Known as one of the leading actors of his day, David Garrick was also a director, producer, theatre manager, and playwright. Born in Hereford, Garrick was the third of seven children. He showed an interest and aptitude for the theatre at a young age, and arrived in London in 1737.
Originally, Garrick tried to make a name for himself as wine merchant; however, his business was paltry--most likely because his time and attention were invested in theatre (albeit not professionally yet). In 1740, Garrick's first play, Lethe: or Aesop in the Shade premiered at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. Soon, he was performing professionally at another theatre: Goodman's Fields Theatre. He soon added other parts to his resume, but was not hired by the larger and more successful theatres right away. But in 1743, Garrick traveled to Dublin to perform the summer season at the Theatre Royal, Smock Lane. He played the title role in Hamlet--the first step towards his reputation as a leading Shakespearean actors. His style was described as realistic, rather than oratorical and bombastic (the performance style of many of the actors of the day). While he was not big or overly loud, he was impressive, and the historian Nicolas Tindal stated that "The 'deaf' hear him in his action, and the 'blind' see him in his voice."
At the end of the 1746-47 season at Drury Lane, Garrick seized the chance to become a theatre manager. Not only did Garrick manage the theatre, but he directed and starred in several shows. Famously--because there were restrictions on performing serious and tragic works in the 18th century--Garrick rewrote the ending to several of Shakespeare's tragedies. One of the more famous rewrites has Cordelia and King Lear saved from the prison cell, and ends with Cordelia's marriage to Edgar. Garrick's deference to Shakespeare also helped establish the Bard as England's national poet.
In his personal life, Garrick had several affairs, but married German dancer Eva Marie Veigel in 1749. They had no children, but were happily together until his death. He died shortly after his retirement from the stage, and is buried in the Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey.
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