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Scofield, (David) Paul

The Concise Oxford Companion to the Theatre

Phyllis Hartnoll,

Peter Found

Scofield, (David) Paul 


English actor, perhaps the greatest of the post-Olivier generation, with a particular gift for conveying moral worth without seeming priggish. He made his first appearance on the stage in 1940, and had played a number of parts when he first came into prominence with his portrayal of the Bastard in King John at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre in 1945. He then went to the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre for two seasons, his wide range of parts including Mephistophilis in Marlowe's Doctor Faustus and the title-roles in Henry V and Pericles. His Young Fashion in Vanbrugh's The Relapse in 1948 was followed by a return to Stratford, where he played Hamlet and Troilus in Troilus and Cressida. In 1949 he appeared as Alexander the Great in Rattigan's Adventure Story and Konstantin in Chekhov's The Seagull, and a year later he was seen as the twin brothers Hugo and Frederick in Anouilh's Ring round the Moon. After starring in Charles Morgan's The River Line (1952), he gave a fine performance in 1953 as Pierre to Gielgud's Jaffier in Otway's Venice Preserv'd, offering in the same season at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith, his Richard II and his Witwoud in Congreve's The Way of the World. After two modern plays, Wynyard Browne's A Question of Fact (also 1953) and Anouilh's Time Remembered (1954), he went to Russia in 1955 to play Hamlet at the Moscow Art Theatre with the Stratford company. The production was by Peter Brook, who also directed him as the drunken priest in The Power and the Glory, based on Graham Greene's novel, and as Harry in a revival of T. S. Eliot's The Family Reunion (both 1956). In 1958 he made his début in a musical, Expresso Bongo, and after Greene's The Complaisant Lover (1959) was seen in probably his most famous role, Sir Thomas More in Robert Bolt's A Man for All Seasons (1960; NY,1961). Peter Brook directed him in King Lear in 1962 for the RSC in a production which went from Stratford to London, several European countries, including Russia again, and New York. Later roles for the company included Timon in Timon of Athens at Stratford in 1965, Khlestakov in Gogol's The Government Inspector and the homosexual barber in Charles Dyer's Staircase at the Aldwych in 1966, and Macbeth at Stratford in 1967. He was seen in Osborne's The Hotel in Amsterdam (1968), and gave a superb performance as Chekhov's Uncle Vanya at the Royal Court in 1970. He was with the National Theatre company in 1971 in Zuckmayer's The Captain of Köpenick and Pirandello's The Rules of the Game, and then took the leading role in Christopher Hampton's Savages (1973), following it with Prospero in The Tempest in 1974 and Athol Fugard's Dimetos (1976). After returning to the National Theatre in 1977 in Jonson's Volpone and Granville-Barker's The Madras House, he reappeared there in 1979 in Shaffer's Amadeus as Salieri, in 1980 as Othello, and in 1982 as Oberon in A Midsummer Night's Dream. Nat in Herb Gardner's I'm Not Rappaport (1986) was his only other notable part in the 1980s.