The Weird Sisters (Shakespeare, Mac Beth, Act 1, Scene 3)
Shakespeare and Art,1709-1922
By Constance C. McPhee, Department of Drawings and Prints, The Met
Shakespeare’s preeminence as a dramatist is today unquestioned, but after his death (in 1616), it took time for that reputation to be established. Artists began to engage with the plays only in the early eighteenth century, and first steps were modest—small engraved frontispieces created to embellish new English editions by Nicholas Rowe (1709) and Lewis Theobald (1740). More ambitious images followed when David Garrick took the London stage by storm in the 1740s—his bravura acting as Richard III and King Lear stimulating paintings by William Hogarth (32.35(238) and Benjamin Wilson (17.3.911). As manager of the Drury Lane Theatre between 1749 and 1777, Garrick helped turn the Bard into a national obsession, a status confirmed by the Shakespeare Jubilee in 1769. That three-day celebration at Stratford-upon-Avon centered on the unveiling of a new statue and declamation of an ode by Garrick—both painted by Robert Edge Pine, who exhibited his work in London in 1782 together with six additional Shakespearean subjects, all subsequently engraved (53.600.4490; 53.600.4488).