Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 2, No. 167. Monday, 17 Jun 1991.
Date: Mon, 17 Jun 1991 14:40:08 -0400
Subject: The Death of Dame Peggy Ashcroft
The Death of Peggy Ashcroft:
Dame Peggy Ashcroft, one of the most admired English Shakespearian
actresses in this century died on 14 June 1991 at the age of 83 after a
stroke at the end of May from which she never regained consciousness.
Newspapers in London have been filled with tributes. She acted with all
the well-known names of the British stage and was Juliet to Olivier's Romeo.
The critic Michael Billington has called her Beatrice "definitive".
Her Benedick was John Gielgud.
The television stations have been teasing viewers with tiny clips from
a television recording of her role of Margaret in *The Wars of the Roses*
(adapted from the first tetralogy of history plays in 1963) which virtually
every writer mentions as one of her greatest interpretations.
She was a well known campaigner for worthy causes. When playing
Desdemona to Paul Robeson's Othello she received hate mail for appearing
onstage with a black man and she apparently witnessed first-hand the
persecution of Jews in Nazi Germany. Among her causes, as many readers of
SHAKSPER will know, was the Rose Theatre museum. She formed part of the
human block that prevented bulldozers from obliterating the remains in May
She was part of virtually all the endeavours to found a permanent
British classical acting company and was present from the first at the
foundation of the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1960. Peggy Ashcroft spoke
the first words from the new National Theatre in 1976. In later years she
became well known for parts in films and on television.
Her last Shakespearian role in the early '80s was as the Countess in
*All's Well That Ends Well*. It was her only Shakespearian role I saw live,
though I managed with a friend to see it five times. We last saw her in the
audience at Trevor Nunn's very fine production of *Timon* in the Young Vic
theatre on 6 April of this year.
She will be missed very much.
King's College London