ardolatry" is a pejorative term. It means the uncritical adulation of Shakespeare, "the Bard," cultural hero-worship.
Bardolatry is unfashionable now, at least among scholars, but Shakespeare seems as popular as ever - as popular as Ethan .
Hawke and Leonardo DiCaprio, the Shakespearean actors. The great age of Bardolatry, however, spanned the 18th and 19th
centuries, when Shakespeare could bid fair to be the most influential artist in European culture. Boydell's Shakespeare prints, which appeared right on the cusp of the two centuries, testify to this extraordinary influence. When we call artists "influential," what do we mean? That these artists shape the culture we inhabit, certainly - but that's as vague as the term "influential." A crude but astonishing way of establishing Shakespeare's influence is to recite some numbers. For example, during Shakespeare's twenty-year career as a dramatist he was personally responsible for ten percent of all the words which entered English and stayed: a staggering, incomparable linguistic influence.
Shakespeare's vocabulary extended to approximately thirty-four thousand words,
versus the eight thousand words of the King James Bible (published in 1611, about the time Shakespeare was writing The Tempest). Over twenty-one thousand musical works have been composed upon Shakespearean themes - thirty operas based upon The Tempest alone. A number of these compositions Tchaikovsky's
are themselves masterpieces:
"Coriolan" overture; Verdi's Othello and Falstaff;
to A the
"Wedding March" familiar to everybody. Today, over twenty thousand books, articles and reviews about Shakespeare published
Add the number of
performances and internet postings and you will come up with a figure only astronomers could comprehend. In Keats' words, it "doth tease us out of thought, as doth eternity." (Keats kept a small picture of Shakespeare in front of him when he wrote.) All these numbers suggest that Shakespeare cultural powerplant,
serve only to
has long been a
radiating energy to our
language, music, scholarship and, as this exhibit reveals, our art. In the 1780's John Boydell was inspired to an elaborate multi-media project. Boydell, an engraver who had become a wealthy arts printer and exporter, commissioned leading British artists to paint scenes from Shakespeare's plays: one hundred paintings in all. The painters included Sir Joshua Reynolds, Benjamin West, and Henry Fuseli. Boydell built a freestanding exhibition hall at 52 Pall Mall, London, to house the "Shakespeare Collection," which opened in 1789. Boydell also arranged for the best engravers to make engravings of the paintings and for printers to produce a giant folio atlas of the prints. This collector's edition was published in 1805 by Josiah Boydell, John's nephew. Lastly, the Shakespearean scholar George Steevens was hired to edit a new, nine-volume "National Ediiien" of Shakespeare's plays. This ~ppeared in 1802, beautifully printed and illustrated by another one hundred engravings from smaller ShaKespearean paintings. It is still regarded as a landmark work of Shakespearean scholarship. Boydell's vl~ion ~s RockefellC
patriotic - and exp,e"'nsive~oydell
poured three hundred thousand pounds into hispfojecf;
sum at the time. Boydel! wished to~stablish, in on.:;reat
ire school" of British paimi~g to ~~'))
He wished to celebrate
England and England's supreme poet; the gallery of paintings and the edition would stand as permanent monuments to Shakespeare and his "sceptered isle." And, through the engravings, Boydell intended to extend the reputation of English arts - poetic, painted, engraved, printed - to cultured people everywhere.
Boydell's project lost money and eventually the gallery was closed, his vision was realized beyond what he could foresee. How could he have predicted that a collection of his prints would one day find its way into the hands of the Jesuits, much less into the hands of the "black robes" of the Oregon Province?
