Two hundred years ago, Shakespeare’s birth/death day was marked by a performance at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, of ‘Romeo and Juliet’, a pageant of characters from 16 of Shakespeare’s plays, and a recitation of the ‘Ode to Shakespeare’ written by David Garrick (1717-1779) for the Jubilee staged at Stratford in 1769.
A playbill for April 23, 1816, one in a bound volume [Vet. A6 c.172], shows that Mr Rae and Miss Grimani took the roles of the star-crossed lovers. The European Magazine was full of praise for Miss Grimani’s performance: of particular interest for the Bodleian’s exhibition, Shakespeare’s Dead, is the description of Juliet’s death: “Her last anxious effort to stagger to the dead body of her lord, after stabbing herself, and the sudden arrest of death, which compelled her to fall backwards, were finely conceived and beautifully executed.”
The owner of the volume attached to the back of the previous item a souvenir of Garrick himself: a piece of cloth, with sequins and silver embroidery, labelled ‘Part of the robe worn by Garrick as Rich. III’, a role for which the actor was famous, and in which he was famously portrayed in a painting by William Hogarth in 1745; though in the engraving by John Dixon from 1772 he wears a robe that more resembles the scrap preserved here.