Forbe-Robertson's career, spanning almost 40 years from 1874 to 1913, is impossible to summarize in so brief a space. He was regarded as one of the preeminent Shakespearean players in the four decades of his active life on the stage. His interpretation of Hamlet is regarded as one of the best of the twentieth century.
One of his early Shakespeare roles came when Wilson Barrett cast him as Romeo opposite Helena Modjeska as Juliet. In 1882 he joined Herbert Beerbohm Tree's company, and then next toured the United States with Mary Anderson. With her he made his New York City debut in 1885 as Orlando in As You Like It.
After touring in America with Mary Anderson he returned to London in 1895 and as manager of the Lyceum Theatre played Romeo to Mrs. Patrick Campbell's Juliet. It was at the Lyceum that he first played Hamlet, and he
made a deep impression, proving to be one of the greatest Hamlets of his time. It is indeed doubtful if modern times have seen a better. Forbes-Robertson had one of the finest voices ever heard on the stage, and was an actor of great sensibility and delicacy of imagination. His ascetic fine-featured face made him a notable figure, while his repose, his power, and his understanding of his art placed him in the forefront of English actors (The Oxford Companion).
Forbes-Robertson married Gertrude Elliott in 1900 and played with her as his primary first lady until his retirement in 1913, the same year in which he played Hamlet with his wife as Ophelia in a film directed by Hay Plumb. In his touching and emotional farewell to the stage, he came down into the audience at the Drury Lane Theatre to bid them goodbye personally. During the last week of his formal retirement he was knighted. He played in his last film (he appeared in four) the year he died, 1937.
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