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Royal Shakespeare Company Collection © National Portrait Gallery
By Cecil Beaton, c.1965
Oil on canvas
Cecil Beaton is best known for his photography. This painting of David Warner was done from a photograph that Beaton took of the actor. At the time Warner was playing Hamlet at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.
Warner was aged 24 when he was chosen for the role. The decision to cast him was thought of as unusual because Hamlet was almost always played by older and more experienced actors. The only other 20th century actor to play Hamlet at such a young age was Alec Guinness in 1938. The director, Peter Hall, explained his choice by saying 'I believe that Hamlet is trembling on the point of full maturity'.
The production was very popular with students. Fans queued on the pavements outside the theatre to get tickets for the opening night.
© 2011 Royal Shakespeare Company