The prints were
published in 1805,just as Lewis and Clark were making their way past us on the Snake River. The Oregon Province of the Society of Jesus donated these prints to Gonzaga University in 1978. These prints were meant for an audience quite familiar with Shakespeare's plays. Unless the viewer knows the storyline and characters illustrated in each print, the artworks remain mute. The prints, therefore, expect to be "read," not just looked at. A few sample "readings"
this method of
appreciation. rint XLIV, the Ghost's first appearance in Hamlet, captures the grand theatricality and ~
melodrama of all the collection; these are not understated works. Romantic Age emotionalism suits this scene, perhaps the most
famous of stage tableaux. Were we at a great research library, such as the Huntington in Pasadena, we could study centuries of attempts by painters, film-makers, illustrators, actors, and photographers to do justice to this dramatic supernatural revelation scene. Earlier in the century, David Garrick had been the most famous Shakespearean actor and director: the Olivier or Branagh of his time. His confrontation with the Ghost became a celebrated set-piece, a show-stopper like the helicopter's descent in Miss Saigon. As Hamlet, Garrick would pace the stage front, near the edge, between Horatio and a guard. Garrick wore a long black coat and a broad-brimmed black hat. The Ghost entered from the back of the theatre, behind the audience, and slowly moved forward down the center aisle. Awareness of the Ghost's presence would thus sweep forward through the audience, finally reaching Horatio on stage. He would grab Hamlet's shoulder, crying, "Look, my lord, it comes!" Garrick, his back to the audience, would whirl, throwing open his cloak with both arms, bat-like, and knocking his hat off so that it sailed to the rear of the stage. Then, in shock and horror ("Angels and ministers of grace defend us!") he would seem to plunge off the stage's edge, only to be seized at the last instant by Horatio and the guard, one on each side. Only his feet still on stage, his rigid body extended over the front rows, Hamlet would hang suspended above the abyss, his arms and cloak still spread like a funereal Winged Victory. This was great spectacle, though not everyone applauded it. Dr. Johnson, the Garrick ofliterary criticism at the time, condemned the staging's overblown effects. His biographer, Boswell, asked, "Would not you, sir, start as Mr. Garrick does if you saw a ghost?" Johnson replied, "I hope not. IfI did, I should frighten the ghost." Our engraving, based upon Henry Fuseli's painting, certainly favors Garrick-style flamboyance over Johnsonian restraint.
Hamlet and Horatio wrestle heroically, their hair streaming in the tempest.
Hamlet's head and
massive neck are worthy of Michelangelo; this is no neurasthenic young man but a romantic titan. The Ghost, likewise, is no purgatorial wraith, despite the chain beneath him, suggestive of afterlife penance, but "the majesty of buried Denmark" as Colossus of Rhodes. The Ghost's absolute, rooted stance contrasts with the wrestling~'s physical and emotional instability. The full moon behind the Ghost's head '#"d"!'hi f d th ~'l"d-l . Th -""~H '1" -h~; h /~ h' ~ 'ld b h-- ,..;"'-'h路"'h e eate ~ IS ixe .,0 er or yeyes. ey"sull)J:lIona;!l.et to a-wor-1-d''''-f 0 c aos -note t e raves WUJ,c.grow WI ~r.(;!. mo 1!J1,')!H e tion his'sword ,points. The Gh st will lead Halfl1~ 'l
adness, ancLdest:tl1ttio;'/' _,,47ritYJ10vio1'ened'."'~垄 a ~
Print VII, from a painting by Rigaud, also works architectonically.
It illustrates just what Shakespeare's Henry IV, Part 1 reveals
structurally at its conclusion - the splendid emergence on the Shrewsbury battlefield of Prince Hal as England's great champion, the warriorking-to-be Henry V. Indeed, the longbow archers behind Hal's shoulder will prove the deadly force which destroys the French chivalry at Agincourt, where Henry V conquers France - another climactic moment in Shakespeare's "Henriad." In this print, Hal stands triumphant over the rebel warlord Hotspur, whom he has mortally wounded. Behind Halon the other side lies Falstaff, not mortally wounded but feigning death to avoid danger. The arrangement, like the play itself, dramatizes Hal's life-choice.
Will he remain with his father-figure of Vice,
Falstaff, and continue to play the pub-crawling prodigal son? Or will he join the great world of kingship and war, and play his part as Prince of Wales? The picture reveals the answer. Hal has turned his back on the craven Falstaff. In fact, Falstaff appears most terrified not of the enemy, but of Hal's sword directly over his head, which he covers with his shield. (In Henry N, Part 2, Hal will banish Falstaff; heartbroken by this rejection, Falstaff soon dies.) Hotspur, who defied the crown and sought to steal it from Hal, now gazes up at Hal's ostrich plume, symbolic of the Prince of Wales. Hotspur is about to utter his death speech, but, choking on blood, will halt in mid-sentence.
Hotspur's final line: "and food ...for worms, brave Percy." Physically and verbally, Halfinishes off Hotspur; he royally appropriates Hotspur's words, his victories, and his valor. But in a gesture or princely courtesy, he plucks his ostrich plume to cover Hotspur's face. Hal is suitably central in the composition, towering in the foreground, the only fully upright, unmoving figure in the entire scene. He is as Shakespeare
intended us to see him, "every inch a king." hiaroscuro dramatic
is the term from art criticism
of light and dark in a picture.
