet were thus all of the Closet Scene, its initial popularity as a subject deriving, one assumes, from the frisson that readers and audiences experienced in response to the Ghost. Renditions of other moments in the Closet Scene were later to appear, and the scene remained popular among artists throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, versions of it rivaled in number only by depictions of Ophelia’s madness and death and the Graveyard Scene in Act Five. However, shortly after the publication of Dandridge’s Closet Scene, other Hamlet subjects began to appear. In 1740, Tonson commissioned an engraved Hamlet image on a completely new subject for his second edition of Theobald’s Shakespeare, an eight-volume duodecimo production. Designed by Hubert Gravelot and engraved by Gerard van der Gucht, the engraving depicted the earlier appearance of the Ghost before Hamlet in 1.4, a subject that, like the Closet Scene, was to be a particular favorite among artists, reflecting presumably popular fascination with this all-important moment in the play (Young 1998, 337-9). Gravelot’s design was repeated prior to 1773 in at least five subsequent editions of Theobald and in at least four other separately printed texts. It depicted a drawbridge and gate leading to the Castle. The Ghost at left, in armor and plumed helmet, gestures with both arms for Hamlet to follow him off to the left. Hamlet in contemporary eighteenth-century dress stands upon the bridge as if torn between two worlds. He is restrained from following the Ghost by Horatio, who gestures with his arms in front of Hamlet. Marcellus, barely visible, stands behind Hamlet.

Some New Subjects and Media for Hamlet Images: the Play Scene

The special privileging accorded to scenes involving the Ghost continued through the eighteenth century, but during the next few decades after 1740 much was to change, and artists began to explore other topics.
The first notable change was one involving subject matter. When Sir Thomas Hanmer’s handsome and expensive (£3 3s.) six-volume quarto edition of Shakespeare appeared in 1744 (the Hamlet volume was dated 1743), it was “Adorned with Sculptures designed and executed by the best hands.” Ignoring the Tonson family copyright, and ignoring all previous illustrated editions in its prefatory matter, Hanmer’s edition, which was published at Oxford, included thirty-six engraved plates, five designed by Hubert Gravelot and the remainder by the important English artist Francis Hayman. For Hamlet, Hayman designed a picture of the Play Scene. Hayman appears to have worked closely with Hanmer regarding many of the designs in the edition (Merchant 1958, 141-7; Allentuck 1976, 288-315; Hodnett 1982, 54-69; Allen 1987, 153). He may have been guided by Hanmer when working on the Hamlet design, although in this particular instance no supporting documentary evidence has survived to confirm this. It may have been Hanmer, then, rather than Hayman who was responsible for the imaginative decision to introduce a new subject that, like the Play Scene, was to become a favorite subject among artists during the next 160 years.
Like the earlier Boitard design for the Closet Scene, Hayman’s work may possibly reflect theater performance, especially given Hayman’s own interest in the theater. The engraving (by Gravelot) depicts the moment in the Play Scene (2136) when Claudius rises from his seat that is upon a small dais in the left foreground (down stage right). The chair is placed directly facing the viewer, an odd position since it suggests that Claudius was sitting with his back to the play. Behind him and still seated is Gertrude. Her chair is more logically situated, side on to the viewer. In the right foreground (down stage left) are three figures: Hamlet in black contemporary eighteenth-century dress (dark coat and breeches) sitting on the floor at the feet of Ophelia, who is seated on a chair, behind which stands Horatio. At the rear, the play is being performed. It has reached the moment when the poison is being poured into the sleeping Gonzago's ear (2131). The sleeping man sits in a chair which squarely faces the viewer and is thus a parallel to the way Claudius's chair is arranged. Behind and above in a gallery are the theater musicians. They continue to play at the moment depicted. Above is what looks like a suspended proscenium curtain.
Not long after designing his engraving for Hanmer, Hayman provided four large paintings of Shakespearean scenes for the decoration of the Prince of Wales Pavilion at Vauxhall Gardens. Where access to the image in Hanmer’s edition was probably somewhat limited on account of the cost, the painting at Vauxhall, which was on display for a number of years, was a different matter. Under the proprietorship of Jonathan Tyers, Vauxhall Gardens became an immensely popular pleasure ground that catered to the upper classes and an ever-broadening middle-class market, the same as that which frequented the playhouses north of the river. There is good reason to suppose that Hayman’s paintings were not hidden in some secluded inner chamber, but open to public view beneath a portico. One of the paintings depicted the Play Scene from Hamlet. Unfortunately, this work, which dates from 1745 or just before, is now lost although a photograph of it appears to have survived (Merchant 1959, Plate 8a). According to the photograph, Hayman placed Claudius at center rear and the enactment of the play-within-the-play in the left foreground. The Hamlet, Ophelia, and Horatio figures are omitted, perhaps for political reasons, since placing a work in the Prince of Wales’s accommodations might, if a prince was depicted, raise awkward questions. The effect of this omission is to place the viewer of the picture in the precise position of Hamlet, arguably, of course, an even more questionable arrangement since when the prince was actually present he would be placed in the position of Hamlet. Whatever the reason for the omission, it would seem that Hayman could rely upon viewers having sufficient familiarity with the play to supply in their imaginations the presence of the three missing characters. Curiously, in what may have been the modello or smaller initial version of the Vauxhall painting (the modello now hangs in the Folger Shakespeare Library), the three missing figures are present, placed in almost the exact positions they occupy in the earlier engraving (Allen 1987, 114; Pressly 1993, 78; Martineau 2003, 48). Hayman’s painting for Vauxhall Gardens marks the first time, so far as one knows, that an artist produced a representation of Hamlet that was not a design for an engraving in an illustrated book. In this, Hayman’s contribution parallels the work of his contemporary William Hogarth. This latter shares much of the credit with Hayman for beginning a long tradition of English theatrical painting. Coincidentally, Hogarth completed his well-known (to us) painting Garrick as Richard III (1745) virtually at the same time as Hayman finished his Hamlet work for the Prince of Wales Pavilion.

Some New Subjects and Media for Hamlet Images: Other Eighteenth-Century Examples

In 1762 Hayman’s four paintings for the Prince of Wales Pavilion were described by the anonymous author of A Description of Vaux-Hall Gardens as “universally admired for the design, colouring and expression” (p. 11). However, other Hamlet paintings completed by various artists during the next two decades probably had far less public exposure: James Gwin’s now lost portrait of Spranger Barry as Hamlet encountering the Ghost for the first time (c. 1752), Benjamin Wilson’s (now lost) painting of Garrick as Hamlet (c. 1754), Hayman’s oil of the Closet Scene with Spranger Barry as Hamlet (Martineau 2003, 122-3), Mrs Mary Elmy as Gertrude and Lacy Ryan as the Ghost (c. 1755-60), Johan Zoffany’s oil portrait of David Ross as Hamlet (1757), Wilson’s William Powell as Hamlet Encountering the Ghost (c. 1768-9), James Roberts’s oil of William Smith and Elizabeth Hopkins in the Closet Scene (1774-4), and Wilson’s (attributed) oil of John Henderson as Hamlet in confrontation with Richard Wilson as Polonius (1779 ?). Two of the works just listed, though probably seen by only a relatively few people, nonetheless achieved a wider currency because they were reproduced in multiple copies in different media. Gwin’s portrait was engraved by Simon François Ravenet and published by John Smith in London in 1752, and Wilson’s portrait of Garrick’s famous “start” at the first appearance of the Ghost was transformed into a 1754 mezzotint by James McArdell. Selling such reproductions at print sellers’ shops or using them in the illustration of books was to become commonplace throughout the remainder of the century and on through the nineteenth century. Our familiarity with many now lost paintings is the result of this process that permitted works of art to be put in the hands of many who would otherwise never have seen them and certainly never have possessed them. Even today, of course, Hayman’s Closet Scene and Zoffany’s portrait of Ross hang in the Garrick Club, while Wilson’s picture of Powell is in the Folger Shakespeare Library. While relatively few people might be privileged to see these originals, they are all “accessible” though reproduction.
Concerning the works just referred to, three further matters need comment. By depicting the dramatic moment when Hamlet, upon first seeing the Ghost, starts back, perhaps even falling into the arms of his companions, Gwin and Wilson introduced a new subject for artists to draw upon. Indeed, Hamlet’s “start,” a familiar and much-commented upon tradition in theater performance, quickly became one of the most frequent of subjects. Zoffany, too, added another new subject to the artists’ repertoire by depicting Ross as Hamlet, with “down-gyved” stocking and with book in hand, apparently in confrontation with an unseen person (Polonius, one assumes). Depictions of Hamlet as the man with a book soon provided as recognizable a subject as Hamlet’s “start,” the Play Scene, or the Closet Scene, and during the next century and a half, portraits of a succession of actors holding a book were to follow, among those depicted being Henry Johnson, Edmund Kean,

Edmund Kean
Barry Sullivan, Charles Kean, Charles Kemble, Henry Irving, Jean Mounet-Sully, Edwin Booth, Sarah Bernhardt, and Johnston Forbes Robertson.

