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 … Read more

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.) He may not have painted … Read more

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 … Read more

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 … Read more

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. “But where was the mouse to … Read more

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 … Read more

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.  “Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio: a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy: he hath borne me on his back a thousand times; and now, … Read more

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 … Read more

‘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 … Read more

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 … Read more

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 … Read more

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, … Read more

Ophelia’s Flowers

The scene where Queen Gertrude describes Ophelia’s death in Hamlet is one of the most poignant moments in Shakespeare’s play. When John Everett Millais painted Ophelia he chose to depict her in the moments just before she drowns.  Ophelia is a shining example of the Pre-Raphaelite artist’s desire to depict truth in nature. In the … Read more

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 … Read more

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 … Read more

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 … Read more

Pursuing Ellen Terry

I’ve become quite interested in the actress Ellen Terry . One of the most popular performers of her day, Terry was briefly married to artist G.F. Watts, worked repeatedly with Sir Henry Irving, and had a famous correspondence with Bernard Shaw. I happened upon this fabulous video, a rare treasure that shares brief footage of Terry … Read more

The Green Girl

If you are reading Mortal Love along with us, you may have noticed that part one of  the book is titled The Green Girl.  It strikes me as such a perfect phrase when dealing with anything that even remotely alludes to the Pre-Raphaelites. This post isn’t really about Mortal Love, I’ll save that for later. … Read more

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 … Read more

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 … Read more