‘You remember, doubtless, Coleridge’s words, as reported by Mr Payne Collier: “Great dramatists make great actors. But, looking at Shakespeare merely as a performer, I am certain that he was greater as Adam in As You Like It, than Burbage as Hamlet or Richard the Third. Think of the scene between him and Orlando, and think again that the actor of that part had to carry the author of it in his arms! Think of having had Shakespeare in one’s arms! It is worth having died two hundred years ago to have heard Shakespeare deliver a singel line. He must have been a great actor.” I love to think so.’
Helena Faucit (Lady Martin), On Some of Shakespeare’s Female Characters (1887), 254.
Great dramatists make great actors. Discuss. I’m not sure. I know that good poets don’t necessarily make good performers. I know, however, that Sarah Kane was meant to have been extraordinary as Grace in Cleansed, and I would call her “great”. I wonder if Joe Orton ever wanted to appear in any of his work…
Also, oh, Coleridge, you always make me laugh (when I encounter your hilarious views on Shakespeare and don’t actually have to read your poetry…).
Dr Sophie Duncan is Fellow in English at Christ Church, University of Oxford. She works regularly as a historical advisor and as a dramaturg for theatre, TV, radio and film. She likes theatre, detective fiction and cocktails.