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HARRY WOODWARD (1717-1777)

ONE of the finest comedians of the eighteenth century was HARRY WOODWARD, the inimitable Mercutio, Bobadil, Touchstone, Marplot, Captain Absolute, Mimic, and speaking Harlequin, who made his first appearance as Rich's pupil at Covent Garden in 1730, when quite a boy. He was born in 1717. His father was a tallow-chandler, and Harry was educated at Merchant Taylor's. Leaving Rich, he went over to Drury Lane in 1738, where he became a supreme favorite. Davies tells us that his face was of a serious cast; but the moment he opened his mouth upon the stage, a certain ludicrous air laid hold of his features, and every muscle ranged itself on the side of levity. The very tone of his voice inspired comic ideas. Although Clive was admirable as Katherine in "Taming of the Shrew," she seemed to be overborne by the extravagant and triumphant grotesqueness of Woodward's Petruchio, and to be as much overawed by his manner of acting as the lady is supposed to be in the play. So naturally graceful was he, that it was said he could not throw himself into an ungraceful attitude. He made his last appearance at Covent Garden in 1777, and died in the same year.

This article was originally published in English Actors: From Shakespeare to Macready. New York: Henry Holt and Co., 1879.


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