Shakespeare and the Legacy of Loss

Emily Hodgson Anderson


How do we recapture, or hold on to, the live performances we most love, and the talented artists and performers we most revere? Shakespeare and the Legacy of Loss tells the story of how 18th-century actors, novelists, and artists, key among them David Garrick, struggled with these questions through their reenactments of Shakespearean plays. For these artists, the resurgence of Shakespeare, a playwright whose works just decades earlier had nearly been erased, represented their own chance for eternal life. Despite the ephemeral nature of performance, Garrick and company would find a way to make Shakespeare, and through him the actor, rise again.

In chapters featuring Othello, Richard III, Hamlet, The Winter’s Tale, and The Merchant of Venice, Emily Hodgson Anderson illuminates how Garrick’s performances of Shakespeare came to offer his contemporaries an alternative and even an antidote to the commemoration associated with the monument, the portrait, and the printed text. The first account to read 18th-century visual and textual references to Shakespeare alongside the performance history of his plays, this innovative study sheds new light on how we experience performance, and why we gravitate toward an art, and artists, we know will disappear.

"An eloquent and well-designed study; Anderson packs a powerful conceptual punch into practically every sentence. Her conception of how we might view the significance of these performances—as an archive of loss and renewed life—makes them afresh. This book is full of invaluable insights and conceptually astute observations that will benefit many scholars."
—Lisa A. Freeman, University of Illinois-Chicago

 “A fascinating book. Firmly embedded in recent scholarship on performance and celebrity in the eighteenth century on the one hand and recent Shakespearean criticism on the other, this book offers far more than another account of David Garrick’s cultural impact. Its key insights are extremely original. In short, this is criticism of the highest order.”
—Daniel O'Quinn, University of Guelph

Emily Hodgson Anderson is Associate Professor of English, University of Southern California.

Praise / Awards

  • "By turns fascinating, diverting, and provoking ... Anderson's book gives a nuanced account of the ways in which the eighteenth century...made Shakespeare its cultural weapon of choice: a playright remade by the age in its own image, and surely destined to live on as the 'national poet.' Shakespeare and the Legacy of Loss is exemplary work."
    --Times Literary Supplement
  • "Anderson's rethinking of the historical evidence is fresh and persuasive."
    --Review 19

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Product Details

  • 248 pages.
  • 26 illustrations.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Ebook
  • 2018
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-12412-1

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