Or are you looking for Search the Archives?

Please complete the form to email this item.

Theatre costume - Costume for Irving as Hamlet

Costume for Irving as Hamlet

  • Object:

    Theatre costume

  • Place of origin:

    Great Britain (made)

  • Date:

    1874 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Credit Line:

    Given by the Royal Shakespeare Company

  • Museum number:

    S.2775:1 to 11-2010

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Henry Irving (1838-1905) wore this costume in the title role of Hamlet by William Shakespeare (1564-1616). Produced in 1874 under the management of H. L. Bateman, Irving brought a simplicity to the role, avoiding the contrived point-making and artifice of earlier actors. The new approach found an appreciative audience, and played for 200 nights consecutively.

Irving became a professional actor in 1856, and learned his trade in regional theatres until 1866, when he came to London. He joined the Lyceum Theatre company under the management of H. L. Bateman in 1871, winning great acclaim that year for his psychologically developed characterisation of the guilt-ridden inn-keeper Mathias in Leopold Lewis’s melodrama The Bells. He took on the responsibilities of ‘actor-manager’ in 1878 when he assumed the management of the Lyceum, and remained there until 1902, enjoying star status with his leading lady Ellen Terry (1847-1928). Irving produced a diverse range of old and new plays at the Lyceum, including Shakespeare, historical drama, and literary adaptations. His tireless work to elevate the status of the theatrical profession was rewarded in 1895 when he became the first actor ever to receive a knighthood for services to the Theatre.

Irving specialised in spectacularly staged productions with large casts of performers. He commissioned designers and composers to create appropriate scenery, costume and incidental music, played by a full orchestra. Although electric lighting was available from the 1880s, Irving preferred the softer effects of gas, with lime light to focus attention at key points in the play. Irving toured complete productions outside London, taking the full company, scenery and costumes throughout the United Kingdom and across the United States and Canada. The development of the railway system made his the first generation able to achieve this level of touring productions.

Place of Origin

Great Britain (made)


1874 (made)




Length: 125 cm Part 5, Width: 39 cm Part, Length: 90 cm Second Part 5, Width: 48 cm Second part 5, Length: 49 cm Part 7, Width: 54 cm Part 7, Length: 51 cm Part 6, Width: 41 cm Part 6, Weight: 2.25 kg Cumulative boxed weight for parts 4, 5, 6, 7., Length: 29 cm Part 10, Width: 8.5 cm Part 10, Weight: 0.35 kg Part 10, Height: 21.5 cm Part 10, Length: 29 cm Part 11, Width: 8.5 cm Part 11, Weight: 0.35 kg Part 11, Height: 21.5 cm Part 11, Length: 136 cm part 9, Width: 41 cm part 9, Weight: 0.1 kg part 9

Descriptive line

Theatrical ensemble of tunic, underdoublet, tights, boots, armhole cloak, mantle and sections of fur worn by Henry Irving as Hamlet, 1874, at the Lyceum under Colonel Bateman's management.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Holmes, Martin. Stage Costumes and Accessories in the London Museum. London : HMSO, 1968. Catalogue entry 48.


Entertainment & Leisure; Stage costumes


Theatre and Performance Collection

Large image request

Please confirm you are using these images within the following terms and conditions, by acknowledging each of the following key points:

Please let us know how you intend to use the images you will be downloading.