Samuel Phelps

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Phelps, Samuel


Born Feb. 13, 1804, in Devonport; died Nov. 6, 1878, in Coopersale. British actor and stage director.

In 1837, Phelps first performed at the Haymarket Theatre in London, where he later played numerous Shakespearean roles, including the title roles in The Merchant of Venice, Hamlet, Othello, Richard III, and King Lear, Falstaff in The Merry Wives of Windsor, and Malvolio in Twelfth Night. Phelps’ acting was distinguished by its simplicity, naturalness, and masterful characterization.

From 1844 to 1862, Phelps directed the Sadler’s Wells Theatre, where he staged nearly all of Shakespeare’s plays. One of the greatest British stage directors of the 19th century, he was extremely important in establishing realism on the English stage. In his stagings he stressed the educational role of the theater. Phelps edited a two-volume collection of Shakespeare’s plays (1852–54).


Istoriia zapadnoevropeiskogo teatra, vol. 3. Edited by S. S. Mokul’-skii. Moscow, 1963.
Phelps, W. M., and J. Forbes-Robertson. The Life and Work of Samuel Phelps. London, 1886.
Sprague, A. C. Shakespeare and the Actors. Cambridge, Mass., 1945.


References in periodicals archive ?
What about old Samuel Phelps, the last occupant of the building?
This apparent stylistic rootlessness, combined with a horror of its theme of incest, made even Samuel Phelps at Sadlers Wells feel that he could not stage it without considerable cuts and an extravagant budget; 1000 [pounds sterling] bought six months' preparation and a set that drew extensively on recent archaeological excavations at Nineveh.
One central figure in this chapter is Samuel Phelps, who, when producing plays at Sadler's Wells, was congratulated by Bishop Tait "for all the good he was doing, especially among the masses" (86).