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Fixating on Shakespeare

"Bardolatry," or the craze for all thing Shakespeare, began in the eighteenth century and has never ceased. Perhaps its most startling expression was by actor David Garrick who, gesturing towards a statue of the Bard at the end of his 1769 Shakespeare Jubilee, cried, "Tis he! 'tis he! The god of our idolatry!'" Though we may no longer view him as a "god," Shakespeare is still so recognizable that a couple of telephone companies have used modernized clips of Romeo and Juliet in commercials to sell their products.

George James De Wilde. The Seven ages of man. Oil on canvas, 1823.

In the nineteenth century, one of the most popular Shakespearean references was to the Seven Ages of Man from a speech by Jacques in As You Like It. The theme was used in books, paintings, games, accessories, and advertising. At the same time, a passion developed for collecting Shakespeare relics; a few people even went so far as to create fake ones. Today Shakespeare's presence is ubiquitous, not only on the web (28,600,000 Google hits and counting), but also in the novels we read, the movies we watch, and the games we play. As our culture evolves at ever greater speeds, Shakespeare is still present as a kind of grounding force, creating new communities of fans.


Pictured at right are additional items that demonstrate this fixation.


Next: Printing Shakespeare

Stadler. The late Mr. Garrick's villa. Colored etching, 1793

Shakespeare. Dramatic works of William Shakespeare. London, 1821

Cruikshank. The first appearance of William Shakespeare, on the stage of "The Globe." Colored autotype, not before 1865 

William Shakespeare. Presenting the seven ages of man...as rendered movingly by Mrs. Maryline Poole Adams. 1994

Onwhyn. As you like it, Seven ages of man. Lithograph, mid-19th century.

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