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Many actors in the nineteenth century were regarded with tremendous respect and esteem but it is unlikely that any performer engendered the affection that Ellen Terry (1849-1928) received. Audiences didn't just admire her, they loved her. She was born into a theatrical family that evolved into a dynasty (John Gielgud was her great nephew), making her London debut as MamilIius opposite Charles Kean's Leontes in The Winter's Tale in 1856. She graduated into ingenue roles, and in 1867 acted opposite Henry Irving for the first time as Katharina in a shortened version of Taming of the Shrew. She joined Irving at the Lyceum Theatre in 1878, starting the greatest acting partnership of the nineteenth century. While Irving was sometimes criticized (most frequently by George Bernard Shaw, with whom Terry shared a loving correspondence for many years) for taking the most prominent roles that kept Terry in the background, she was able to play almost all of the major Shakespearean female roles - provided that there was a prominent enough part for Irving. Their greatest successes were usually shared: Portia and Shylock, Hamlet and Ophelia, Queen Katharine and Wolsey. She was devoted to Irving, and only after his death in 1905 did she finally appear in the play Shaw wrote for her, Captain Brassbound's Conversion.

Her greatest Shakespearean role was Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing, which she first played (opposite Irving's Benedick) in 1882 and was included in her repertory for years. When her partnership with Irving ended in 1902 and Terry finally struck out on her own, Oscar Asche took over the role of Benedick and her sets were designed by her remarkable son Edward Gordon Craig. But it was Terry who the public continued to come to see. Max Beerbohm wrote that "...there never has been, nor there never will be, so perfect a Beatrice as Miss Terry, and Miss Terry never will be, nor ever has been, so perfect than as Beatrice. Beatrice, on all her sunniness and jollity; a tease, a romp; a woman with something beyond her generous womanhood.- some touch of fairydom in her - here is she incarnate and unrivalled."

Laurence Olivier (1907-1989) made his first attempt as Macbeth during the checkered 1937-38 season at the Old Vic, in which he scored personal triumphs as Sir Toby Belch, Henry V, and Coriolanus, and critical disdain for his performances as Hamlet and Iago. His Macbeth was the most critically divided performance of the season; praised for his mental grasp of the character but derided for not being on a par with Judith Anderson's Lady Macbeth and for his overly-elaborate, stylized makeup (Vivian Leigh reported "You hear Macbeth's first line, then Larry's makeup comes on, then Banquo comes on, then Larry comes on"). James Agate's review analyzed the plusses and minuses of Olivier's performance and determined in the end that he came up short, but ended on a note of hopefulness. "To sum it up, this may not be the whole of Macbeth. Ideally considered, the performance lacks grandeur, and the actor should look to his gait, which smacks too much of the modern prize-ring. But the mental grasp is here, and so too is enough of the character to take one spectator out of the Waterloo Road and set him down on that dubious heath. Further, is it not a point that whereas a stripling can fly at Hamlet, Macbeth is a weighty business which requires the momentum of age. Mr. Olivier will probably play the part twice as well when he has twice his present years."

Olivier made several attempts at returning to the role in the ensuing years, approaching impresario Binkie Beaumont about producing him in a season of the four major Shakespearean tragedies in 1940 (the proposal falling apart when Beaumont would agree only if Olivier's arch-rival John Gielgud alternated in the lead roles), and attempting to film the play following the success of Henry V, but deciding against it after learning that Orson Welles was doing his own film of Macbeth that would reach theatres first, and opting instead to make his Academy Award-winning version of Hamlet.

