Dressed in the trappings of a sentimental heroine : costuming Shakespeare's Juliet on the eighteenth-century English stage

Author: Banner, Jessica
Source document: Theory and Practice in English Studies. 2021, vol. 10, iss. 1, pp. 79-100
  • ISSN
Type: Article
The popularity of Romeo and Juliet in the later part of the eighteenth century has been largely attributed to David Garrick's 1748 adaptation of Shakespeare's text. Not only was Garrick's version hugely popular when it debuted, but Garrick's script has proved to be the "most enduringly successful production of the play" (Berg 1989, 30). Not only does Garrick's adaptation significantly cut down the original text, in favour of adding pantomime and dancing scenes, but the character of Juliet is substantially altered. Garrick's Juliet is clad in the trappings of a sentimental heroine and is represented in the text as an opinionated and selfmotivated young woman whose actions are driven by her own desires. In this article I will explore Garrick's refashioning of Shakespeare's tragic heroine, looking specifically at how changes were made to the dialogue and choices regarding the character's costume which recast Juliet in the trappings of a sentimental heroine. Charting the transformation of Juliet both on-stage and in the socio-cultural lexicon from tragic to spirited sentimental heroine, I will examine Garrick's adaptation in conjunction with images of Juliet produced by Anthony Walker and Ignatius Joseph van den Berghe looking specifically at the role of costume in communicating Juliet's newfound sentimentality. Ultimately, this essay will pose questions about the larger significance of Garrick's Juliet and her sentimental characterisation in conjunction with discussions of women in the public sphere.
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