Print L, from Act V of Othello,
chiaroscuro to depict that tragedy's light versus dark main theme. The scene is Desdemona's bedchamber, where Othello, entirely in shadows, is about to murder his wife. He will not use the dagger he carries; he will smother her and then stab himself when confronted with his crime. The dagger anticipates Othello's suicidal guilt. His hand covers his face, suggesting both his agony and his blindness; Desdemona is innocent. She lies asleep, bathed in a brilliant light that has no source. It radiates from behind Desdemona, or even from Desdemona herself. As Othello moves toward her, he says, "Put out the light, and then put out the light." He speaks repetitively because he means, literally, "Snuff the candle" and, figuratively, "Extinguish Desdemona."
Desdemona is identified
with whiteness, purity, brilliance, and virtue all through the play. She is L
"a pearl" to him, and yet, driven by the dark passion of jealousy which eclipses his reason, he will commit a great crime. Othello, of course, is "the Moor" and Shakespeare makes much of his exotic, threatening "blackness" amongst the Venetians. In the
very first scene Desdemona's father, Brabantio, refuses to believe that his submissive daughter could elope with Othello. The rumor is absurd: "This is Venicefmy house is not a grange." Comfoll,ted"wlth the truth, he can,nly ~,
wild frontier~on. husb£6thello
investigated by th1wise men's council, the Signory - to fortress Cyprus, on the
of darkn,ess, lurk over the aorizon, threatening Christian Europe. As a general and as a
must confrolt b J;trify-and chaos. "whe(Othello "
accuse Othello of "black magic." The play moves from
weighs his love for Desdemona, he says fearfully, "and when I love thee (,
nofiChaos is come agai .' In QyPpls, a~~~ not afforded due process. They prompt violenc~in the darLdriinkln street figlits, . h -bbi ". bl' all I'd ~hu A" .Jl"'\ lki/ hr' h/h I'a b d / 1'\, h ~ll f II' .,,,, hi / d -+/~ ~pgiflll 1 s, esperat~ sDanu~tang'1 oug s a Owy} rooms',l~te 0 asweyto .•lso;usymboh~ ar~~~s, 0/
finest w~~k'1~H the ,6Ydelf prints - a
fortunate to own. The scene is from Richard 1lI, Shakespeare's own masterpiece of character
Richard is an
unforgettable arch villi an. Other characters call him "that bottled
intelligencer,' and an "elvish-marked, abortive, rooting
For once in Shakespeare,
and reality match:
lame, and morally deformed.
stroke of genius, though, is to
make Richard a self-aware, self-mocking, and confiding monster. From the first, when Richard drags himself upstage and hisses to us, "Now is the winter of our discontent," we are his appalled but fascinated
exploits the seductiveness of evil: Hannibal Lecter is Richard of York's direct descendent. Shakespeare never lets us forget just how wicked Richard is; this engraving illustrates Richard's worst crime, the murder of the two princes, his nephews, in the tower of London. Northcote's work emphasizes the pathos and the sacrilege of this crime by drawing upon archetypal images from art history. The boys' limp, naked bodies being lowered recall any number of Renaissance "deposition" paintings, in which Christ's body is handed down from the cross. The figure in armor here, too, echoes the Roman soldier who appears in many deposition scenes. The bare, massive arm at center - creating the strongest line of movement in the work - is drawn from Michelangelo.
This is the arm
of the Cumaean Sibyl on the Sistine ceiling, or the carved arm of Moses or David, grafted onto a murderer. The soldier's plated arm reinforces the line, as does the curved stone archway to the lower right. These three downward curves draw the viewer from the torchlight, top right, to the beseeching hands, bottom left. These hands are another deposition image; they might be the hands of Mary or the apostle John, were they not the hands, here, of a conspirator. Moreover, do not the princes' bodies recall Christ's body in Michelangelo's Pietd't We are meant to feel the pity, pieta, evoked by the slaughter of innocence.
This scene is indeed of a primal, not just specific, fall, symbolized by the stairs
descending into darkness. The repeated strong, downward, vertical arrow-points of the ~on bars direct us straight into an actual dungeon and the symbolic moral pit, the hell of Richard's wickedness.