Olivier's career was at a crossroads when he finally did return to Macbeth in 1955. His career-making performances as Richard III, Oedipus, Mr. Puff, Hotspur, and Justice Shallow were a decade behind him, and his recent performances in fluff like Venus Observed and The Sleeping Prince had led to accusations that he was coasting. He was therefore in a somewhat uncomfortable position when he arrived at Stratford-Upon-Avon for his first appearances at the Memorial Theatre, made even worse by the disappointing reception of his controversial Malvolio in a lackluster production of Twelfth Night directed by John Gielgud. His black-hearted Macbeth, however, not only reestablished his reputation, his performance was regarded as the greatest interpretation of the role in living memory. Though Glenn Byam Shaw's production was criticized for not being on a par with Olivier's performance and Vivian Leigh's Lady Macbeth came in for particular criticism (although Olivier graciously defended her in his autobiography, calling her performance the greatest he had ever seen in the role), Olivier's Macbeth was universally hailed as a masterpiece. Kenneth Tynan wrote "Last Tuesday Sir Laurence shook hands with greatness, and within a week or so the performance will have ripened into a masterpiece; not of the superficial, booming, have-a -bash kind, but the real thing, a structure of perfect forethought and proportion lit by flashes of intuitive lightning."

After his towering achievement as Macbeth, Olivier's hopes to immortalize his performance on film intensified. It appeared as though he would achieve his dream through the financial backing of producer Michael Todd (who had just won the Best Picture Oscar for his film Around the World in 80 Days), but after Todd's death in a plane crash and the financial failure of his film of Richard III, Olivier was unable to raise the money for his dream project. He considered it the greatest disappointment of his career.

John Gielgud (1904-2000) made the monumental leap from being an obscure young actor whose major claim to fame was being the grandnephew of the legendary Ellen Terry to the leading Shakespearean actor of his generation with his first appearances at the Old Vic Theatre from 1929 to 1931. The role that catapulted Gielgud to this new notoriety was Richard II. With characteristic modesty, Gielgud later wrote "Richard II is something of a plaster saint and he knows it. But it is a rewarding part with lovely things to say, and I thought it suited my personality. I always had the feeling I could do something with the part." What Gielgud did was create a sensation, resulting in the Vic's greatest critically received production to date that was so popular that it was revived at the end of the year. By then Gielgud was the star attraction of the theatre, with director Harcourt Williams writing "his playing of the coronation scene will live in my mind as one of the great things I have seen in the theatre."

Gielgud wanted to play the role on Broadway following the success of his New York Hamlet in 1936 but director Guthrie McClintoc dissuaded him, allowing Maurice Evans to have his own Broadway triumph with his performance on the Great White Way the following year. Instead, Gielgud revived the role as the first production of his legendary Queen's Theatre season in 1937. With a goal to revolutionize English theatre by assembling a permanent company (that included Michael Redgrave, Peggy Ashcroft, and Alec Guinness) and providing them with a extensive rehearsal period, Gielgud's productions of Richard II, The School for Scandal, The Three Sisters, and The Merchant of Venice laid the groundwork for the Royal National Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company. Gielgud's Richard was even more highly regarded than his 1929 performance. James Agate wrote "his present performance lays greater stress on the artist without losing any of the kingliness. His reading has gained in depth, subtlety, insight, power. The last act is not only the peak of his achievement to date; it is probably the best piece of Shakespearean acting on the English stage today."

Gielgud badly wanted to play the part a final time when he was engaged to direct the play at the Lyric, Hammersmith in 1952, but he decided that he was too old and instead cast Paul Scofield, who enjoyed a success despite working with a director who had put his own individual stamp on the role. But Gielgud regretted his decision, and leapt at the invitation to play Richard in Bulawayo as part of the Rhodes Centenary Festival the following year. Observers said that he was as brilliant as ever during rehearsals in London, but when he arrived in Rhodes he discovered that the theatre was a giant structure made of corrugated steel that housed 3,000 people and was totally unsuited for the production, resulting in what Gielgud regarded as a disappointing farewell to one of his signature roles. He did make a final appearance in the play in 1978 for the BBCs Complete Works television series as John of Gaunt (pictured), imbuing the "this England" speech with a vocal power that showed a true master at work.