Some New Subjects and Media for Hamlet Images: Early Portraits

Another matter of importance here is that all the works just mentioned depict identifiable actors in the Hamlet roles that they were currently performing in the theater. Apart from the possible portraits of Betterton and Wilks in the engravings of 1709 and 1734 mentioned earlier, these were the earliest portrayals of Hamlet topics in which specific actors can be identified. It is a significant moment in the history of Hamlet iconography because henceforth every major actor performing the role of Hamlet (and later some actors performing other roles in the play) became familiar to the eyes of the public not just through stage appearances but through the visual arts and printed images. Indeed, images of actors (usually but not always in their theatrical roles) begin at this time to become a major subject for painters and engravers. This is partly due to the rising social status of actors, and partly due to the realization by the actors themselves that distinct commercial benefits are to be gained through satisfying the increasing public demand for images of those actors most in favor. Most notable in helping to effect this change was David Garrick. Early on, he seems to have recognized the benefits that might accrue to both himself and to the theater as an institution if his rising popularity as an actor could be marked by the enhanced cachet derived from the proliferation of his image. Immensely popular as an actor, and with Hamlet as one of his most popular and frequently-performed roles, Garrick became one of the most be-pictured men in the eighteenth century. He often worked closely with the artists involved (Bertelson 1998, 308-24, and ultimately he was depicted in some 281 separate paintings, engravings, sculptures, and other media such as medallions, wall coverings, porcelain, tiles, etc (Highfill 1973, 6: 80). As might be expected, a number of these depict Garrick as Hamlet, that by Wilson being the earliest.
When a portrait could be easily reproduced in multiple copies through the techniques of engraving, mezzotint, or other available media, the status of the subject could be further enhanced. McArdell’s mezzotint of Garrick is (with the two possible exceptions just referred to) one of the earliest examples of the process applied to a Hamlet portrait. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, such efforts were often richly rewarded. “Successful” stage performers sometimes became cult figures, the multiple reproductions of their portraits providing popular icons sought after by idolizers who followed their favorite actors’ fortunes with all the passion that in subsequent centuries has been accorded certain film and music stars (the examples of John Philip Kemble, Edmund Kean, Henry Irving, Ellen Terry, Edwin Booth, and Sarah Bernhardt immediately come to mind). Not surprisingly, just as a reputable portrait painter could make a good living by being paid by his subject (Garrick commissioned a number of works in which he was depicted), the print seller or publisher who hired a designer and engraver could generate income by reproducing and selling portraits. Book publishers in addition saw the inclusion of portraits (like the inclusion of illustrations generally) as attractive enhancements to books that could increase sales.

Some New Subjects and Media for Hamlet Images: Portraits in the Nineteenth Century

In the late eighteenth and then in the nineteenth centuries, both subject and artist, in seeking to attain the above goals, tended increasingly to offer idealized or beautified representations, expressive of some spiritual, poetic, or moral truth, rather than an image of theater performance. One thinks, for example, of the romantic pose, the scenery and the use of fading light in Sir Thomas Lawrence’s portrait of John Philip Kemble as Hamlet (1801), one of the most frequently reproduced of any Hamlet portrait during either century. As ever with images based on Shakespeare’s plays, great caution must therefore be employed in “reading” anything in an image as indicative of actual stage performance. It is true that art works often show actors as though in performance (sometimes in company with other actors), and often at moments in a play that can be readily identified (Hamlet’s reaction at first seeing the Ghost [624]; Hamlet’s reaction to the appearance of the Ghost in the Closet Scene [2482]; Hamlet’s “Alas, poor Yorick” [3372]). It is also true, furthermore, that such images may include details that appear to suggest that a stage performance is being represented (certain gestures, stage properties, costume, scenery, etc.). However, in most instances closer examination reveals that this is not so and probably not part of the artist’s purpose. In fact, it is relatively rare for artists to attempt something close to an accurate visual record, though there are exceptions such as the lithographs by Eugène Devéria and Louis Boulanger illustrating the English Company’s performances (among them Hamlet) in Paris in 1827. More common are works that show an actor en scène without offering an accurate representation of setting. The wood engraving by F. Armytage of Henry Irving as Hamlet can be taken as a representative example. Accompanied by the quotation “to be honest as this world goes is to be one man picked out of ten thousand” (1215-6), the engraving shows Irving standing in a medieval interior setting beside a tall stone pillar. Irving’s physical likeness (both face and body) appears to be somewhat idealized to stress the spiritual, philosophical, scholarly and youthful Hamlet that he endeavored to convey in his performance, while the background, though possibly suggestive of Irving’s stage scenery for the scene between Hamlet and Polonius (2.2), is surely not an accurate representation of it. The advent of photography as a medium for portraiture did surprisingly little to change this trend. Enhancement of status and idealization and beautification of person remained guiding principles for portrait photographers. Indeed, to this day, publicity stills of stage or screen performers must be treated with considerable caution as records of actual performance.

Some New Subjects and Media for Hamlet Images: Portraits and Photography

With regard to the development of photography in the nineteenth century, one particular technical advance -- the so-called carte-de-visite -- should be briefly noted here since it played so influential role in facilitating the mass distribution of photographic portraits of actors (Darrah 1981; Linkman 1993, 61-74). Cartes-de-visite were photographs similar in size to visiting cards, and they were commonly exchanged among friends and family members. Portraits of both family members and celebrities were the commonest subjects for this cheap and therefore affordable format, and the international trade in these commercially published cartes-de-visite rapidly made familiar the likenesses of celebrities, including those who worked in the theater, even before books or newspapers could be illustrated with photographic reproductions. There exist numerous cartes-de-visite of nineteenth-century actors in roles from Hamlet, with full or partial sets surviving of such familiar names as Kate Terry, Ellen Terry, Caroline Heath, Alice Marriott, Wilson Barrett, and Charles Albert Fechter. Later in the century, other formats, including the larger format of cabinet photographs (5 ½” x 4”) (Linkman 1993, 74-6), began to supercede the carte-de-visite but the availability of photographic portraits of actors continued, and, to some extent, continues to this day.

Some New Subjects and Media for Hamlet Images: the Mezzotint

Another matter that requires mention with regard to the group of eighteenth-century Hamlet paintings mentioned above has to do yet again with the technology of reproduction. At the period when these works were completed, the primary medium in favor for the printed reproduction of paintings or drawings was the etching or the engraving (Hind 1963, 1-11; Chamberlain 1972, 11-56, 103-34; Lambert 1987, 61-3). The respective techniques involved were labor-intensive, expensive, and slow. McArdell’s 1754 mezzotint of Garrick as Hamlet, however, provides an early example of an alternate process. Invented in Utrecht in 1642 and perfected in England, where the technique became known as the manière anglaise, the mezzotint typically involved the use of an engraved plate that had been pitted in advance. The design was formed by varying the existing roughness so that different areas of the plate would print in different tones of gray, highlights being achieved by burnishing the plate quite smooth (Hind 1963, 11-12; Chamberlain 1972, 136-42; Lambert 1987, 76). The technique had two great advantages. It was better able to reproduce the varying tones of painted art works than either etching or engraving (Sir Joshua Reynolds is known to have particularly admired McArdell’s skills in this respect). Secondly, it was possible (so George Vertue claimed) to make six mezzotints for every engraving. Here, then, quite early in the history of the proliferation of Hamlet images was an apparently cheaper and easier means for the mass reproduction of art images. But there was a significant drawback: the process permitted only a relatively low number of good quality impressions.
A partial solution to these limitations was the later use of steel plates for the mezzotint process. This began in the early 1820s and was aided by Jacob Perkins’s innovation of soft steel plates in 1819. In about 1857 the introduction of electroplating copper with a thin film of pure iron (steel-facing) permitted the engraver to work on the more malleable copper while retaining the longer print runs possible with steel. Examples of early nineteenth-century mezzotints on Hamlet subjects include Samuel William Reynolds’ 1805 mezzotint of Lawrence’s portrait of Kemble and Charles Turner’s 1814 mezzotint (published by James Dunford) of Isaac Pocock’s portrait of Alexander Rae as Hamlet. In January 1826, there appeared a mezzotint portrait of Charles Mayne Young as Hamlet, painted and engraved by Henry Collen, and six years later John Charles Bromley created a mezzotint (published by Moon Boys & Graves) of a painting (Society of British Artists, 1831) of the Gravediggers by the Manchester artist Henry Liverseege. Altogether later is the undated mezzotint portrait of Ellen Terry as Ophelia by Charles William Campbell (or after Campbell) that shows her full length, head and eyes slightly raised, and standing in a densely wooded setting. As will be discussed elsewhere, in the course of the nineteenth century, other methods of reproduction became available, some of them making the dissemination of images both easier and cheaper.