We are not witnessing a mere political crime, but a martyrdom. As the murderer
Tyrell says in this scene, "The tyrannous and bloody act is done,ffhe most arch deed of piteous massacre/That ever yet this land was guilty of." Centuries of work by revisionist historians have failed to rehabilitate Richard ill's reputation after Shakespeare's portrait, and Northcote here is Shakespeare's ally. ~-,..;;;:=::;)he story behind the scene of one last print - XXVill, from Henry VIII - serves as the best conclusion to our exhibit. Shakespeare's Globe Theater was built in 1599. It was nearly circular (a "wooden 0," it is called in Henry V), open to the sky, timber-framed, with a thatch roof. In other words, it was perfectly designed for burning down; a giant chimney that could hold twenty-five hundred people. And bum it did, on June 29, 1613, in a most appropriate way. By 1613 Shakespeare had retired to Stratford. He was handing his quill pen over to his successor as the Globe troupe's playwright, John Fletcher. Shakespeare and Fletcher collaborated upon Shakespeare's final play, Henry VIII. The play premiered on June 29, 1613. Up in the "hut" - a sort of loft room above the stage, on top of the Globe - was a cannon. This cannon provided basic sound effects - during battle scenes, for example. Obviously, they frred no cannon ball, but a full gunpowder charge, held against the fuse by a paper or fabric "wadding." On June 29, 1613, during the first performance of Henry VIII, the cannon was frred in Act V, scene IV (the scene illustrated in our print). The salute celebrated the dramatized baptism of Elizabeth, who of course would become Queen Elizabeth I; her glorious reign coincides with Shakespeare's career. Shakespeare in this last play draws English history up to his own life; he can go no further. The wadding
from that cannon shot lodged in the roof thatch and smoldered there during the final scene. Then the roof ignited, the fire raced around the '0," and the entire theater burned to the ground. Somehow the whole audience escaped through the Globe's two insufficient doorways. One man's breeches caught fire; they were doused with some handy beer. How fitting, that, as Shakespeare quitted the stage, his stage itself - "the great globe itself,lYea, all which it inherit" - should dissolve. How could it exist without its creator to give it life? At the center of our print stands Crammer, the Archbishop of Canterbury, his hand raised in benediction.
His title, pose, and
vestments repeat the central figure of the High Priest in Raphael's Marriage of the Virgin: this is a sacred scene, a holy day in the national religion of the Tudor monarchy.
At the side of the Archbishop is Henry VIII himself, new head of the Church of England. The painter,
Anglican priest W. Peters, has copied Henry from Hans Holbein's great portraits, the definitive images of Tudor absolutism. At the left edge is the Duke of Norfolk, holding his marshal's staff; his other hand is raised almost as in an Adoration or Nativity painting. On the other side of the Archbishop is the Duchess of Norfolk, the godmother holding the holy child Elizabeth. This pageant scene shows us the inauguration of the "Elizabethan Age," just as the Globe fire, during this scene, ends the "Age of Shakespeare."
Yet the Archbishop's speech, from this
scene, reminds us:
As when The bird of wonder dies; the maiden phoenix, Her ashes new-create another heir As great in admiration as herself .... Who from the sacred ashes of her honor Shall starlike rise, as great in fame as she was, And so stands fixed. The great Boydell project of the 18th Century, and our exhibit here in the 21st century, prove that the "Age of Shakespeare" never really ended. Shakespeare's influence seems immortal, like the self-perpetuating phoenix; Shakespeare's reputation "so stands fixed," made permanent, like an engraving. Michael Richard Bonin, Ph.D Dr. Michael Richard Bonin is an Associate Professor in the Department of English at Gonzaga University.
Image Plates: XXIV: XLIV: VII: L: XXVIII:
Burying the Royal Children (cover), engraved by William Skelton, after a painting by James Northcote, RA., 1795. Hamlet, Horatio, Marcellus, and the Ghost, engraved by Robert Thew, after a painting by Henry Fuseli, RA., 1796. Prince Henry, Hotspur, and Falstaff, engraved by Thomas Ryler, after a painting by 1. Francis Rigaud, R.A., 1796. DesdemonaAsleep, engraved by William Leney, after a painting by Josiah Boydell, 1800. The Christening of Queen Elizabeth, engraved by Joseph Collyer, after a painting by the Rev. Matthew William Peters, RA., 1803.
This publication was funded by the Jundt Art Museum's Annual Campaign 2001-2002. ÂŠ Jundt Art Museum, Gonzaga University, Spokane, Washington 99258-0001