John Barrymore (1882-1942) played only two Shakespearean stage roles in his career, but they were among the greatest triumphs in the history of world theatre. He played a spidery Richard III in 1920 that was met with universal acclaim, but no one was prepared for the event of his 1922 Hamlet at the Sam H. Harris Theatre. "The atmosphere of historic happening surrounded John Barrymore's appearance last night as the Prince of Denmark," wrote John Corbin of the New York Times. "It was unmistakable as it was indefinable. It sprang from the quality and intensity of the applause, from the hushed murmurs that swept the audience at the most unexpected moments, from the silent crowds that all evening swarmed about the entrance. It was nowhere - and everywhere." Barrymore thumbed his nose at Edwin Booth by playing his Hamlet for 101 performances and then took his Melancholy Dane to London in 1925, which was first judged as being equivalent to taking coals to Newcastle. But Barrymore, working for the only time under his own direction, was a revelation. James Agate wrote that Barrymore's Melancholy Dane came "nearer to Shakespeare's whole creation than any other I have seen."

Barrymore gave up theatre after that, choosing to concentrate his energies on the financial riches of Hollywood. He made only one more stage appearance, in an unworthy farce called My Dear Children in 1940 (pictured) in which he embarrassed himself in a burlesque of his outrageous public image which audiences came to see him fall down in. Barrymore made a halfhearted attempt to commit his interpretation of Hamlet to film in 1933, but the existing screen test of Act I, Scene IV indicates that a decade of alcoholism had made him unequal to the task. He did leave one final fragment of his Hamlet in his terrible final film Playmates, where he gives a superlative reading of "To Be or Not to Be" before ironically cutting himself off, saying that he hoped he didn't bore the audience (below). It was a sad finish to what many still regard as the century's greatest Hamlet.

On October 19, 1741, a young unknown actor billed only as “A gentlemen who never appeared on any stage” took on the role of Richard III at Goodman’s Fields in London and began that night a dominance of the acting profession which has been unequaled before or since. He made, wrote Arthur Murray sixty years later, “on the very first night, a deep impression on the audience. His fame ran through the metropolis. The public went in crowds to see a young performer, who came forth at once a complete master of his art.” 25 year-old David Garrick (1717-1779) had initially come to London five years before to operate a wine business he owned in partnership with his brother but after the phenomenon of his Richard III, he wrote to his brother requesting that he be released to devote his time completely to the stage. He headed the acting company at Drury Lane and went from triumph to triumph in plays such as Much Ado About Nothing, Cymbeline, Hamlet, and Romeo & Juliet (its first production in London in 80 years), but Richard III always held the central place in his repertoire. He ultimately amassed a sizable fortune and built an estate with gardens laid out by renowned landscape architect Capability Brown, becoming in the process the first actor to be welcomed into fashionable society.

Like all actors between 1700 and 1850, Garrick never spoke many of Shakespeare's lines in his performance as Richard III, preferring the adaptation by Colley Cibber which gave more scope to the leading actor by eliminating many of the secondary characters. And if Garrick never spoke "Now is the winter of our discontent," he did recite Cibber's "Off with his head. So much for Buckingham!", an addition that is still frequently used in contemporary productions (including Olivier's film version) and when Garrick ultimately penned his own adaptation of the play, it was based as much on Cibber as on Shakespeare. Contemporary audiences embraced these bowdlerizations, although Garrick's devotion to the Bard was so complete that he staged the Shakespeare Jubilee in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1769. His portrayal of Richard inspired portraits by Francis Hayman, William Hogarth, Henry Fuseli, Nathaniel Dance, Thomas Bradwell, and Philip de Loutherbourg. So popular was Garrick's characterization that a famous anecdote depicts him coming across a rival theatrical manager and asking him the capacity of his theatre. The manager replied, "In truth I know not, but if you could come and play Richard for one evening, I could give an accurate accounting."

