Henry Irving as Macbeth print

Henry Irving as Macbeth print

Irving was the leading actor-manager in the late 19th century. Macbeth was one of his most admired roles, although he had not attempted it for 13 years before this production at the Lyceum in 1888 with Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth. Irving's interpretation was innovative in that he did not show Macbeth as a virtuous character corrupted by evil influences, but as thoroughly evil from the start a 'hysterical, craven wretch' in a red moustache. Irving's productions were famous for their elaborate sets, vast armies of supernumeraries and spectacular scenic effects. For Macbeth he decided that it would be appropriate to set several of the scenes at night, dramatically lit with torches. He used this gloomy setting so extensively that when an outdoor scene was played in bright daylight, one of the audience leapt up with relief and shouted 'Good Old England!' The production was a success with the public, and played to full houses for 150 nights.