Henry Baynton


Henry Baynton first appeared on stage in 1910 and almost immediately began a long career during which he performed in almost every important part in Shakespeare’s plays. In 1911, he joined the company of Oscar Asche and then in the same year moved to Frank Benson‘s company. He worked with Benson for several years and played, among other parts, Demetrius in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Hamlet (1915). Then in the summer of 1916 he played Shakespeare at the Stratford Festival. In 1917 he joined the company of H. B. Irving where he played Laertes.

That same year he struck out and formed his own company, playing Hamlet, Orlando (in As You Like It), Romeo, Henry V, Shylock, Brutus, King Lear, Othello, Falstaff and Petruchio. Then between 1926 and 1930 (when he disbanded his company) he toured the provinces playing Shakespeare regularly. His last role in Shakespeare came in 1934 when he played Lord Capulet in Romeo & Juliet.

In Shakespeare on the English Stage 1900-1964, J. C. Trewin comments on Baynton’s energy and his stage presence, both of which made him quite popular, a “lion,” all over Great Britain—except, unhappily, in London where he was not so well received. One critic noted that on the stage he had “stature but little depth” (Trewin 100); the reason for his never quite making his mark was probably due less to a lack of talent than to the winding-down of the theatrical era of the actor-manager that was close to its end. Baynton was the among the last of the actor-managers when he dissolved his own company in 1930; only Frank Benson still kept his “Bensonians” together regularly playing Shakespeare, but not without real difficulty.