When lists of the greatest Shakespearean actors of the twentieth century are drawn up, the names of John Gielgud, Laurence Olivier, and Ralph Richardson are inevitably given top billing. This is a disservice, as Ian McKellen has enjoyed more consistent acclaim than the great Richardson, who floundered as often as he triumphed, suffering historic failures as Othello, Prospero, Timon, and particularly Macbeth; while McKellen has flourished in almost every Shakespearean role he has attempted, including remarkable successes as Richard II, Edgar in King Lear (Drama Desk Award), Philip The Bastard in King John, Leontes in The Winter's Tale, Sir Toby Belch in Twelfth Night, Coriolanus (Evening Standard Award) Iago (Evening Standard Award), Richard III (Laurence Olivier Award), the one-man show Acting Shakespeare (Tony nomination), as well as being the first known professional actor to play the title role in the Shakespeare-collaborated Sir Thomas More (one of his few misfires was his 1971 performance as Hamlet, of which Plays & Players said "McKellen gives a shuddering emphasis to the lines which seems to bear little or no emphasis to his or any other interpretation of the play").

McKellen's greatest Shakespearean success was his performance as Macbeth, which he first played at the Other Place in Stratford in July of 1976 and would play through January of 1978, ultimately immortalizing on video. The minimalist production, mounted at the same time that McKellen was playing Leontes and an overaged Romeo, was thought to be simply one more production in the RSC season and indeed the casting of the warm and down-to-earth Judi Dench as Lady Macbeth was feared to result in a horribly miscast performance. But Trevor Nunn's uncluttered staging gave the play an intimacy which was both horrifying and overwhelmingly moving and Dench's brilliance as an actress superseded the audiences' preconceptions, resulting in one of the most acclaimed and influential Shakespearean productions since Olivier and Gielgud were doing their best work. But most integral to the success of the production was McKellen's brutal yet sensitive performance of the title role, winning him the Plays & Players' London Theatre Critics’ Award. McKellen later wrote "Somehow it was magic: and black magic, too. A priest used to sit on the front row, whenever he could scrounge a ticket, holding out his crucifix to protect the cast from the evil we were raising.... When I remember Macbeth I feel I could write a book about it all (a number of research students already have). There is so much I was proud of: discovering how to play a soliloquy direct into the eyes of everyone in the audience; making them laugh at Macbeth's gallows humour; working alongside Judi Dench's finest performance."

Sir Ian stunned the theatrical world when he announced in 2021 that he was once again taking on the role of Hamlet at the age of 82. The age-and-gender-blind production, staged during the Covid-19 pandemic, was alas beset with problems when actors Steven Berkoff (Polonius) and Emmanuella Cole (Laertes) were in such bitter disagreement during rehearsals that they both dropped out of the show on the eve of its opening. They were replaced by Frances Barber (in an acclaimed performance) and Ashley D Gayle but the production ultimately received a lukewarm reception. McKellen was praised for his stamina and courage in taking on such a massive role at his advanced age but many critics took issue with Sean Mathias' staging (having Hamlet do part of his "to be or not to be" soliloquy while riding an exercise bike). The legendary actor probably didn't close out his Shakespearean career on one of his most memorable notes but he certainly had his share of admirers, with Matt Wolf writing in the New York Times "McKellen’s achievement is to render age irrelevant, so that we seem to be peering into the soul of a character this actor understands from the inside out. And as mortality rattles Hamlet more and more, it’s doubly moving to hear those lines spoken by an actor now in his ninth decade."

