Celebrating Shakespeare

Happy Birthday to William Shakespeare, born on this day in 1564.  Today is also the anniversary of the Bard’s death.  Dare I say it?  Dying on your birthday is a dramatically Shakespearean thing to do. When a young group of artists founded the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in 1848 they drew up a list of ‘Immortals’, made…
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Happy Birthday,William Holman Hunt!

William Holman Hunt, one of the founding members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, was born on this day in 1827.  Today I’d like to share some of my favorite Holman Hunt works. Truth to nature was one of the main tenets of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and an excellent example of this can be seen in the…
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May the Force Be With You

When Victorian artist Ford Madox Brown saw William Charles Macready play King Lear, the performance inspired the artist so much that he passionately sketched and painted several depictions of it. (You can see one above. Cordelia is modeled by Brown’s wife Emma, the fool is fellow artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti.)  This is the kind of…
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Shakespeare Magazine

I am honored and excited to be in the current issue of Shakespeare Magazine. Huge thank you to editor Pat Reid for publishing my article on Elizabeth Siddal and Ophelia. It’s a gorgeous issue! Read it free online You can follow Shakespeare Magazine on Facebook and Twitter. Visit ShakespeareMagazine.com  

The Diaries of William Allingham

If you’re interested in studying the Victorian era seriously, then diaries and letters are important.  At times I feel like a 21st-century snoop, devouring personal journals and private correspondence whenever I get the chance.  Through contemporary accounts, the past may not always come alive but it shines through the mist more clearly.  The diaries of…
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The Symbolism of Lepidoptera

Truth to nature was one of the main tenets of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and an excellent example of this can be seen in the Death’s Head moth in William Holman Hunt’s painting The Hireling Shepherd (above).  I’ve blogged about it many times before; it’s part of my Shakespeare post that I share yearly on the…
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Perdita, the lost girl

Perdita (seen above) was painted by Frederick Sandys with  Mary Emma Jones as the model.  Also known by her stage name Miss Clive, Mary Emma Jones appears in several of Sandys’ works.  They never married, but the couple did have ten children together.  Sandys was a bit of a rogue when it came to his…
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The Unrequited Love of Mariana

Above is Sir John Everett Millais’ painting Mariana, which I’ve blogged about before in this post. Her dress is bluer than blue, the stained glass is exquisite, but let us have a moment of silence for the little mouse who died for Millais to include him in the work. When Millais first exhibited this painting…
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Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, Creeps in this petty pace from day to day, To the last syllable of recorded time; And all our yesterdays have lighted fools The way to dusty death… —Macbeth (Act 5, Scene 5, lines 17-28) I’ve just read Variety’s review of the new adaptation of the Scottish play. I can…
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Alas, poor Wombat…

This week marks the birth of William Shakespeare, so in celebration I shared several Pre-Raphaelite and Shakespeare related links on the Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood Facebook page and Twitter.  I even posted my own “Yorick selfie”. “Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio: a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy: he hath borne me on…
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Pre-Raphaelites and the Bard

If you are looking for Shakespeare inspiration today, you are in luck!  Visit happybirthdayshakespeare.com for a large collective of bloggers sharing posts in honor of the day! At the end of this post, you will find links to other Pre-Raphaelite images of Shakespearean works on PreRaphaeliteSisterhood.com. In celebration of the Bard’s birthday, here’s my favorite Shakespearean…
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Dame Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth

Today marks the birthday of John Singer Sargent in 1856. So I thought I’d share one of my favorite works of his, Dame Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth.  Victorian actress Ellen Terry fascinates me and in a previous blog post about her memoirs, I shared her own words on the Lady Macbeth costume, which I…
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‘Mariana’, Sir John Everett Millais

When Millais first exhibited this painting at the Royal Academy, he displayed it with these lines of Tennyson: She only said, ‘My life is dreary- He cometh not’ she said She said ‘I am aweary, aweary – I would that I were dead.’ –From Tennyson’s poem Mariana The subject of Mariana was visited twice by…
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Pyramus and Thisbe

The tale of Thisbe comes from book four of Ovid’s Metamorphoses. In ancient Babylon, the families of Pyramus and Thisbe live in separate houses that share a roof. Over time, the two youths fall in love but are forbidden by their parents to see each other. Undaunted, the lovers use a crack in the wall…
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Pre-Raphaelites and Shakespeare: The Tempest

In The Tempest, Shakespeare tells us the story of Prospero, duke of Milan.  Prospero was dethroned by his brother Antonio and abandoned at sea with his three year old daughter Miranda.  Eventually they landed on an enchanted island, where the sole inhabitant is the creature Caliban.  Prospero works his magic and places Caliban and all…
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The lure of water-women

In Rossetti’s 1853 drawing Boatmen and Siren, one of the boatmen is captivated by the siren, but is saved from certain death by his companion.  The accompanying inscription was written by Jacopo da Lentino, a Italian poet of the Rennaissance era whose work was translated by Rossetti in The Early Italian Poets: I am broken,…
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Ophelia’s Flowers

When John Everett Millais painted Ophelia he chose to depict her in the moments just before she drowns, a bold choice as most previous artists portrayed Ophelia before she ever enters the water.  This isn’t the only striking aspect of his painting, however.  In the midst of this picture of death, the plant life is…
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Pre-Raphaelites and Shakespeare: Portia

The model for Millais’ painting of Portia has often been incorrectly identified as Shakespearean actress Ellen Terry. The model was Kate Dolan, although the mistake was understandable as she was painted wearing Ellen Terry’s costume: Of course I will lend you the dress (here it is.) or anything in the world that I possess, that…
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Pre-Raphaelites and Shakespeare: The Death of Lady Macbeth

Macbeth is such a powerful play that we fear invoking the name of it in the theatre.  It’s one of Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies and with so many dramatic elements, I’m surprised that the Pre-Raphaelites did not illustrate it more.  Murder, greed, ambition, fear…Macbeth has it all. The Rossetti drawing above is a preliminary study for…
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To live forgotten, and die forlorn

And on the liquid mirror glow’d The clear perfection of her face, ‘Is this the form,’ she made her moan, ‘That won his praises night and morn?’ –Alfred, Lord Tennyson Mariana in the South   Like the Lady of Shalott, Mariana lives a secluded existence. The subject of Mariana was visited twice by Tennyson, in…
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Dame Ellen Terry

My interest in Dame Ellen Terry takes me to a period a bit later than the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.  Born into an acting family, Terry married painter George Frederic Watts when she was sixteen which introduced her to the likes of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Tennyson and other luminaries of the Victorian era. I recently read her…
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