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This painting depicts a procession of favourite characters from Shakespeare’s plays. From left to right, they are: Olivia, Malvolio, Sir Toby Belch and Sir Andrew Aguecheek (from Twelfth Night); Falstaff and his drunken associates (from The Merry Wives of Windsor); Celia and Rosalind (from As You Like It); Prospero and Miranda (from The Tempest); King Lear and Cordelia (from King Lear); Ophelia and Hamlet (from Hamlet); Lady Macbeth and the witches (from Macbeth). Instead of showing the characters in literally theatrical settings, Stothard, like other artists of the time including James Barry and Henry Fuseli, pioneered a more imaginative approach, treating the figures as poetic inventions.

April 2016