Miss Ellen Terry as Beatrice Throw Pillow
Miss Ellen Terry as Beatrice Throw Pillows

It is such a treat to have sold a greeting card of Ellen Terry as Beatrice in Shakespeare’s Much Ado about Nothing alongside a matching cushion. I have lived with this theatrical postcard all my life. It was given to my mother by an actress friend and my mother handed it on to me.

In her memoir, The Story of My Life: Recollections and Reflections, Dame Ellen writes:

‘When Henry Irving put on “Much Ado About Nothing”—a play which he may be said to have done for me, as he never really liked the part of Benedick—I was not the same Beatrice at all. A great actor can do nothing badly, and there was so very much to admire in Henry Irving’s Benedick. But he gave me little help. Beatrice must be swift, swift, swift! Owing to Henry’s rather finicking, deliberate method as Benedick, I could never put the right pace into my part. I was also feeling unhappy about it, because I had been compelled to give way about a traditional “gag” in the church scene, with which we ended the fourth act. In my own production we had scorned this gag, and let the curtain come down on Benedick’s line: “Go, comfort your cousin; I must say she is dead, and so farewell.” When I was told that we were to descend to the buffoonery of:

Beatrice: Benedick, kill him—kill him if you can.
Benedick: As sure as I’m alive, I will!

I protested, and implored Henry not to do it. He said that it was necessary: otherwise the “curtain” would be received in dead silence. I assured him that we had often had seven and eight calls without it. I used every argument, artistic and otherwise. Henry, according to his custom, was gentle, would not discuss it much, but remained obdurate. After holding out for a week, I gave in. “It’s my duty to obey your orders, and do it,” I said, “but I do it under protest.” Then I burst into tears. It was really for his sake just as much as for mine. I thought it must bring such disgrace on him! Looking back on the incident, I find that the most humorous thing in connection with it was that the critics, never reluctant to accuse Henry of “monkeying” with Shakespeare if they could find cause, never noticed the gag at all!


Ellen Terry  drawn from photographs  by  Albert Sterner

Ellen Terry drawn from photographs by Albert Sterner and included in her memoir.


“This mutable woman, all instinct, sympathy and sensation, is as painstaking a student and as careful of the dignity of her art as Flaubert himself.” Virginia Woolf

“[Her name] rings like a chime through the last quarter of the 19th century.” George Bernard Shaw

“Blow that word charm! There is more to my acting than charm!” Ellen Terry

These three quotes are taken from a Lynne Truss article in The Guardian.


Take care and keep laughing!

Sarah

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