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John Boydell

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Image of Much Ado About Nothing, Act 4, Scene 2

John Boydell
English, 1719–1804
Josiah Boydell (aka Joshua Boydell)
English, 1752–1817
James Heath
English, 1757–1834
after Robert Smirke
English, 1752–1845

Much Ado About Nothing, Act 4, Scene 2

about 1804
From Boydell's Graphic Illustrations of the Dramatic Works of Shakespeare

Object Type: Print
8 5/16 x 9 1/4 in. (21 x 23 cm)
Medium and Support: Engraving on paper
Accession Number: 2016.0008.0003

Credit Line: Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts Association Purchase

In 1786, a successful London publisher, alderman John Boydell, conceived of a gallery of art devoted to scenes from Shakespeare’s plays. Named for its founder, the Boydell Shakespeare Gallery was one of the first large-scale commercial endeavors intended to promote British literature and artists both in Great Britain as well as throughout the European continent. He commissioned over 167 paintings of scenes from Shakespeare’s plays and produced engravings based on these paintings. In creating the engravings, John Boydell partnered with his son, Josiah, whose name appears after his father’s in the list above. The third name is that of the engraver, and the fourth is that of the painter who created the original composition in oils. The role of the engraver was to transfer the painter’s composition onto plates for printing.

About this scene:
Outright lies, whether jokes or malice, fill Much Ado, sending rivals Beatrice and Benedick into exuberant mutual affection, but driving Claudio to reject his fiancée Hero as a wanton at the altar. Claudio saw her with another man—or thought he did. This last deception, fed by Don John’s vengeful malice, nearly kills Hero; her family pretends she is dead.

How can truth be redeemed? It just takes one feckless but earnest constabulary, whose leader misspeaks in every sentence [seen here], to overhear the perpetrator bragging. They get this one right and amid their own verbal mayhem they save truth, the marriage, and both lovers’ honor.
-Susan Willis, dramaturg, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, September 28, 2020

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