Hollis after Mayall. Mr. Hackett as Falstaff. Engraving, 19th century (Detail). Folger Shakespeare Library.
Merry Wives of Windsor. Playbill (fragment), 19th century. Folger Shakespeare Library.
James H. Hackett as Falstaff. Print, 19th century. Folger Shakespeare Library.
To a generation of Americans, James Hackett was Falstaff—a role he steadfastly played in the United States and England for more than 40 years, along with comic Yankee parts and such diverse Shakespeare characters as Dromio of Ephesus, Hamlet, Lear, and Iago. Originally a wholesale grocer, Hackett lost his savings in bad investments in his late 20s; when his wife, a former actress, returned to the stage, he decided to try acting, too. Hackett also published books on acting Shakespeare and exchanged letters on the subject with John Quincy Adams and Abraham Lincoln, among others.