In a poll of members of the Royal Shakespeare Company in 2004, Paul Scofield's (1922-2008) 1962 Lear was voted the greatest Shakespearean performance in the history of the RSC, winning the Evening Standard award and touring in the production for two years, finally committing it to film in 1971. Peter Brook's staging rethought the play on a Brechtian level and was heavily influenced on the ideas expressed by Polish theater critic Jan Kott in the book "Shakespeare, Our Contemporary". The Daily Herald said " Paul Scofield stormed the stage at Stratford-on-Avon… Here was a king who had fought for, not inherited, his throne. A tough, savage, wardog, magnificent and majestic," and The New York Times called the production "a great masterpiece produced with the noble arch of its structure, and all the parts are like stones fitted into their niches and carrying their share, however large or modest, of the mighty burden." Scofield was first resistant to playing Lear, feeling that he should first conquer Macbeth (which he ultimately played in 1967). But he ultimately regarded Lear as his greatest creation, telling Garry O'Connor (for the book "Paul Scofield: An Actor for All Seasons") that "the word from your list of possible aspects of our work in the play that leaps out to me is 'sublime,' again and again, during performance, there is a sense of exultation, that we are close to something uplifting and immense, whether or not we succeeded in conveying it to the audience. I have had no larger experience in the theatre."

Scofield was the most monastic of theatrical titans of his generation, declining a knighthood on three occasions and turning his back on the riches of Hollywood and Broadway to concentrate his work almost exclusively on subsidized theatre in Britain. He has had legendary successes in Shakespearean roles like Hamlet, Timon of Athens, Prospero, Othello, Richard II, Philip the Bastard in King John, and Lucio in Measure for Measure as well as non-Shakespearean smashes in The Power and the Glory, The Government Inspector, Uncle Vanya, The Rules of the Game, Volpone, Amadeus, I'm Not Rappaport, and Heartbreak House in addition to his most famous role as Thomas More in A Man for All Seasons. And despite making only a relative handful of television and film appearances in his seventy year career, he won an Academy Award, Emmy, and New York Film Critics Award. But such honors never turned Scofield's head. After he won the Oscar for A Man for All Seasons (for which he was paid a hundred thousand dollars), his agent asked him which of the many high paying offers he wanted to take next. Scofield simply responded "I want to go back to Stratford for £12 a week."

Laurence Olivier's (1907-1989) greatest achievement was his Richard III, which he first played at the Old Vic in 1944, took to Australia and New Zealand in 1948 (with Vivien Leigh as Lady Anne), and revived at the Vic in 1949. He was at first reticent to take on the role, fearing that he would not compare well with other eminent tragedians who had played the part, but his success was so overwhelming that it finally became not only Olivier's signature role, but one of the greatest single achievements by an actor in the history of Shakespearean performance. Basing his stage makeup on a combination of Disney's The Big Bad Wolf and infamous theatrical producer Jed Harris (Olivier's skill with makeup was so influential to other actors that his co-director at the Old Vic, Ralph Richardson, had to admonish company members "Before you go onstage, look in the mirror and ask yourself: Is it human?"), Olivier's performance stunned both the public and the critics and did more to establish the mythic proportions of his reputation than any other role (John Gielgud presented Olivier with the sword Edmund Kean used when playing Richard after seeing the stage production). No other actor in living memory provided the part with such a virtuoso display of wit, terror and pathos. "Olivier's Richard," wrote Kenneth Tynan, "eats into the memory like acid into metal."

The performance was committed to film in 1955 with an All Star cast that included theatrical knights Olivier, Ralph Richardson, John Gielgud, and Cedric Hardwicke (it premiered on U.S. television the night before its theatrical release, prompting NBC to take out an advertisement reading "Yessiree! When do four good (k)nights equal three top TV hours?"), netting Olivier an Academy Award nomination for his performance as Richard. John Gielgud observed "My memory of him when he was acting and directing the film of Richard III showed him as an absolute master of both stage and screen. His authority and expertise, as well as his sympathetic understanding of actors and crew, were a delight to see....His versatility, dynamic energy and physical prowess, all these qualities, as well as his skill in directing and organizing, make up an astonishing record in his wonderful career." The Saturday Review wrote of the film "Olivier brings to it, above all else, a keen intelligence, an ability to think through the words of Shakespeare to a vivid, visual setting for them, and a deep feeling for the poetry itself, for the music of the lines, that is reflected not only in his own readings but also in the superb casts he has always gathered around himself."

