Be Inspired: Shakespeare and Me
David Garrick: Actor, playwright, theatre manager and director
'Shakespeare’s works were to have a great influence over Garrick’s career, and promoting a love of Shakespeare himself among theatre-goers was to become his greatest ambition.'
Dr Anjna Chouhan, Shakespeare Birthplace Trust
David Garrick (1717 - 1779) was inspired by Shakespeare throughout his working life. He described Shakespeare in a letter as ‘the first genius of the world.’
In the early 1740s Garrick was recognised as ‘ye [the] best Actor ye [the] English Stage had produc’d’ for his performance as Shakespeare’s Richard III. He took on the joint management of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in 1747, and by 1756 he was increasingly associated with both the staging and playing of Shakespearian works.
As well as appearing in leading Shakespearian roles, Garrick was an innovative editor of his plays and introduced lavish theatrical sets. In 1769 he donated a statue of Shakespeare for the opening of a new town hall in Stratford-upon-Avon. To mark the occasion he organised the first ever Shakespeare Jubilee, a three day celebration of Shakespeare. When he died in 1779 such was his reputation that he was given an extravagant public funeral at Westminster Abbey, and laid to rest in Poet's Corner. The inscription on his memorial reads:
'To paint fair Nature, by divine command, her magic pencil in his glowing hand, a Shakspeare rose, then to expand his fame wide o'er this "breathing world", a Garrick came. Though sunk in death the forms the poet drew, the actor's genius bade them breathe anew; though, like the Bard himself, in night they lay, immortal Garrick call'd them back to day: and till eternity with power sublime, shall mark the mortal hour of hoary time, Shakspeare & Garrick like twin stars shall shine, and earth irradiate with a beam divine.'
David Garrick appearing as Shakespeare’s Richard III
Print based on a painting by William Hogarth
Published by the London Printing and Publishing Company
Scroll down to find out more about Garrick's Jubilee and his Jubilee medallion