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Shakespeare and the Magic Lantern

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Publication details

JournalShakespeare Survey
DatePublished - 2009
Issue numbern/a
Number of pages20
Pages (from-to)191-210
Original languageEnglish


In 1841/2, a magic lanternist calling himself 'Timothy Toddle' wrote down, for his own reference, the running order for his slides. Alongside each numbered and titled slide, he scripted an accompanying commentary. Toddle, it seems, wanted to ensure both the correct sequencing of his material and the fluency of his public patter. His show opened, as was customary, with an introductory 'Welcome' slide and closed with one reading 'Good Night' and another 'God Save the Queen'. Between these end points, the show consisted of approximately 180 other slides, ranging significantly in theme and tone. The surviving running order reveals that in the midst of slide sequences such as 'A very clever trick of clowns', 'Miss Lucy swinging from a Walnut tree', 'Punch and Judy', 'Mr Pickwick running after his hat' and 'Lord Byron - a poet of the first rate talent but of the most seductive &dangerous principles', Toddle also dropped in slides illustrating two dramatic moments from Macbeth, each accompanied by a summarized narration of the relevant section of the drama and some select Shakespearian quotation.

Subsequently, Toddle's script passed to another lantern-lecturer who, in c.1870, made some modifications and additions to it in a discernibly different hand. This later lanternist's additions included two further Shakespearean sequences, from Hamlet and Richard III respectively. As had been the case for the original Macbeth section, both additional Shakespearian sequences were accompanied by some scripted narration and gobbets of appropriate quotation.

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