Olivier has claims to being the most versatile actor of the 20th century, achieving major successes in new plays in both modern (The Entertainer, The Party, The Green Bay Tree) and historical (Becket) settings; classic revivals of plays by Shaw, Sheridan, Sophocles, Chekhov, Farquhar, and Congreve; enjoying enormous popular success as a film star in movies like Wuthering Heights, Rebecca, Spartacus, and Sleuth;and as a phenomenally successful theatre manager, leading the Old Vic and Chichester Festival to historic seasons and finally fulfilling the long-cherished and seemingly impossible dream of establishing the National Theatre as its founding Director. Even with all these accomplishments, it was his work in Shakespearean tragedy (although not, surprisingly, in comedy; where his only real success was as Sir Toby Belch in Twelfth Night in 1937) that Olivier is best remembered for, enacting landmark performances of Macbeth, Othello, Titus Andronicus, Coriolanus, Marc Antony, King Lear, Henry V and Romeo (as well as Shylock, which is technically a comic role which Olivier played to brilliant tragic effect). He was also the first (and greatest) successful depictor of Shakespeare on screen. Although his enormously popular movie of Hamlet highly bowderlized the text, cutting out the secondary characters of the play as deeply as anything Colley Cibber or Nahum Tate ever did and ultimately remains simply a showcase for the leading actor (in a role that Olivier was never well suited for, despite the awards and acclaim he received for it), he created a definitive film of Henry V and his Richard III (pictured here in the famous portrait by Salvador Dali) is immortalized as the greatest performance by this monumental talent. Playwright Charles Bennett said "he could speak Shakespeare's lines as naturally as if he were actually thinking them."

Henry Irving (1838-1905) resisted playing Shylock until taking a trip to Venice in 1874. "I am going to do The Merchant of Venice," Irving told his press agent, Dracula author Bram Stoker. "I never contemplated doing the piece which did not ever appeal to very much to me until ... I saw the Jew in what seemed to be his own land and own dress. Shylock became a different creature. I began to understand him." Irving completely rethought the role, which had been played for the first 150 years of the play's existence as an inhuman monster, and only with the interpretations of Charles Mackling and Charles Kean was portrayed to arouse sympathy. But Irving's compassionate performance of Shylock was a revelation, depicting the moneylender not merely as a sympathetic figure, but a character of genuine tragedy. Irving's view of Shylock as "the type of a persecuted race; almost the only gentleman in the play, and the most ill-used" turned contemporary audience perceptions of the play upside-down, and is awarded the mantle of greatest single Shakespearean performance in history on this website not only for the artistry Irving brought to the role, but because his depiction continues to have strong influences on how it is staged today.

Irving's reimagining of The Merchant of Venice, with his legendary stage partner Ellen Terry as Portia, opened at the Lyceum in 1879 and ran for an astonishing 250 performances. The text was heavily cut to indulge the Victorian audiences' taste for propriety and visual spectacle, but the aspect of the show that kept audiences coming back was Irving's landmark performance of Shylock. The role remained in his repertory for 24 years, being revived for a week at the beginning of every London season and included in all eight of his North American tours between 1883 and 1904, and was always met with unanimous praise. The Spectator said that Irving's Shylock was "the very image of exhaustion, a victim, entirely convinced of the justice of his cause, he looked like a Spanish painter's Ecce Homo." Irving's Shakespearean interpretations were the model for other actors to base their performances on for generations (Laurence Olivier wrote that he began the opening speech in Richard III "in the thin voice that old actors had always put on when they did an imitation of Irving" and John Gielgud studied postcards of Irving as Macbeth to come up with his phyical look when he played the part himself), but it is unlikely that he will ever be approached as Shylock. To indicate how special the part was to him, he made his final appearance with his beloved Ellen Terry in a special all-star benefit performance of The Merchant of Venice at Drury Lane in aid of the Actors' Benevolent Trust in 1903.

