Items from our theatre and Shakespeare collections were on show to mark 400 years since the death of William Shakespeare. From 17 March until 12 June 2016.
A starry cast of some of the most famous Shakespearean actors of the last four centuries were brought together in the National Library of Scotland's Shakespeare treasures display.
'Playing Shakespeare' focused on the actors who brought William Shakespeare's immortal characters to life, including:
- Richard Burbage
- Benedich Cumberbatch
- Judi Dench
- Clara Fisher
- Vivien Leigh
- Will Kemp
- Maggie Smith.
Items about many past productions were on show, from early Globe theatre plays to present-day live screenings in front of vast audiences around the world.
Great Shakespearean actors
Among the actors featured in our display were:
Shakespeare may have acted in his own plays, along with those
written by others.
Read more about William Shakespeare
Considered the greatest actor between Burbage and Garrick,
Betterton was even celebrated by Pepys.
Read more about Thomas Betterton
From his 1741 debut as Richard III, Garrick was the leader of
Read more about David Garrick
Siddons was the most famous tragic Shakespearean actress of her
Read more about Sarah Siddons
After emigrating from America at 17, Aldridge became the first
black actor on stage in the West End.
Read more about Ira Aldridge
After playing many of Shakespeare's most famous roles, Irving
became the first actor to be knighted.
Read more about Henry Irving
The leading lady of the Victorian theatre, Terry was the age's
ideal of a Shakespearean heroine.
Read more about Ellen Terry
Langtry was a famous society beauty who began acting when her
Read more about Lillie Langtry
Gielgud's acting career spanned almost the entire 20th century,
with Hamlet as his signature role.
Read more about John Gielgud
Olivier was the most famous Shakespeare actor of the 20th
Read more about Laurence Olivier
Most famous for 'Doctor Who', Tennant is also a much-admired
modern Shakespearean actor.
Read more about David Tennant
Further highlights of 'Playing Shakespeare' included:
- Film of Richard Burton attending the 1953 Edinburgh International Festival to play Hamlet. View on the Moving Image Archive catalogue
- An illustrated map of Stratford-upon-Avon, where Shakespeare was born and brought up
- An original letter from Vivien Leigh, writing about her 1951 performance of Cleopatra.