“The audience was chilly and damp. Inside the wooden rotunda, constructed for the occasion on the banks of the Avon, the roof was leaking. Nevertheless, the show had to go on. With rising ardour the actor David Garrick declaimed his specially composed ode to Shakespeare’s memory, while Thomas Arne, composer of “Rule, Britannia!”, conducted a choir and orchestra of over 100 in his accompanying music using a rolled-up paper as a baton. “Shakespeare! Shakespeare! Shakespeare!” cried the chorus ecstatically at the climax.
“This was the centrepiece of Garrick’s Shakespeare Jubilee of 1769. For all the appalling weather and accusations of cashing-in by the local townsfolk, the jubilee was to change public perception of England’s national poet, raising him to near-godlike status.”
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