Richard Burbage

Born in 1568. The Elegy on the death of the famous actor Richard Burbage (1619) names him as the original Othello, Hamlet and King Lear. The gaps between these creations were at the instant filled when the nineteenth century researcher John Payne Collier published his transcript of a lately discovered contemporary manuscript. In a deviating version of the elegy it adds virtually every protagonist to Burbage’s repertoire that Shakespeare invented during his career. Yet, it is obvious that Romeo and Richard III (to mention just two of the additional names) cannot have been written on the characteristics of the same actor. It also seems that the manuscript in question never surfaced. And Collier has a reputation of fabricating evidence.

Shakespeare, on the other hand, has a reputation of writing his actors parts that fit. And because Richard Burbage was even to contemporary standards rather short, Shakespeare describes him aptly in Talbot (1 Henry VI) and Gloucester (Richard III). The same short countenance makes – in terms of comedy – the most of Petruchio’s ‘I woo not like a babe’ (The Taming of the Shrew).