John Gielgud (1904-2000) first achieved stardom as a Shakespearean actor in the 1929/30 season of the Old Vic in the role of Richard II, and his subsequent successes as Macbeth and Oberon assured him the role of Hamlet in the season's final production. At 25 the youngest actor to play the part since Master Betty, Gielgud sensitive and poetic interpretation of the role gave the Vic its greatest success to date, and the production (which included Donald Wolfit as Claudius and Martita Hunt as Gertrude) was later transferred to the West End - the first Old Vic production to make that leap. The London Times said of Gielgud's 1930 debut in the role "From the chill, ironical menace of its opening to the fierce attack of the play-scene and its terrible rage at the burying of Ophelia it achieves its argument with brilliant lucidity. Nothing is smudged or doubtful; everything is as decisive as the line in the pencil-drawing of a master." Gielgud would play the role over 500 times in six different productions, but he regarded his first assault upon it as his best.

He returned to Hamlet in 1934 in the historic New Theatre production with Jessica Tandy as Ophelia, Jack Hawkins as Horatio and Alec Guinness as Osric, and scored a huge success on Broadway in 1936 opposite Lillian Gish (pictured) as Ophelia and Judith Anderson (in her first Shakespearean role) as Gertrude under the direction of Guthrie McClintic (breaking the record-setting run of John Barrymore's 1922 production). The McClintic production opened to rave reviews but only moderate business until a rival staging by John Houseman and starring film and stage star Leslie Howard (of Gone with the Wind fame) opened to hostile reviews which resulted in a landslide of ticket buyers for the Gielgud version (one reviewer wrote that Gielgud should drop the "Giel" from his name and his performance should be advertised as the "Gud Hamlet"). Brooks Atkinson wrote of Gielgud's portrayal that "he comes now on the clouds of glory that in the last few years have been rising around him in London. He is young, slender and handsome, with a sensitive, mobile face and blond hair, and he plays the part with extraordinary grace and winged intelligence. For this is no roaring, robustious Hamlet, lost in melancholy, but an appealing young man brimming over with grief...Mr. Gielgud speaks the lines with the quick spontaneity of a modern man."

By the time Gielgud came back to England following his Broadway success, his genius in the monumental role was viewed as so unchallenged on both sides of the Atlantic that he might have allowed his performance's reputation to slip into legend. Instead, he returned to it several times during the war years, giving the final performance at Irving's Lyceum Theatre as the Dane in 1939 (pictured), and made two farewells to the role at the Haymarket in 1944 (featuring Peggy Ashcroft's only appearance as Ophelia in her illustrious career) and an ENSA tour of the Middle and Far East in 1945, giving his last performance of the role at the Cairo Opera House in February of 1946. James Agate wrote of the 1944 performance that "Mr. Gielgud is now completely and authoritatively the master of this tremendous part. He is, we feel, this generation's rightful tenant of this 'monstrous Gothic castle of a poem.'"

Gielgud continued his association with Hamlet throughout his life, appearing in several radio versions and a 1951 recording for Decca Records that is still available today, as well as excerpts from the play in his Tony, Emmy and Grammy-winning one-man show Ages of Man (pictured). He directed four productions (in 1934, 1939, 1944, all with himself in the title role, and the 1964 Broadway production starring Richard Burton), and played the ghost in 1964 on Broadway (as a recorded voice), in the 1970 Hallmark Hall of Fame television production, as well as in a 1994 radio presentation. He gave his final farewell to the play in a non-speaking cameo as Priam in Kenneth Branagh's muddled 1996 film version at the age of 92. Sybil Thorndyke said "Those who saw the Hamlet of John Gielgud have a memory of something hauntingly beautiful for which to be grateful all their lives."

100-9089-8079-7069-6059-5049-4039-3029-2019-11 • 10-1