Eighteenth-Century Bardolatry and the Proliferation of Images

The proliferation of images based upon Shakespeare’s plays is inextricably related during the 1740s, 50s, and 60s to the enormous awakening of popular interest in Shakespeare that occurred at that time and indeed continued on into the nineteenth century. Many phenomena contributed to the growth of what ultimately, it has been argued, can be viewed as the construction within English culture of a national icon (Dobson 1992, passim). This is not the place to examine in detail the nature of the contributory phenomena, but they include the unveiling in 1741 of a memorial statue of Shakespeare in Westminster Abbey, a sign of the virtual canonization of Shakespeare. At the same time, there was a marked expansion in readership, particularly among females, one that Lewis Theobald had noted as early as 1726 in his Shakespeare Restored where he remarked of Shakespeare that “there is scarce a Poet, that our English tongue boasts of, who is more the Subject of the Ladies’ Reading” (pp. v-vi). To serve an expanding market of readers, both male and female, and to meet the needs of those who liked to attend theater performances with book in hand, increasingly cheaper editions of Shakespeare became available, although precise details about who bought and read the cheaper texts and precise sales figures are difficult to come by. We know also that just as various theater managers sought to expand the seating capacity of their theaters, so too did publishers print increasing numbers of editions of Shakespeare’s works. Other factors, such as the growth of circulating libraries, the availability in coffee houses of periodicals in which critical discussion of Shakespeare and quotations from his works were common, and the influence of the Shakespeare Ladies’ Club in raising awareness of the virtues of Shakespeare’s works, all played a role in contributing to what became outright bardolatry (Altick 1957, 43, 47, 50, 54, 59, 65; Avery 1956, 153-8; Bate 1989, 25-6; Dobson 1992, 185). In 1769, the growing adulation of Shakespeare was demonstrated in most telling fashion with the Shakespeare Jubilee celebrations in Stratford-upon-Avon, part of the immensely successful propagandizing of Shakespeare that had been conducted by Garrick (Rogers 1992, 194-5). Though the Stratford celebrations were marred by rain and the planned procession of “characters” from the plays could not take place (Deelman 1964, 208; England 1964, 50; Stochholm 1964, 60-70, 103), the event still succeeded in raising the cultural status of Shakespeare. Garrick then further capitalized upon this by re-enacting the Jubilee celebrations on the stage at Drury Lane for season after season (Deelman 1964, 286). Most important, however, for the argument of this essay was the ever-increasing appearance of Shakespeare and his characters in the form of graphic images of varying kinds, including images relating to Hamlet.
A further indication of the growing place of Shakespeare within English culture during the years leading up to the Stratford Jubilee is the evidence provided by art exhibitions. In 1760, the Society of Artists was founded, and thereafter its members held an annual exhibition of works until 1791. Shortly after, The Free Society of Artists began exhibitions, which lasted from 1761 to 1783, and on 10 December, 1768, The Royal Academy came into being, the annual exhibitions of which continue to this day. Thirty-seven years later, and in part in competition with the Royal Academy, the British Institution was founded. From the first, the annual exhibitions of these various societies almost always included works of art based upon Shakespeare. The first Hamlet item, however, did not appear until 1775, in the form of a pen drawing of the head of Ophelia, one of twelve Shakspeare’s Characters by John Hamilton Mortimer that were subsequently issued as engravings. The exhibitions generated considerable interest that was then reflected in printed commentaries (and sometimes reproductions) in newspapers and magazines. By the end of the nineteenth century the annual exhibitions at the Royal Academy were attracting between 350,000 and 400,000 people, and the Private View and the Annual Dinner before the opening were two of the most prestigious social events of the London “Season.” Of course, the accessibility of these original works of art would be limited, but works that caught the public attention were frequently reproduced once they had been exhibited, while the originals disappeared from public sight, for the most part, into private collections.
Between 1775 and 1829, there were exhibited some twenty-two Hamlet works, including watercolors. The list includes Sir Thomas Lawrence’s 1801 portrait of John Philip Kemble as Hamlet that is now in the Tate Gallery, but most of the Hamlet originals appear to be no longer extant. Lawrence’s portrait, like the drawings of Mortimer, however, received wide distribution in engraved versions (and as a mezzotint, as mentioned elsewhere), and two further works also appear to have had the wider exposure resulting from reproduction: James Nixon’s 1806 character portrait of Ophelia (engraved by Francesco Bartolozzi sometime before 1815), and James Lonsdale’s 1818 portrait of François Joseph Talma as Hamlet (engraved by Page and by Meyer). Of the various Hamlet works that subsequently appeared in the London exhibitions between 1830 and 1900, the story is much the same. By my estimate there were approximately thirty-six such works. Sixteen are now “unlocated”; six are in private collections (not all of the owners being identifiable); and the remainder are in various galleries. Of these thirty-six works, only seventeen, as far as I know, were reproduced in print form, most as engravings or photogravures, but a few in mezzotint or lithograph. To some extent the reproduction of such works (particularly the multiple reproduction of works by such artists as Richard Redgrave, Daniel Maclise, Arthur Hughes, Edwin Long, and E. Onslow Ford) offers a crude indication of the interest they generated among a public that may well not have seen the originals.

Print Shops

The distribution and growing popularity of reproductions of original art works would not have been possible without the development of print shops. During the eighteenth century, printers discovered that reproductions of works of art and of images of a wide variety of kinds, including portraits of actors (as already mentioned), could be very profitable. Print sellers’ shop windows became festooned with sample prints and in the process became unofficial galleries for those who could not necessarily afford to buy. A number of pictorial records of print shop displays have survived, including Robert Dighton’s watercolor (now in the Victoria and Albert Museum) of the premises of Carrington Bowles. Entitled Scene in St. Paul’s Church Yard (c. 1783), this was then published in 1783 as a mezzotint. A somewhat later example is James Gillray’s hand-colored etching Very Slippy Weather (1808) that also indirectly illustrates how print shop windows became unofficial galleries of graphic art for even the poorest of pockets and for many who would not have dreamed of entering the shop itself. The display and sales of prints served to broaden the familiarity with original art works, and in the latter half of the eighteenth century, the fashion for using prints as wall decorations that had first begun in Paris gave added exposure to artists’ works. The 1775 catalogue of the London print publishers Sayer and Bennett described their available “fine prints in sets” as “proper for the collections in the cabinets of the curious; also elegant and genteel ornaments when framed and glazed, and may be fitted up in a cheaper manner, to ornament rooms, staircases, &c. With curious borders representing frames, a fashion much in use, and produces a very agreeable effect” (quoted Lambert 1987, 183).

Print Sets: the Eighteenth Century

During the later part of the eighteenth century, printmakers and print sellers discovered the commercial possibilities of issuing not just single engravings of a Shakespearean subject, but entire matched sets, suitable for domestic decoration or for insertion among the leaves of a printed edition. Among the examples of such sets that included Hamlet material is Mortimer’s engraved Shakspeare’s Characters. A smaller-sized version of this that was more suitable for book illustration appeared in 1820. When John Bell published his affordable illustrated editions of Shakespeare in the 1770s, a key feature of their attractiveness was the inclusion of engraved illustrations. When the third edition appeared in six-penny weekly numbers, beginning in 1775, Bell introduced additional engravings. Not only were there ready buyers for his texts, but separate sets of the engravings had their own market. This is discernible from his subscription lists which show that a number of his customers wanted to buy only the engravings. Part of Bell’s profits derived, it would seem, from the growing interest in print collecting. Another example is provided by the set of twelve very small etchings by Daniel Chodowiecki, a Polish-born artist who memorialized for the Berliner Genealogische Kalendar of 1779 the Karl Döbbelin 1777-8 production of Hamlet in Berlin with Johann Brockmann in the title role. Between 1783 and 1787, Charles Taylor engraved and published a collection of engravings entitled The Picturesque Beauties of Shakespeare, Being a Selection of Scenes, From the Works of that Great Author. The series contained forty plates, four for each of ten plays, with Smirke providing the drawings for the four Hamlet engravings.

Print Sets: the Boydell Venture

A quite different kind of origin for prints was the famous Boydell enterprise. Although principally a business venture aimed at the establishment of a Shakespeare Gallery in which a large number of commissioned works on Shakespeare topics would be shown, the Boydells (Josiah and John) had from the start planned to publish a very large format book (atlas folio) of engravings done after the larger paintings in the gallery. The Gallery opened in 1789 with thirty-four paintings. By 1790 there were 65 paintings, and when the scheme failed and the contents of the Gallery were sold in 1805, thirty-three artists were represented in 170 items, 84 of large size. Between 1789 and 1805, folio-size prints of the larger paintings appeared separately and in 1805, Josiah Boydell (John Boydell died in 1804) published the planned two-volume atlas folio of A Collection of Prints, from Pictures Painted for the Purpose of Illustrating the Dramatic Works of Shakspeare, by the Artists of Great-Britain. A highly expensive work, it contained a total of 100 engravings, among them an engraving by Francis Legat of Benjamin West’s painting (now in the Cincinnati Art Museum) of Ophelia’s mad scene (4.7)

Francis Legat Engraving after Benjamin West
and an engraving by Robert Thew
Engraving by Robert Thew
of Henry Fuseli’s now lost painting of Hamlet’s first encounter with the Ghost. In 1802, after first appearing in 18 parts (beginning in 1791), a nine-volume The Dramatic Works of Shakspeare Revised by George Steevens (London: Printed by W. Bulmer & Co.) was published containing 100 engravings based on the smaller paintings in the Gallery. To further capitalize on the engravings produced for the edition, which were much smaller than those contained in the Boydell folio, they were published in a separate set as Boydell’s Graphic Illustrations of the Dramatic Works, of Shakespeare; Consisting of a Series of Prints Forming an Elegant and Useful Companion to the Various Editions of His Works, Engraved from Pictures, Purposely Painted by the Very First Artists, and Lately Exhibited at the Shakspeare Gallery (London: Boydell, [1803?]). This set of prints included two Hamlet works based on paintings by Richard Westall: an engraving by William Charles Wilson of the Closet Scene (the original is in the York City Art Gallery) and an engraving by James Parker of Ophelia attempting to hang her garlands at the edge of a brook (the original is now lost).

