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David Garrick
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Old Style vs. New

James Quin (1693–1766), seen here as Coriolanus, provides an extreme example of the stylized acting Garrick helped sweep away. He wears the formal costume of a Tragic Hero, and stands ready to recite his lines for the audience in proper declamatory fashion. It is not surprising that such a style prevailed in the first half of the eighteenth-century, when elite audience members still routinely walked around (and behind) the stage, talked with each other, and otherwise treated the performers as mere servants. Any subtleties of characterization would only be lost in that environment. Quin’s acting career continued until his retirement in 1757, and is forever associated with his portrayal of Falstaff, a comic role well-suited to his large, rotund physique and mannered way of speaking.

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Mr. Quin. in the character of Coriolanus. Engraving, mid-18th century

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