Dame Janet Suzman unveils her portrait

On October 1 the first Thursday seminar of the Shakespeare Institute’s autumn term was rendered particularly memorable by a double celebration: the inauguration of six portraits of Royal Shakespeare Company actors by the artist Hans Schwarz (1922-2003), and the induction of Harvard University’s senior Shakespearean, Professor Marjorie Garber, as an Honorary Senior Visiting Research Fellow. 

The portraits, bequeathed to the university by the Birmingham-trained painter, depict Clive Swift (whose RSC roles have included Snug in Peter Hall’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Brabantio in Trevor Nunn’s Othello), Sara Kestelman (Titania in Peter Brook’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, among many other distinguished performances), the late Miriam Karlin (Mistress Quickly, and the title role in Middleton. Ford and Dekker’s The Witch of Edmonton), and in pride of place Dame Janet Suzman. 

Dame Janet, an honorary fellow of the Institute, made her RSC debut as Joan la Pucelle in the famous Peter Hall/John Barton history cycle The Wars of the Roses (1964) and went on to play most of the greatest female roles in Shakespeare, including an unsurpassed Cleopatra (1972): she has since achieved equal success as a director, her productions including an epoch-making Othello in apartheid South Africa (1987), a fine Hamlet (2007), and a notable Antony and Cleopatra, with Kim Cattrall (2010). Her portrait by Schwarz, painted in 1985, which she unveiled with characteristic grace and dramatic panache, now hangs proudly on the main staircase at Mason Croft, even displacing a print depicting the building’s former owner Marie Corelli -- a further sign of the Institute’s ever-closer working relationship with the RSC.

Marjorie Garber’s induction as a Senior Visiting Research Fellow reflects not only her personal status as one of the leading Shakespearean critics and cultural commentators in North America – author of influential books including Dream in Shakespeare, Shakespeare After All, Vested Interests and The Use and Abuse of Literature – but longstanding ties between Harvard and Stratford: just along the street from the Institute is Harvard House, once home to the mother of the university’s founder, which is curated on Harvard’s behalf by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. Professor Garber was crowned with laurels by the Institute’s director, Michael Dobson.