Shakespearian Frieze - The Old Bank - Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member SMacB
N 52° 11.492 W 001° 42.432
30U E 588369 N 5783129
Quick Description: A terracotta frieze of fifteen panels, each depicting a scene from a different Shakespeare play incorporated into The Old Bank building, Stratford-upon-Avon.
Location: West Midlands, United Kingdom
Date Posted: 11/18/2018 1:23:42 AM
Waymark Code: WMZJ7J
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member bluesnote
Views: 0

Long Description:
"Stratford-upon-Avon is not exactly short of memorials to William Shakespeare, with statues, busts and portraits on view in many public and not so public places. But representations of his plays are less common. The earliest of these were incorporated into not one of the buildings relating to the man himself, but into a bank.

On the junction of High Street, Sheep Street, Ely Street and Church Street, stands the building called the Old Bank, rebuilt in 1883 to replace an earlier bank, and designed in high Victorian style. Coming just after the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre opened the designers, Harris, Martin and Harris of Birmingham took the opportunity to add some Shakespearean associations. So a mosaic portrait of Shakespeare and a terracotta frieze of fifteen panels each depicting a scene from a different play was incorporated into the red-brick building.

The frieze was designed by Leicester stonemason Samuel Barfield, whose work was well-known in the Midlands. His stone sculptures can still be seen on the clock tower and the Old Midland Bank in Leicester (built in 1872), the Paxton Memorial in Coventry and on the Chamberlain Fountain commemorating the mayoralty of one of Birmingham’s most influential figures, Joseph Chamberlain. This stands behind Birmingham’s Town Hall and, dating from 1880 was probably the immediate inspiration for his work on the Stratford building.

Thousands of tourists pass the Old Bank, and although many may spot the portrait, I suspect not many notice the terracotta frieze. Its position high above the heads of passers-by may have given it protection over the years, but also makes it difficult to see. The upper floor of the Town Hall is a good vantage point.

The panels are in three groups of four, tragedies, comedies and histories, with three single panels on the corner between comedies and histories. None are named, so identifying the plays and scenes is quite tricky. Beginning in Church Street and going round the corner into Ely Street [emboldened = those pictured in WM gallery] they are:
1. King Lear Act 2 Scene 2. Cornwall, Goneril and Regan encourage Lear and the Fool to go out into the storm.
2. Hamlet Act 5 Scene 2, l 265. Claudius recoils as Gertrude, assisted by a lady, collapses. Horatio holds Hamlet back and Laertes, wounded, calls “The King, the King’s to blame”.
3. Macbeth, Act 1 Scene 3, l 50. The three weird sisters appear to Banquo and Macbeth “All Hail, Macbeth”.
4. Othello, Act 5 Scene 2. Emilia pulls back the curtain to reveal Desdomona’s murdered body. Othello stands by, watched by Montano.
5. As You Like It, Act 3 Scene 5. Phoebe, Silvius, Rosalind, Celia and Corin.
6. The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Act 5 Scene 4, l 63. Valentine challenges Proteus who is attacking Silvia, while Julia stands by, watching. “Ruffian, let go that rude uncivil touch”.
7. A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act 3 Scene 1, l 74. Quince calls out as Bottom appears to the mechanicals wearing the ass’s head. “O monstrous! O strange! we are haunted”. Puck watches from above.
8. Twelfth Night, Act 3 Scene 4, l 231. Sir Toby eggs on Sir Andrew to fight with Viola, backed up by Fabian.
9. Coriolanus, Act 5 Scene 3. Virgilia stands with Young Martius who kneels, while Volumnia pleads with her son Coriolanus.
10. The Merchant of Venice, Act 3 Scene 2, l 75. Nerissa and Portia watch Bassanio make his choice of the caskets watched by Gratiano and a boy. (above mosaic)
11. Antony and Cleopatra, act 3 Scene 11, l 42. Cleopatra, supported by Charmian approaches Antony who is in despair after losing the battle. Eros addresses him “Most noble sir, arise, the queen approaches”.
12. Henry V, Act 3 Scene 1, l 1. “Once more unto the breach”. Henry leads his troops at the siege of Harfleur.
13. Richard II, Act 3 Scene 3, l 192. Outside Flint Castle, Bolingbroke kneels to Richard “Fair cousin, you debase your princely knee”. Bolingbroke’s supporters are Northumberland, Percy and York, while behind Richard are the Bishop of Carlisle and Aumerle.
14. King John, Act 4 Scene 3, l 96. The Bastard intervenes between Salisbury who has drawn his sword and Hubert, over the body of Prince Arthur. Pembroke and Bigot stand by watching.
15. Richard III, Act 1 Scene 2, l 190. Richard offers his breast to Lady Anne for her to kill him. “Nay, now dispatch: ’twas I that stabbed young Edward”.

SOURCE - (visit link)
Artist: Samuel Barfield

The Old Bank 13 Chapel St Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire England CV37 6ET

Web URL to relevant information: [Web Link]

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