Print Sets: Some Nineteenth-Century Examples

The middle-class vogue for print-collecting and the popular use of prints as household decoration encouraged the further production of sets of Shakespeare prints during the nineteenth century following the success of the Boydell venture. In 1814, for example, the prolific wood engraver, John Thurston, produced a series of illustrations that were engraved by John Thompson for Charles Whittingham’s Chiswick Press octavo edition of The Dramatic Works of William Shakespeare. These small engravings became some of the most popular illustrations of the early nineteenth century and were frequently reprinted. In 1817, they were printed on single sheets by D. S. Maurice, one for each play, each sheet (including one for Hamlet) containing six engravings. In 1831, their popularity unabated, they could be bought separately for 3s. 6d. in a collection published by Sherwood, Gilbert, and Piper entitled Illustrations of Shakspeare Comprised in Two Hundred and Thirty Vignette Engravings by Thompson, From Designs by Thurston: Adapted to all Editions. A few years later in response to the popularity of works about Shakespeare’s heroines, Charles Heath published The Shakespeare Gallery; Containing the Principal Female Characters in the Plays of the Great Poet (London: Charles Tilt [1836-37]), a series of forty-five engravings, each accompanied by a brief quotation from the relevant play. As might be expected, among the forty-five engravings is one representing Ophelia, a near full-length portrait engraved by T. A. Dean from a design by John Bostock (see description elsewhere). Just over ten years later in 1848, Heath published a second and more popular set of engravings: The Heroines of Shakespeare: Comprising the Principal Female characters in the Plays of the Great Poet. There were subsequently four more editions of this work prior to 1883. Included in the set was an Ophelia engraved by William Henry Mote from a design by John Hayter. Heath, however, was not alone in this field. Some time in the 1840s or 50s appeared The Beauties of Shakspeare. With Fifty-Two Engravings (London: J. Dicks, n.d.), a set of fifty-two wood engravings by W. G. Standfust, including one of Ophelia. A few years later, TheGraphic, a London magazine with a circulation of hundreds of thousands, commissioned paintings of twenty-one Shakespearean heroines. These were first displayed in a London gallery and included a portrait of Ophelia being by Marcus Stone. Reproductions of these works, including Stone’s Ophelia, then appeared in various formats. They were reproduced in the magazine itself but also appeared in portfolio format as The Graphic Gallery of Shakespeare’s Heroines. A Series of Studies in Goupilgravure with the Stories of the Plays by William Ernest Henley (London: Sampson, Low, et al, 1888). In 1896, these black and white reproductions were issued as a smaller-sized set of colored engravings

(Kiefer 2001, 40).

Illustrated Editions: From Tonson to Bell

By far the biggest conduit for the dissemination of images based on Shakespeare’s plays were illustrated editions of his works, beginning with the 1709 edition published by Tonson. The history of such editions undergoes a radical change with the edition published by John Bell in 1772-4. Published by subscription, Bell’s five-volume edition containing the twenty-four plays in the current repertory was initially supported by some eight hundred and ninety subscribers for an issue of more than sixteen hundred sets. The edition, which was deliberately inexpensive and aimed at as broad a market as possible, was provided with an engraving for each play, that for Hamlet depicting a subject never illustrated before – the Graveyard Scene (5.i.), designed by Edward Edwards and engraved by John Hall. When the work, now enlarged to included all of Shakespeare’s plays, appeared in a third edition in 1775, Bell added an additional series of thirty-six engraved portraits of actors in character roles, one for each play. That for Hamlet was another “first” because it was a portrait of Jane Lessingham as Ophelia and hence the first depiction of a specific actor in the role. Designed by James Roberts, who supposedly drew the portrait from life (“ad vivam”), and engraved by Charles Grignion, it heralded the long line of mad Ophelias that was to come.
But Bell was not finished with illustrating Shakespeare. Between 1786 and 1788, he published a twenty-volume duodecimo edition that he issued in 76 parts. For each play, Bell commissioned an illustrative scene by Philippe Jacques De Loutherbourg, Garrick’s scenographer, or by William Hamilton. Various engravers, among them Jean Marie Delattre, Francesco Bartolozzi, and James Heath, then completed the engravings. In addition, Bell also included a new series of portraits. The designs for twenty-one of these were supplied principally by Johan Heinrich Ramberg, twelve by Edward F. Burney and four by Mather Brown. These were engraved by James Thornthwaite, Charles, Sherwin, Charles Grignion, Thomas Cook and others. De Loutherbourg’s scene for Hamlet, which was engraved by Thomas Cook and dated 30 April 1785, showed Hamlet and the Ghost, this latter departing dramatically into the ground. Ramberg’s portrait for Hamlet, which was engraved by James Heath, showed John Philip Kemble in the Closet Scene. However, Hamlet is not shown in reaction to the sudden appearance of the Ghost, as was the case in so many earlier Closet Scenes. Instead, we see him earlier in the scene with sword drawn, gesturing towards the dead Polonius’s hand, which can just be seen protruding from the base of a curtain or arras.

Illustrated Editions from Bell to 1805: Bellamy and Robarts, Harding, Wynne and Scholey, Rivington et al

Following the success of Bell’s illustrated editions, other illustrated versions of Shakespeare’s works continued to appear throughout the remainder of the eighteenth century and on through the nineteenth. Even before the serial publication of Bell’s third edition was complete, for example, Bellamy and Robart’s eight-volume octavo edition of The Plays of William Shakespeare began its serial publication in 1787 before being published as a complete work in 1791. Where Bell’s engravings seemed to invite the understanding that they were somehow offering a record of theater performance, the designs for Bellamy and Robarts, many of them by the young Henry James Richter, were very different in style. Framed by ruined gothic arches, partially overgrown with foliage, they express a romantic sensibility. Here is Shakespeare as conceived within the imagination of the reader rather than as experienced in the theater. For Hamlet Richter designed an illustration depicting an incident that is only reported in the theater – Ophelia in a dense forest beside the brook attempting to hang up her crownet weeds upon a branch. This was to become an immensely popular subject during the nineteenth century and one that will be discussed elsewhere (Young 1998, 341-3). A second engraving for Hamlet was designed by Richard Corbould, its subject the more familiar one of Hamlet and the Ghost, though here depicted at the moment when the Ghost calls on Hamlet to “Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder.”
Illustrations that seem far removed from thoughts of theater production are also a feature in what is usually referred to as “Harding’s Edition” of The Plays of William Shakspeare. This duodecimo publication of Steevens’s text was published by Edward Harding and printed by T. Bensley. Issued in 38 numbers at 2s. each, the complete edition was available in 1800 a twelve-volume set, with or without the accompanying engraved plates. There were five Hamlet illustrations, all designed and engraved by William Nelson Gardiner, somewhat in the style of Thomas Rowlandson. Yet another illustrated edition appeared between 1802 and 1805 with wood engravings designed by John Thurston. The Plays of William Shakespeare was published by Wynne and Scholey and printed by T. Bensley. Among its illustrations was a frontispiece for Hamlet of the Closet Scene, showing Hamlet forcing his mother to look at a miniature of his father. Perhaps the most important thing about this work was that it was partly the inspiration for an opposing set of illustrations by Henry Fuseli for a rival illustrated Shakespeare. The prospectus for this work announced in December 1802 an edition that would appear in 38 to 40 parts, one play per part, each with an accompanying copperplate engraving designed by Henry Fuseli (Weinglass 1994, 237-9). This artist, mentioned elsewhere in connection with his contribution to the Boydell venture, was one of the most imaginative and original of all the artists who have ever attempted Shakespeare subjects. Professor of Painting at the Royal Academy from 1799 and Keeper from 1804, he was a major influence upon the development of Romanticism. From early in his career, Shakespeare had been a major influence, an influence awakened by his experience of Garrick’s performances. During an eight-year stay in Italy, he completed a number of a number of drawings based upon Shakespeare, including several of Hamlet, a play that appears to have had a special fascination for him. When he returned to England, there were more Hamlet drawings, but in addition there was an oil painting of The Closet Scene (1793) (Martineau 2003, 112-13), and, as mentioned elsewhere, his large-scale contribution to the Boydell Shakespeare Gallery, Hamlet, Horatio, Marcellus, and the Ghost (1785-90), one of nine paintings that he contributed to the Gallery.
The choice of Fuseli as designer for a complete set of 37 illustrations, one per play, for the newly-planned edition of the Johnson/Steevens text was a highly imaginative and ambitious one. With other apparatus by Alexander Chalmers, the work, printed for F. & C. Rivington and a consortium of some forty booksellers, eventually appeared in 1805, in both nine-volume and ten-volume sets. Fuseli’s Hamlet design, which drew inspiration from Raphael’s The Freeing of St Peter (Tomory 1972, 117, fig. 129), was engraved by Joseph Clarendon Smith and dated at its foot 2 August 1804. It depicted the same subject that he had painted for the Boydell Shakespeare Gallery – Hamlet, Horatio, Marcellus, and the Ghost. However, the octavo size of the Chalmers volumes required some radical compositional changes involving a shift from the large canvas of his oil painting to the small and narrow octavo size of the book volumes, and from “landscape” to “portrait” format. In an attempt to cater to as wide a range of potential buyers as possible, the Chalmers Shakespeare was offered in a variety of formats. One could buy the cheapest version on lower quality paper at 7s. per volume or £3.3s. the set; or one could spend £4.14s.6d. for a set on fine paper; or £9.0s. for royal octavo; or £10.10s. for super royal octavo. There were 3,250 sets printed in 1805, with further editions in 1811 and 1812 (Weinglass 1994, 239, 358-9). However, this was somewhat of a deluxe edition, one that may not have found its way into many homes. Its prices were a long way removed from the six-penny numbers of Bell’s first Shakespeare; yet the figures just cited appear to indicate that in spite of such costs there existed a strong market for illustrated editions of Shakespeare at the turn of the century.

