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David Garrick
Online Exhibition

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Garrick’s “Frenchifying” alteration of Shakespeare’s Hamlet (first performed on December 18, 1772) became as controversial as his acting was celebrated. In one of his many neoclassical critiques of Shakespeare, Voltaire had famously called the play “a vulgar and barbarous drama which would not be tolerated by the most ignorant audiences in France or Italy.” Garrick corresponded enthusiastically with numerous theatrical friends in France about his “bold deed,” that he “dar’d to alter Hamlet ” to bring the play more in line with classical norms by removing most of Act 5 and including having “destroy’d ye Grave diggers (those favourites of the people).”  But Garrick also wrote to Sir William Young on January 10, 1773 describing this tampering with the play as “the most imprudent thing I ever did in all my life.”


Despite criticism that Garrick’s alteration revealed him as too much influenced by French tastes, it was popular with the crowds and held the stage for years. Garrick’s last performance of Hamlet was on May 30, 1776, in a performace that completely sold out in about two hours. But since his retirement, Garrick's 1772 version has never again been staged.

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"As it is now acted at..."
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The Gravediggers Restored
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Jump directly to Garrick as Hamlet for more on his portrayal.


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