This chapter will discuss the gestural behaviour of some influential Shakespearean actors from around 1750 to around 1900. My intention is not to establish a canon of gesture – for one thing, my evidence base is too Anglocentric for that. Rather, I mean to situate the illustrations I offer within the larger framework of my argument for a historical shift in social morality. The chapter will move through some key moments when the paradigms of gesture in Shakespearean performance (and by implication, within the wider culture) were subject to redefinition. I begin with David Garrick and move, via some other influential actors, towards Henry Irving; in the process, I hope to show that there are instructive comparisons and contrasts to be made between those two influential figures with respect to the motives for gestural style. Although I pin familiar labels to my paradigms – neoclassicism, romanticism, realism, naturalism – I want to stress that the aspects of the performances I describe should be understood as existing on a continuum of non-verbal behaviour. Thus, gesture in Shakespearean performance is not a matter of ‘either/or’ but is rather a blend of ‘more or less’.
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