Illustrated Editions after 1805: Thomas Tegg, Charles Whittingham

Following the early nineteenth-century illustrated editions of Shakespeare published by Boydell (1802), Wynne and Scholey (1803-05), and Rivington et al (1805), the appetite for illustrated editions grew. Whereas the first ten years of the century saw about twenty illustrated editions, the average rose to about fifty in the 1850s, falling back to about twenty in the 1890s. It is not the intention to survey this large body of material in any detail here; however, certain editions deserve brief attention for varying reasons. In 1812-15, Thomas Tegg issued Shakespeare’s works “from the text of Isaac Reed” in twelve octavo volumes. It was illustrated with engravings by Richard Rhodes after designs by John Thurston, this latter a name mentioned elsewhere as one of the most prolific designers of Shakespeare images during the nineteenth century. Thurston’s Hamlet illustration depicts the Play Scene at the moment when Claudius’s guilt is exposed. Remarkably, however, although everyone in the illustration is staring at Claudius, the Players enacting the drama that has so disturbed him are not visible.
The 1814 Chiswick Press edition of Shakespeare has been mentioned elsewhere; however, in 1826, Charles Whittingham and the Chiswick Press published another edition of Shakespeare in ten octavo volumes: The Dramatic Works of William Shakspeare. With Notes, Original and Selected, By Samuel Weller Singer. The sixty illustrations for this work were all engraved on wood by John Thompson, mostly from designs by Thomas Stothard, Corbould, and Harvey. Thompson’s engraving for Hamlet depicts Ophelia’s mad scene and provides the title-page for the play. The most unusual feature of this work is the series of decorated letters that provide the frontispiece to each volume. Together they spell the publisher’s name. That for volume ten, the volume containing Hamlet, is based on a design by Thomas Stothard and uses the letter “M.” It depicts the moment in the first scene when the Ghost leaves the stage after having appeared before Marcellus, Barnardo, and Horatio.

Illustrated Editions after 1805: Knight’s Pictorial Edition

No illustrated work of the eighteenth century and none in the early nineteenth century can be said to anticipate the revolution represented by Charles Knight’s The Pictorial Edition of the Works of Shakspere (London: Charles Knight, [1838-43]). Knight’s edition appeared in fifty-five monthly parts and was then collected into eight volumes. Knight was a champion of the movement to lower book prices so that books could become more accessible to the less affluent. His Penny Magazine (from 1832 to 1845), his Penny Cyclopaedia (issued in weekly parts from 1833), and a number of other works had all demonstrated Knight’s passion for bringing to both middle and working classes useful knowledge and an acquaintance with works of art. His publishing ventures used steam power and the process of stereotyping, an ideal combination for mass production. A great believer in the importance of illustrations, his works were copiously illustrated by his staff of wood-engravers, presided over by John Jackson. In addition, he had established throughout the United Kingdom a wholesale and retail network to market his publications. (Young 2009, 19-41.)
Believing that literature, too, should be accessible to as wide a range of social classes as possible, Knight’s plan to produce a cheap illustrated edition of Shakespeare was thus completely in character. In preparing his Shakespeare edition, he first planned his illustrative material before establishing a text, so important to him was the graphic content of his work. When finally complete, his Pictorial Edition of the Works of Shakspere contained over one thousand illustrations. In keeping with the “educational” function that Knight so believed in, the edition is especially novel in that a great number of the illustrations function as pictorial annotations upon the text, providing visual information about costumes, footwear, antique weapons, customs, and the like. To these ends, he employed Frederick William Fairholt, a well-known engraver of historical subject-matter. Knight also employed Ambrose Poynter to depict Shakespeare’s settings, so as to provide the reader with some sense of the historical “reality” of the places involved (Elsinor in the case of Hamlet). At the same time, he employed William Harvey to produce a series of frontispieces more imaginative in character. That for Hamlet was engraved by John Jackson and shows the Play Scene at the moment when the murderer pours the poison into his victim’s ear. Elsewhere, there is another wood engraving by Jackson (based on a design by G. F. Sargent). This depicts what purports to be Hamlet’s grave, adjoining the royal palace and supposedly also the place where the murder of Hamlet’s father occurred. Another wood engraving is by Gray (probably Charles Gray). It depicts the death of Ophelia, who is shown already in the water. Her skirt is half submerged and her basket of flowers is already floating away.
Knight’s Pictorial Edition was frequently reprinted, not always by Knight himself, into the 1860s and 1870s at least. It first appeared serially in 56 parts, and in its completed form, it cost £7 7s. This was a fairly high price given Knight’s aim of reaching both a middle class and working class readership, and it should be noted that is was almost double the cost of an 1805 Chalmers edition employing low quality paper. However, concerning Knight’s edition and others to be mentioned elsewhere, the ability of a family with limited income to acquire a much-prized edition of Shakespeare for domestic use was greatly assisted by the common practice of serial publication that allowed for piece by piece purchase of the precious volumes.

Illustrated Editions after 1805: The Golden Age of Wood Engraving

In 1843, the year Knight’s first edition was complete, appeared the highly imaginative three-volume publication of The Works of Shakspere revised from the best authorities: with a memoir, and essay on his genius, by Barry Cornwall. Published by Robert Tyas, a distinguishing feature of this edition was the more than 1,000 wood engravings based on designs by Kenny Meadows, most of them the work of Orrin Smith. Hamlet, which appeared in Volume Two, was illustrated with some twenty-five often highly imaginative engravings. Within a few years, Meadows’ designs reappeared in the United States in The Illustrated Shakespeare, an elaborate work edited by Gulian C. Verplanck. The work appeared first in monthly installments between 1844 and 1847 and was then published in a three-volume format by Harper and Brothers of New York in 1847. A key attraction must have been its hundreds of illustrations, a combination of Meadows’ designs with the frontispieces from Knight’s edition, all re-engraved as the title page explained “by H. W. Hewett, after designs by Kenny Meadows, Harvey, and Others.” Americans were thereby provided with access to pirated versions of two of the most imaginative sets of mid-century illustrations of Shakespeare.
Some ten years later, Howard Staunton’s edition of Shakespeare’s Works, which was published by Routledge, appeared in monthly parts between November 1857 and May 1860. Staunton’s edition contained well over 800 wood engravings, and so presented itself as a rival alternative to such illustrated Shakespeare editions as those put out by Knight and Tyas. The designs were the work of John Gilbert, a formidably prolific draughtsman who drew directly on to wood. His wood blocks were then engraved by the Dalziel Brothers, the most influential company of wood engravers of the time. To accompany Hamlet, Gilbert provided the Dalziels with twenty-nine designs, including an impressive title-page that depicts the tragic catastrophe and the entry of Fortinbras (3852). No doubt this made for a very effective front page for the initial serial issue. Four years after Staunton’s edition was complete, the British publishing house of Cassell began to bring out yet another illustrated edition of Shakespeare’s works. It was edited by the husband and wife team of Charles and Mary Cowden Clarke, although it seems clear that much of the labor for the elaborate annotations was by the latter. Known as “Cassell’s Illustrated Shakespeare,” the edition was copiously illustrated with designs by Henry Courtney Selous, the portrait and landscape painter, who, as Gilbert had done, drew his designs directly on to the wood engraving blocks. The “Illustrated Shakespeare” was designed for the popular market and in particular for family reading, as its Preface makes very clear. At the same time, it endeavored to be as inexpensive as possible. In a letter to John Howard Clark in March 1864, Charles Cowden Clarke even described the work as “a positive wonder of cheapness” (Altick 1973, 199). Each play in the Cassell edition was provided with a full-page engraved frontispiece, a headpiece, one or two full-page engravings and one or two half-page engravings for each act, and a tailpiece at the end of the text. The engraver for this huge task was Frederick Wentworth, a London wood engraver.
Finally, one further example of the great wealth of illustrated nineteenth-century Shakespeare editions should be mentioned. When Henry Irving and Frank A. Marshall edited The Works of William Shakespeare for the publisher Blackie in 1890, their text was illustrated by Gordon Browne, the son of the better-known Hablot Browne (“Phiz”). Browne’s very large number of designs included twenty-two for Hamlet. These appeared in Volume Eight and were engraved on wood, like those elsewhere in the edition, by Carl Hentschel.

