We know what people do with Shakespeare’s words now, sure. And in general we can point to an Orson Welles, Ian McKellen, John Gielgud, Derek Jacobi and say, “Those, those are good actors.”
But I’ve often wondered about the people who originally created the roles. Were they any good, to our standards? Or was it completely different?
How we interpret Shakespeare changes. Compare the Hamlets of Kenneth Brannagh, Richard Burton, and Laurence Olivier. Going back farther we’d have Gielgud or Barrymore. But what if we kept going, all the way back?
I’m not asking if a modern audience would *like* it. They probably wouldn’t, given the different expectations. What I’m asking is, were the actors “good”? Would you look at a person playing Falstaff, his facial expressions however slight, and say “Damn, that is heartbreaking.” Or would he have been more concerned with annunciating everything so perfectly that he could be heard in the cheap seats?
Know what I mean?