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David Garrick
Online Exhibition

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Inhabiting the Character

David Garrick as King Lear. Worcester porcelain saucer, ca. 1775.

In a letter to William Powell, he advised the aspiring actor to “give to Study, and an Accurate consideration of Your Characters, those Hours which Young Men generally give to their Friends & fflatterers [sic]” because public favor “must be purchas’d with Sweat & labour.” An observer in 1742 gave the following example of Garrick’s range and depth in characterization: “In the Parts of Richard III, King Lear, the Lying Valet, and Bays in the Rehearsal, he is as different as they are opposite, and enters into their Spirit with great Justness and Propriety.” That is, he became the character.

This Worcester porcelain saucer depicts Garrick as King Lear, and forms part of a theatrical tea service painted in the London studio of James Giles.

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Benjamin Wilson. William Powell as Hamlet encountering the Ghost. Oil on canvas, ca. 1768-1769

Additional Information

William Powell (1734/5-1769) proved to be a sensation during his seven years on the stage. He was expected to have a long and great acting career, but died in his early 30's. Garrick's letter to Powell is dated 1764.

Richard III: jump directly to Richard III in the online exhibition for more.

King Lear: jump directly to Lear in the online exhibition for more.

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