Technical Innovations: Wood Engraving

Any account of the immense numbers of images related to Shakespeare’s plays that were produced in the nineteenth century, particularly (though not exclusively) those images found in illustrated editions, must take notice of a number of technical innovations relating to the reproduction of multiple copies of images. Where copperplate engraving was the standard method of reproduction in the eighteenth century, even when other methods such as mezzotint (a technique discussed elsewhere) became available, this time-honored but expensive and labor-intensive method did not serve well the greatly increased demands of the printing trade in the century that followed. Perhaps more important than any other technological innovation was the rediscovery at the end of the eighteenth century of wood engraving as a reproductive technique (Engen 1979, ix-x). Its special advantage to publishers was that it permitted both engraving and typeface to be printed together, a saving in time, labor, and cost. Employed for the illustration of Shakespeare from early in the nineteenth century, as I have indicated elsewhere, wood engraving became established during the 1840s and 50s as the principal illustrative medium, not just for books, but for newspapers and periodicals. Exploiting new technologies relating to mechanized paper-making, steam-powered printing presses, and multiple-cylinder stereotype printing, in the first decades of the new century the way was opened for the mass reproduction of images on a scale undreamed of in the eighteenth century. Wood engraving, along with other technical innovations, was a crucial feature of Knight’s many publishing enterprises, including his editions of Shakespeare, and it was wood engraving that was used for the important illustrated editions edited by Barry Cornwall, Gulian Verplanck, Howard Staunton, the Cowden Clarkes, and Henry Irving and Frank Marshall. However, wood engraving, though the most common reproductive medium was not the only choice.

Technical Innovations: Outline Engraving

Running counter to the subtle tonalities of mezzotint and the often slapdash appearance of wood engravings was the very different technique of outline engraving on metal plates (Lambert 1987, 63). Fast and therefore cheap, outline engraving did not attempt to reproduce the complexities and tonalities of original art works. Only the minimal number of lines were employed to convey the form and subject-matter of an original. The technique had been used in archaeological drawings and had been revived by the English engraver John Flaxman, whose Dante illustrations were published in 1793. Henry Fuseli permitted, with a certain reluctance, a cousin (a namesake Heinrich Füssli) to publish a collection of his works as outline engravings. In 1807, the first issue of the collection was published in Zürich with the title Heinrich Fuessli's Saemmtliche Werke. Although it did not sell well, it is of some importance to the story of Hamlet images since it included an unsigned outline engraving by Johann Heinrich Lips (1758-1817), depicting the murder of King Hamlet by Claudius as described by the Ghost in 1.5. This was based upon a drawing executed in 1771 during Fuseli's years in Italy.
Far better known than Fuseli’s outline engravings and a considerable influence upon other artists in the nineteenth century were the German artist Moritz Retzsch’s Outlines to Shakespeare (Gallerie zu Shakespeare's Dramatischen Werken). These first began to appear in Leipzig and London in 1828 with a set of outline engravings on Hamlet, followed by series on Macbeth (1833), Romeo and Juliet (1836), King Lear (1838), The Tempest (1841), Othello (1842), The Merry Wives of Windsor (1844), and Henry IV, Parts I and II (1846). Dedicated by its publisher to King George IV, the Hamlet series consisted of seventeen outline engravings designed and engraved by Retzsch, each accompanied by a very detailed analytical commentary by the Dresden art historian Carl August Boettiger that incorporated quotations purportedly from the artist himself. Retzsch had been influenced by Flaxman as perhaps was the English artist Frank Howard whose work included twelve outline engravings on Hamlet subjects, all dated 1 September 1827. It is not clear whether these works were published separately at that date, but all appeared in Volume Five of The Spirit of the Plays of Shakspeare, published by Cadell in 1833. Much later, nine of these engravings, reduced in size, then later reappeared in Shakspeare’s Dramatic Works (London: Nelson, 1876), edited by W. H. Davenport Adams, and illustrated with370 outline illustrations by Howard.
Two further examples of the use of outline engraving require brief mention here. The first is the fifteen-volume edition of The Plays and Poems of Shakspeare, With a Life, Glossarial Notes, and One Hundred and Seventy Illustrations from the Plates in Boydell’s Edition, edited and published by A. J. Valpy between 1832 and 1834. This was an attempt to create an affordable edition of Shakespeare that would also make available versions of Boydell’s plates. Included in Volume XIV were four outline engravings on steel by William Francis Starling, providing versions of Fuseli’s depiction of Hamlet’s first encounter with the Ghost, Benjamin West’s of the mad Ophelia, and Richard Westall’s depictions of the Closet Scene and of the Death of Ophelia. In 1839, not long after Valpy’s edition, George Scharf published his Recollections of the Scenic Effects of Covent Garden Theatre During the Season 1838-9. Scharf’s purpose was to record the stage productions he witnessed, and in particular the work of the actor-manager William Charles Macready. To record some details of Macready’s Hamlet, in which Macready played the title role, Scharf created three outline engravings depicting Hamlet’s first encounter with the Ghost in Act One, the Play Scene, and the final scene.

Technical Innovations: Steel Engraving

Quite another form of technology was steel engraving, a process dating from the 1820s that used much the same techniques as earlier engraving processes (Hind 1963, 15; Chamberlain 1972, 134-5; Hunnisett 1989, 1-7; Lambert 1987, 63). Although producing the finished plate was just as time-consuming as engraving or etching on copper, steel plates had the advantage of being able to withstand the long print runs increasingly required in the publishing industry. Substantial financial savings could thus be obtained because three to four times the number of impressions could be made from a steel plate than from a copper plate. Furthermore, the hardness of steel encouraged engravers to create finer and more intricate effects. With the advent of power presses and the use of stereotyping, it became possible to mass-produce illustrated books in a manner undreamed of in the previous century.
A major figure in the development of engraving on steel plates was Charles Heath, who, as mentioned elsewhere, in 1836-7 published a series of forty-five engravingsin The Shakespeare Gallery; Containing the Principal Female Characters in the Plays of the Great Poet, and just over ten years later published a second and more popular set of engravings in The Heroines of Shakespeare: Comprising the Principal Female characters in the Plays of the Great Poet. Heath’s engravings were on a number of occasions used by other publishers to illustrate other Shakespeare works, so that the Ophelias in his two sets of engravings must have become widely familiar since one or other of the Ophelias appeared in such works as The Stratford Gallery; or the Shakspeare Sisterhood: Comprising Forty-Five Ideal Portraits described by Henrietta Lee Palmer. Illustrated with fine engravings on steel, from designs by eminent hands (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1859), Heinrich Heine’s Shakespeare’s Mädchen und Frauen (1839), the French Galerie des Femmes de Shakspeare (1840s), various British and American editions of Anna Jameson’s Characteristics of Women, and various American editions of Mary Cowden Clarke’s The Girlhood of Shakespeare’s Heroines (1851-52, 1857, 1868, 1891). Other examples of Hamlet works produced in the form of steel engravings include an 1840 steel version by the German engraver Wenceslaus Pobuda of Boydell’s print of Fuseli’s Hamlet painting for the Shakespeare Gallery. Two years later, a French translation by Alphonse Borghers of Lamb’s Contes Shaksperians included an unsigned steel engraving by François Adolphe Bruneau Audibran of the Play Scene with a vignette of Hamlet and the Ghost.
Pobuda’s print may stand as a reminder that from 1830 to 1870, steel engravings, sometimes on a quite large scale, were employed to reproduce works of art. One of the most popular English Hamlet works of the Victorian period, Daniel Maclise’s oil painting of the Play Scene (1842), was reproduced by Charles Rolls in 1854 as a steel engraving. This later was used in 1872 in Charles Knight’s Works of Shakspere. Imperial Edition, and in 1879 it was published by J. S. Virtue in The Shakspere Gallery. A much grander steel engraving of Maclise’s painting was produced by Charles William Sharpe in 1868. Measuring 19" x 33", this was widely circulated as an Art Union of London print, and was clearly the kind of reproduction of a painting the Victorians would have considered eminently suitable for either wall decoration or for a collector’s portfolio. Although Maclise’s painting was much discussed at the time of its first exhibition at the Royal Academy in 1842, its subsequent wide familiarity, like such works as West’s painting of Garrick as Hamlet or Lawrence’s portrait of Kemble as Hamlet, must to a great degree have been due to the wide availability of reproductions of the original work.

Technical Innovations: Lithography

The development of lithography was an entirely new technology quite distinct from that of either copperplate or steel engraving (Lambert 1987, 77). Invented in 1798 by Alois Senefelder, the son of a Bavarian actor, lithography provided a completely different form of pictorial reproduction, although the process did not become widely known for another twenty or so years. Instead of cutting or scraping into a wooden block or metal plate, the lithographer drew or painted his design directly upon a porous printing surface, usually a stone. Lithography, which could reproduce the effects of the engraved process cheaply and easily, was especially effective at reproducing drawings. A potentially significant advantage was the potential of lithography to reproduce art works in color. Of those nineteenth-century lithographs on Hamlet subjects that I have been able to identify, most were in color, among the earliest examples being George Scharf’s thirteen colored illustrations for James Robinson Planché’s Costume of Shakspeare’s Tragedy of ‘Hamlet’ Selected and Arranged from the Best Authorities, Expressly for the Proprietors of the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden (London: Miller, 1825; and Edinburgh: Blackwood, 1825). Though not in color, Eugène Delacroix’s various Hamlet lithographs are far better known today, although originally they only appeared in very small print runs and cannot have been known to many outside Delacroix’s own artistic circle. Having already produced a series of lithographs on Faust in 1827 and having completed a lithograph of the Graveyard scene from Hamlet in 1828, Delacroix published at his own expense in 1844 a small edition (80 copies) of thirteen Hamlet lithographs, variously dated 1834, 1835, and 1843. After the death of Delacroix in 1863, Paul Meurice published Delacroix’s lithographs in an edition of 200 copies. Other examples of Hamlet lithographs include the reproduction by Madeley of a portrait of George Jones as Hamlet by Charles Martin (Royal Academy, 1836); a reproduction by Edward Morton of a portrait of Charles Kean as Hamlet by Alfred Chalon (1838), and portraits of John Philip Kemble and Charles Kemble designed and lithographed by Richard James Lane. Another example, quite different in nature, is Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s lithograph (created in collaboration with Sir Seymour Hayden) of an 1858 drawing now in the British Museum that depicts a highly complex scene in which Ophelia attempts to return Hamlet’s gifts to him.

