Cymbeline: a Tragedy

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Garrick, David, and William Shakespeare. Cymbeline: a Tragedy. London: Printed for J. and R. Tonson in the Strand. London: 1762.

Image Source: University of Oregon Rare Books Collection

David Garrick was an actor, playwright, theater manager, and major Shakespeare promoter. In 1769, he staged the first celebration of Shakespeare’s birth, the “Shakespeare Jubilee” in Stratford-upon-Avon. The celebration lasted some days and strengthened the growing popular sense of Shakespeare as England’s national poet. Garrick’s 1762 adaptation of Cymbeline  was closer to Shakespeare’s text than prior adaptations, compressing characters and reordering events.

Cymbeline: A Tragedy

Garrick’s adaptation of Cymbeline

Garrick was known for his praise of Shakespeare’s texts and usually altered them with a light hand. Still, like all productions from Shakespeare’s own time and onward, his versions made additions and cuts, occasionally substantial ones, to heighten the plays’ relevance and appeal to a changing culture.  


Garrick explains his changes as related to the needs of a working production, even lamenting that “many fine Passages” had to be cut.

The images show Garrick’s interest in keeping much of Shakespeare intact. The “Advertisement” (a kind of textual note in this case) describes the cuts and presents them as intended largely to shorten Shakespeare’s play to a comfortable viewing time, though he also reordered scenes. Garrick does not criticize faults in his Shakespearean original as Tate and Ravenscroft did theirs.


These italics indicate that this material was not part of the performance. They produce a reading experience focused on performance as the purpose of the text even as the text includes additional materials – perhaps like the “extras” on a DVD.

Garrick also prints a scene in italics that was cut for time but Garrick feels is “proper” for the reader to incorporate into the Cymbeline  reading experience. We also include the beginning of that scene, in which italics bring to the reader’s attention that the scene is different and invite the reader to put its necessity in question.