(Susannah Clapp’s article appeared in the Guardian, 8/22.)
In the 1870s, Henry Irving was the most popular actor on the London stage. He produced himself in Hamlet in a version that, though heavily cut, was, due to long intervals with incidental music and elaborate scene-changes, more than five hours long. For Yeats, he was a "lean image of hungry speculation". In pale make-up, his white face emphasised by blue-black hair, Irving was also a lovable, scholastic prince. Playing opposite his future lover, Ellen Terry (above), he clearly yearned for Ophelia. Terry paid him a cherishable compliment: he "did not go to the audience. He made them come to him".
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