Technical Innovations: Photography

The various technologies for the reproduction of images mentioned thus far were, of course, to be largely eclipsed by the development of photography (Lambert 1987, 107-11; Linkman 1993, 22-27; Young [a], 260-307). Various photographic processes discovered in the second quarter of the nineteenth century revealed how images on paper could be transferred through the action of light on to wood or steel plates which could then be engraved for the reproduction of the original image. The discovery of another process – the daguerreotype – which could fix an image direct from nature without the intervening agency of an artist was, however, limited in scope because images produced in this way could not be duplicated (Linkman 1993, 22-7). Other processes invented shortly after, however, provided the potential for photomechanical reproduction. The importance of photography in the dissemination of portraits of actors has been mentioned elsewhere, among the earliest photographic Hamlet works being some daguerreotype portraits of well-known actors in Hamlet roles. I have been unable to locate the originals of these but engraved versions of them appeared in various publications issued by John Tallis, who had established a new publishing company, the London Printing and Publishing Company, in December 1853. There is, for example, an unsigned engraving of Samuel Phelps as Hamlet and Isabella Glyn as Gertrude performing the Closet Scene from a Daguerreotype by Paine of Islington. There is an unsigned engraving of Charles Kean as Hamlet from a Daguerreotype, and there is an engraving of Gustavus Vaughan Brooke as Hamlet by the English engraver D. Pound from a Daguerreotype by Fitzgibbon of St. Louis. Following these early examples, examples of photographic portraits of actors in Hamlet roles become increasingly common, and the proliferation of such portraits throughout the century (as original photographs, as printed reproductions of those originals, as book illustrations, as postcards, etc.) paralleled the enormous Victorian desire to possess photographic likenesses of celebrity figures whether royalty, athletes, military leaders, statesmen, or actors.
Towards the end of the nineteenth century, when ways had been found to speed up the photographic process, it became more feasible to photograph other kinds of theatrical subjects, including the exteriors and interiors of theaters and even play productions. Of particular historical importance with regard to records of Hamlet are the photographs of William Poel’s revolutionary productions of Hamlet in 1881 and 1900. In the first of these, and in an attempt to break away from the use of a proscenium stage and elaborate stage scenery, Poel used the First Quarto text of Hamlet, dressed his actors (all amateurs except for himself and Helen Maude) in Elizabethan-style costumes, and in St. George’s Hall (London) used a bare, draped stage with maroon hangings to create something approximating to an Elizabethan stage. Our only photographic record of this is a studio work depicting Helen Maude (Maude Holt) as Ofelia and Zoe Bland as Gertred in Ofelia’s mad scene. Though not taken in the theater, it is of considerable interest because it confirms that Poel adopted the unique First Quarto stage direction that has Ofelia enter for her mad scene playing on a lute. When Poel presented another production of Hamlet in Carpenters Hall (London) in 1900, however, his attempt to create an equivalent of the Elizabethan stage was recorded photographically in the theater. Two photographs of the Carpenters Hall production show the full stage and its rear upper acting area, the details in part influenced by the recent publication two years earlier of the copy of De Witt’s sketch of the interior of the Swan Theatre. One photograph depicts the first court scene (1.2) in which most of the cast appear to be present on stage. The second photograph, which also offers valuable evidence of both the stage itself and the costumes used by Poel’s actors, is of Ofelia's mad scene, with Ofelia (Master Bartington), Gertred (Edgar Playford), the King (Philip Anstey), and Leartes (Charles Bright) present. Although the photograph has every appearance of being a record of an actual moment during performance, the rows of empty audience chairs in the foreground clearly reveal that, like most theater photographs, this one was taken during a dress rehearsal. In the same year, A. Schuler took a large number of photographs in order to make a very complete record for a book on the production of Hamlet at the Imperial Hermitage Theater in St. Petersburg (Folger Shakespeare Library Art Vol. f27). As with the photographs of Poel’s production, however, all is not quite what it seems. Close scrutiny of the Schuler’s photographs reveals that they were posed and hence not taken during an actual performance. The photograph of the Play Scene, for example, even shows a number of the cast (including Ophelia and the women around her) looking directly at the camera.

Hamlet Images in Continental Europe and North America

As can be inferred from a number of examples mentioned elsewhere, images based upon Shakespeare’s plays were not generated solely by artists in Britain. Indeed, a significant number originated in other countries, matching the growth throughout Europe and the United States of fascination with Shakespeare. However, very few images appear until the following century, obvious exceptions being Fuseli’s work while away from Britain in Italy and Chodowiecki’s pictorial records of Brockmann’s Berlin Hamlet. To those two eighteenth-century examples, one can add a number of engraved portraits of actors as Hamlet: Johann Brockmann by Tringham (1782) and by J. D. Heidenreich (1794), Josef Lange by Pfeiffer (1795), Friedrich Ludwig Schröder by K. M. Ernst (1797), and J. Beschort by C. W. Seeliger {1799). To these we can add Giovanni Batta Leonetti’s engraving (after Guiseppe Cades) of Hamlet and the Ghost that provides the frontispiece to Hamlet. Tragedia de Villermo Shakespeare. Traducida e ilustrada con la Vida de Autor ... por Inarco Celenio (Madrid: Villalpando, 1798).

Hamlet Images in France

In France, the revolutionary acceptance of Shakespeare in the face of eighteenth-century neo-classical strictures, the heritage of Voltaire and others, was given enormous impetus by the 1827 performances of Shakespeare in Paris by Charles Kemble and his company, which included Harriet Smithson, who as Ophelia created a sensation with her extraordinary acting of the mad scenes. The performances of the English actors gave rise to commemorative lithographs of Hamlet by Achille Devéria and Louis Boulanger, to a striking lithograph by Auguste Valmont of Smithson as the mad Ophelia (Kiefer 2001, 21), and indirectly to some of those (mentioned elsewhere) of Delacroix. Much has been written about the impact of the Kemble productions, particularly of Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet upon the French romantic movement, since from this date onwards, interest and acceptance of Shakespeare in France grew. There were at least sixty-five performances of Hamlet alone between 1831 and 1840. Images based on the plays became more common, and Hamlet, which was one of the most translated and/or adapted of the tragedies, and certainly the most discussed, inevitably was well represented by practitioners of the visual arts. Even before 1827, the performances of the French actor François Joseph Talma as Hamlet from 1803 onwards, in Ducis’s translation, had inspired several portraits of him, including an engraving by Paul Legrand, and an oil painting by Anthelme-François Lagrenné (Martineau 2003, 140-41). Two decades or so later, the great French Hamlet, Philibert Alphonse Rouvière, inspired an engraved portrait by H. Valentin (c. 1847), a portrait designed and etched by Charles Geoffroy in 1855 to accompany a four-page biography of the actor by Charles Baudelaire, and a striking oil portrait (1865) by Edouard Manet (now in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.). Much later in the century, two major French interpreters of the role of Hamlet, Jean Mounet-Sully and Sarah Bernhardt, also inspired visual representations of themselves as Hamlet, including a fairly extensive photographic record. Bernhardt, in addition, herself sculpted a striking bronze bas relief of the drowning Ophelia (c. 1890), a role she herself played prior to taking on the title part in 1899.
Other Hamlet art works by nineteenth-century French artists include a drawing of the Ghost by Charles Baudelaire, a poet particularly fascinated by Hamlet. In February, 1835, a lithograph portrait of John Philip Kemble by Alphonse Leon Noel was published in Echo Britannique, and in 1839, Louis-Henri de Rudder completed a painting of the Death of Polonius. In 1843 Auguste Préault, who had been much influenced by the 1827 Paris performances completed a bronze relief sculpture of Ophelia now in the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Marseille. Various works exhibited at the Paris Salon included lithographs by Charles Lehmann of Hamlet and Ophelia in 1846, and an oil of Ophelia by James (Jean Baptiste) Bertrand in 1872. Other works include a painting by Jean Louis Bezard of Hamlet beside Ophelia’s tombstone, a sculpture of Ophelia (?1851) by Alexandre Falguière,an 1871 oil painting of Ophelia by Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot (now in the Museum of Fine Art, Boston, with the title Young Woman Weaving a Wreath of Flowers), and an extraordinary depiction of the mad Ophelia by Madeleine Lemaire, reproduced in the 1880s as a photogravure by Goupil & Company (Paris).
Among French editions and other publications on Shakespeare, one finds a number of illustrations of Hamlet, but not all are of French origin. In 1828, for example, Retzsche’s Gallerie (mentioned elsewhere) was published in a French translation in Paris by Audot with reduced-size versions of Retzsche’s outline designs. Benjamin Laroche’s 1840 translation of Shakespeare’s works made use of Charles Heath’s 1836 engravings for the Shakespeare Gallery, as did the Galerie des Femmes de Shakspere (Paris: H. Delloye, n.d.), the Galeries des personnages de Shakespeare (Paris: Baudry, 1844), and Les Femmes de Shakespeare (Paris: Pick, 1860). Montégut’s Oeuvres complètes de Shakespeare (Paris: Hachette, 1869-70) employed twenty-one of the Selous/Wentworth wood engravings that had appeared in Charles and Mary Cowden Clarke’s illustrated Shakespeare in 1868 (mentioned elsewhere). In other works, however, French artists set their talents to work. The 1847 Dumas/Meurice Hamlet, Prince de Danemark (Paris: Donday-Dupré), for example, included a wood engraving of Hamlet’s first encounter with the Ghost by “G.” (probably Alphonse Gerard), after a design by “E. L.” François-Victor Hugo’s translation, Oeuvres complètes de Shakespeare (Paris: Alphonse Lemerre, 1875-80), contained 37 illustrations by Charles Henri Pille, including a Graveyard Scene for Hamlet, engraved by Louis Monzies. At the end of the century, Jules Lermina’s translation, Oeuvres de W. Shakespeare (Paris: Boulanger, 1898), contained 35 wood engravings to illustrate Hamlet, designed by Albert Robida and engraved by Bourden and Keilhauer.

