Pre-Raphaelites and Shakespeare: Romeo and Juliet

  “Romeo and Juliet‘s description of the frantic haste of the rash lovers blends together humor, irony, poignancy, and disapproval, but Shakespeare conveys above all a deep inward understanding of what it feels like to be young, desperate to wed, and tormented by delay.” — author Stephen Greenblatt in his book Will in the World:…
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Pre-Raphaelites and Shakespeare: King Lear

King Lear is a tragic play filled with anger and grief.   It is wrought with suffering and explores issues of old age and family as only Shakespeare could explore them.  William Holman Hunt took inspiration from a quotation of King Lear for his painting The Hireling Shepherd (pictured above).  It is from the lines of…
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Pre-Raphaelites and Shakespeare: Claudio and Isabella

Claudio and Isabella, painted by William Holman Hunt, is based on Shakespeare’s play Measure for Measure. “The choice of such a scene is typical of Hunt’s preoccupation with sin and guilt and his intensely moralistic approach to art.” Christopher Wood, The Pre-Raphaelites. The title of the play stems from the biblical book of Matthew:  With…
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Pre-Raphaelites and Shakespeare: As You Like It

A Scene from “As You Like It” by Walter Howell Deverell The Painting: Deverell took great pains with As You Like It.  Lucinda Hawksley describes the outdoor modeling session in her book Essential Pre-Raphaelites saying “According to legend, the models were expected to stand in a Surrey wood — in all weathers — for hours…
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Pre-Raphaelites and Shakespeare: Twelfth Night

I am beginning a series of posts that focuses on Pre-Raphaelite representations of Shakespeare’s works.  I felt the perfect painting to start with is Walter Howell Deverell’s Twelfth Night, as it is one of the earliest Pre-Raphaelite pictures based upon a Shakespearian play and also happens to be the first painting that includes Elizabeth Siddal…
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Valentine Rescuing Sylvia from Proteus

Based on Shakespeare’s Two Gentleman of Verona, this was one of William Holman Hunt’s most successful paintings. Lizzie Siddal, one of my favorite Pre-Raphaelite models, modeled for Sylvia. We can not see her features in this image, though.  Hunt repainted them after criticism from John Ruskin. Hunt painted this piece outdoors in the Surrey countryside…
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Ophelia and the Pre-Raphaelites

Ophelia is a captivating character, one that inspired many of the Pre-Raphaelites and other Victorian artists. For those unfamiliar with Ophelia, she is Hamlet’s innocent  young love interest in one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays (Hamlet). Hamlet loved Ophelia – but after his meeting with the ghost of his father (Act I) he feels compelled…
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