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As Tate found, amid the upheavals of the Popish Plot and the exclusion crisis, Shakespeare's plays were means of making dangerous political statements: Ravenscroft's Titus Andronicus (1678) was a satire on Titus Oates and the whigs; Otway's Caius Marius (1680), from Romeo and Juliet, explored the plight of those caught up in political and social struggles. Tate's problems with censorship were not the last: Colley Cibber's Richard III (1700), a version long-lived enough to leave traces on Laurence Olivier's film (1955), was first performed without its first act, borrowed from 3 Henry VI, since the murder of a king was still unstageable when likely to be seen as a parallel to the death of James II. Cibber carefully distinguished his lines from Shakespeare's in the printed text, again a mark of Shakespeare's growing importance as an originating text.




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Nothing that happened in Shakespeare performance in the first half of the eighteenth century quite anticipated the effect of Garrick's arrival. Many Shakespeare plays were established as the backbone of the theatrical repertory: by 1740 nearly a quarter of all London performances were of Shakespeare. There were great actors: for instance, Robert Wilks as Hamlet, Barton Booth as Othello, or James Quin as Falstaff. There was the advocacy of the Shakespeare Ladies' Club which from 1736 successfully pressed for the restoration of more of Shakespeare's plays to the stage. The elevation of Shakespeare to the embodiment of nation meant that adaptation became increasingly seen as unpatriotic: as William Guthrie wondered in 1747, 'Where is the Briton so much a Frenchman to prefer the highest stretch of modern improvement to the meanest spark of Shakespeare's genius?' (W. Guthrie, An Essay upon English Tragedy, 1747, 10).


Macready, concerned with raising the theatre's 'low' image, worked hard to redeem its ways with Shakespeare's texts. Restoring Shakespeare to the stage was one means of improving the theatre's cultural image. But he also prepared his productions more carefully than had been the norm, with frequent rehearsals (and long private work on his own performance) as well as thoughtful staging to manifest the historical accuracy of action and ritual as well as set and costumes. In England and America, which he toured three times, his work was highly praised and much imitated. Much hyped, Macready's restoration of the text was less substantial than his publicity promised: though his production of King Lear in 1838 restored Fool, after persuasion, and the tragic ending, never seen since Tate's version was first performed, Macready cut the blinding of Gloucester and his leap at Dover Cliff, the former presumably as too painful, the latter as dangerously close to comic. Macready's King Lear was set in an ancient Britain with signs of Stonehenge; his Coriolanus was in a modest Rome unlike the splendour of his Julius Caesar. But Macready also exploited the stage's technology for grand transformation scenes, for example in the images that backed the Chorus's speeches in his Henry V.


Far more brilliantly, Orson Welles, with radical rethinking of the possibilities of cinema and meagre budgets, made incisive and complex versions of Macbeth (1943), Othello (1952), and the Henry IV plays as Chimes at Midnight (1966). If the 1960s were dominated by Franco Zeffirelli's popular and lush The Taming of the Shrew (1966) and Romeo and Juliet (1968), there were powerfully intelligent and superbly cinematic alternatives in Kurosawa's Japanese re-imaginings and Grigory Kozintsev's political readings of Hamlet (1964) and King Lear (1970), with great performances from Innokenti Smoktunovski as Hamlet and Yuri Yarvets as Lear and the benefits of Shostakovich's fine film-scores.


On the stage Shakespeare has become a basis for musicals: for example, The Boys from Syracuse (1938, from The Comedy of Errors, music by Richard Rodgers), Kiss Me Kate (1948, from The Taming of the Shrew, music by Cole Porter), and West Side Story (1957, from Romeo and Juliet, music by Leonard Bernstein). There have been sequels and prequels (for example, Howard Barker's Seven Lears, 1990, and Elaine Feinstein and the Women's Theatre Group's Lear's Daughters, 1991), plays developing minor characters (Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, 1966) and rethinking the action (Edward Bond's Lear, 1971, Eugène Ionesco's Macbett, 1972, Charles Marowitz's collage versions collected as The Marowitz Shakespeare, 1978), plays providing cultural relocations (Welcome Msomi's uMabatha, 1972) and political reinterpretations (for example, Bertolt Brecht's Coriolanus, 1964, or his use of Richard III in The Life of Galileo, 1943, and The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, 1957). There have also been major successes in relocating plays to the opera house, especially Benjamin Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream (1960), Samuel Barber's Antony and Cleopatra (1966), and Aribert Reimann's Lear (1978), and one superb translation to ballet in the successive choreographic interpretations of Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet (1935) by Ashton, Cranko, MacMillan, and others.


But as well as these adaptations for the stage, the plays themselves have a long and complex history of twentieth-century stage performance. Productions in continental Europe were often thoughtfully political and strikingly modernist in design, for example Leopold Jessner's Richard III (1920) and Othello (1921), both in Berlin, or the versions of Julius Caesar by Leon Schiller (Warsaw, 1928) and Jirí Frejka (Prague, 1936). Such work was echoed by Orson Welles's stage work in America, with his 'voodoo' Macbeth and his strongly anti-fascist Julius Caesar in 1937.


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