Hamlet images in Germany

The considerable German interest in Shakespeare in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, which so influenced both British and French attitudes, was reflected in visual representations of Shakespearean subjects from the eighteenth through the nineteenth centuries. A number of eighteenth-century portraits have been mentioned elsewhere. In the nineteenth century, portraits of actors playing the roles of Hamlet or Ophelia are particularly common. These include portraits of such actors as Karl Devrient, Emil Devrient, Otto Devrient, Ludwig Dessoir, Friedrich Haase, Siegwart Friedmann, Bogumil Dawison, Josef Wagner, and Josef Kainz in the role of Hamlet, and portraits of Franziska Berg, Caroline Bauer, and Marie Bayer-Bürck as Ophelia. In the latter half of the nineteenth century, several German painters were particularly attracted to the subject of Ophelia. Ferdinand Piloty, Victor Muller, Gabriel Max, and Georg Richard Falkenberg all painted Ophelia beside the brook.
More important, perhaps, than such works with regard to the German familiarity with images of Hamlet were illustrated books containing Hamlet images. A number of the portraits mentioned above were clearly designed to illustrate texts of the play. Other texts, however, included illustrations of scenes from the play. Chodowiecki’s series of etchings and Retzsche’s very influential Galerie of 1828 have already been mentioned elsewhere. Some fifty years earlier, a 1777 Augsburg edition of Hamlet included an engraving by J. E. Nilson, depicting Schopf senior as Hamlet and Schimann as Ophelia in the “To a Nunnery” scene. An edition of Schlegel and Tieck’s Shakspeare’s dramatischen Werke (Berlin: Grote’sche Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1874) contained eleven Hamlet illustrations, ten by Hermann Knackfuss and the other an engraving by Schulze of Piloty’s painting of Ophelia. As in France and other European countries, it was not uncommon for publishers to use English designs. Westall’s painting of Ophelia attempting to hang up her garlands beside the brook and various designs by Thurston all provided illustrative material for a number of German editions of Shakespeare, as did twenty-nine Hamlet wood engravings by John Gilbert which appear in Shakspeare’ssämmtliche Werke (Stuttgart: Halberger, n.d.).

Hamlet Images in Selected Other Continental Countries

France and Germany were not the only Continental countries to become familiar with Shakespeare’s works, to translate his works, perform the plays, and produce visual images based upon his plays, including images related to Hamlet. In Russia, where Shakespeare was particularly influential, there were made photographs of various Russian actors in Shakespearean roles, including photographs of Anatolius Kremlov as Hamlet and Vera Komisarjevskaya as Ophelia in productions at the Imperial Hermitage Theater in St. Petersburg. As mentioned elsewhere, there is also a wonderful photographic record by A. Schuler of a production of Hamlet in St. Petersburg in 1900. As in certain other countries, book illustrators tended to employ “borrowed” images. P. A. Kanshin’s translation of Shakespeare, for example, is illustrated, not by Russian artists, but by “borrowed” images, Hamlet being represented by engravings of works by Piloty and Delacroix.
In Poland, once the Romantic movement made its impact from the end of the 1820s, Shakespeare became a central influence in Polish literary and theatrical culture, although the first collected edition of the plays, edited by Joseph Ignacy Kraszewski, did not appear until 1875-77. Following the appearance of Kraszewski’s edition, works based on Shakespeare subjects became popular among Polish artists, who produced illustrations in books and periodicals, sculptures, and paintings. The periodical Tygodnik Powszechny, for example, reproduced Blotnicki’s sculpture of Hamlet in 1885. Photographers provided portraits of actors, one of the most celebrated of these being Helena Modjeska, who before leaving Poland and making a new career in the United States, was photographed in the role of Ophelia, which she acted in Crakow and Warsaw. Among Polish painters of Shakespeare subjects in the nineteenth century, the best known are Aleksander Gierymski, Wladyslow Czachórski and Maurycy Gottlieb. All three were associated with the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich. Czachórski’s Hamlet with the Players (now privately-owned in the United States) was exhibited at the Munich Kunstverein in 1875 and received further publicity and exposure when it won a gold medal at the World Art Exhibition in Munich four years later).
In Italy, attempts were made to introduce Shakespeare to theater audiences in 1820 (Othello), 1845 (Othello) and 1850 (Hamlet) but with no great success. However, when Ernesto Rossi began to perform Shakespeare, everything changed. He became famous as a Shakespeare performer, Hamlet being one of his most celebrated roles. As an interpreter of the great tragic roles, Rossi was followed by Tommaso Salvini, who included Hamlet to his repertoire. Both actors played in various countries outside Italy, including England and the United States, and there are numerous theatrical portraits of them. Of Rossi’s Hamlet, there is an engraving by Modesto Faustino, several photographs depicting him with a skull, and a remarkable photograph showing him prone on the ground in his dying moments in Act 5. In addition, Rossi’s Hamlet, gesturing towards the skull that he holds in one hand, was commemorated posthumously in a striking marble sculpture by Ernesto Troili (1902) that is now in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre Gallery in Stratford-upon-Avon. Salvini’s role Hamlet is also recorded in photographs and engravings. Not unexpectedly, a number of nineteenth-century Italian editions of Shakespeare were illustrated, but those that I have examined have “imported” illustrations. The

When the Globe Theatre along London’s River Thames opened in 1599, a flag depicting Hercules hoisting a globe announced the opening of William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. In the four centuries since Shakespeare’s death, a diverse visual language has developed around the presentation of his plays. Mirko Ilić and Steven Heller’s Presenting Shakespeare: 1,100 Posters from Around the World, recently released by Princeton Architectural Press, explores international approaches to selling Shakespeare through advertising and graphic design.

Posters only took hold as a quick and immediate medium in the 20th century, with the advent of new technology and cheap printing. Since then, graphic designers have harnessed and built upon the existing shorthand for each play, like Hamlet contemplating the skull of Yorick — an image made iconic in part by an influential minimalist poster from 1894 by the Beggarstaffs (William Nicholson and James Pryde in England).

Presenting Shakespeare includes posters with heaps of roses and daggers for Romeo and Juliet, and red pigments as bright as the blood Lady Macbeth couldn’t scour from her soiled hands for the “Scottish Play.” King Lear is often defined by his useless crown, which some designers depict as a rock or piece of wood bolted to his wrinkled forehead. Titus Andronicus posters are mostly frenzies of violence, although one is just a photograph of raw meat; another from 2013 by Annette Bowery for the Royal Shakespeare Company tallies the body counts associated with various fates (characters baked in a pie = 2; limbs cut off = 7). Othello, in a 2001 poster by Michel Bouvet for a French production, is represented by a single, clenched black leather glove.

The interpretive nature of the posters has sometimes been a way for artists to evade censorship during times of political restriction. Ilić and Heller write:

Rather than solely representational, Shakespeare’s imagery can be metaphorical. … Just as some of his plays, including Hamlet, Othello, Richard II, Merchant of Venice, and others, have been updated to reflect the social mores or politics of the moment, so too have posters first and foremost promoting the Bard’s genius provided opportunities to make statements or push the limits of contemporary prohibitions. During the 1950s through the fall of the Iron Curtain, many such posters were created by Eastern European artists; stymied by government decrees from making overt social or political commentary, they had to master the art of deception.

Presenting Shakespeare is mostly a visual compendium light on analysis, but with over a thousand posters from 55 countries it offers an opportunity to delve into how different cultures interpret Shakespeare’s classic stories of love, tragedy, and twisted identities. For example, Poland has particularly gripping graphics, like a crumbling pile of weathered stones by Weislaw Walkuski for a 1994 production of Julius Caesar and a 2008 poster for Romeo and Juliet by Leszek Zebrowski that gets beyond the usual daggers and roses with a simple image of an open bear trap in the shape of a heart.

As director Julie Taymor, who has staged her own Shakespeare productions, writes in a preface:

[The] greatness of a Shakespeare play is its allowance for multiple interpretations, as one can witness from the extreme diversity of posters within this book. A Midsummer Night’s Dream can be conveyed as a light, rollicking romp in the woods for one theater troupe or a dark dialectic on the perils of love, lust, and marriage for another.

Mirko Ilić and Steven Heller’s Presenting Shakespeare: 1,100 Posters from Around the Worldis published by Princeton Architectural Press.

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