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Sarah Siddons was the greatest tragic actress of her age. She was particularly famous for her interpretations of Shakespearian roles, in particular Lady Macbeth. Shakespeare’s plays became an inspiration to the Romantics for their free form and vivid and varied characterisation.Siddons retired from the stage in 1812; Lawrence painted her near the end of her career. She appears not on the stage but at one of her dramatic readings, with volumes of plays by Thomas Otway and Shakespeare beside her.

May 2007