Skip to content

Dressing Lady Macbeth: An Exhibition (25 May - 3 Nov)

Dressing Lady Macbeth: An Exhibition
Dressing Lady Macbeth: An Exhibition | © National Trust

This exhibition brings the 1888 Lyceum production of 'Macbeth' to life.

Opens 25 May | Wed - Sun, including bank holidays | 11am - 5pm

Focussing on the 1888 Lyceum Theatre production of Macbeth, 'Dressing Lady Macbeth' explores the legacy of this vibrant staging in this multimedia exhibition.

It will bring together items from the production for the first time in several decades, spotlighting the beautiful Banqueting dress, the costume Ellen Terry wore during the banqueting scene, following a long period of conservation.

Standard admission applies.

Ellen Terry in the Banqueting Dress
Ellen Terry in the Banqueting Dress | © National Trust Images

Lady Macbeth seems an economical housekeeper, and evidently patronises local industries for her husband’s clothes and the servants’ liveries: but she takes care to do her own shopping in Byzantium.

A quote by Oscar Wilde

The collection

The legacy of the production has survived in the extraordinary theatre collections at Smallhythe Place.

On display with the Banqueting dress will be the elaborate crown worn in the Banqueting scene, jewellery, props, ephemera and the daggers used on stage by Henry Irving as Macbeth.

Ellen Terry's heavily annotated scripts which give such a fascinating an insight into her approach to the part, her characterful handwriting mapping her understanding of Lady Macbeth.

Stabilising the Banqueting dress sleeve at the Textile Conservation Studio
A conservator works to stabilise the Banqueting dress sleeve at the Textile Conservation Studio at Blickling. | © National Trust Images/Textile Conservation Studio

Conservation work

The costume is returning to Smallhythe Place following extensive conservation at our textile studio at Blickling. The dress needed a great deal of intricate work, having been altered and embellished over the years to the detriment of the original design.

The dress was extremely fragile due to the damage caused by repeated use on stage, and the various alterations and repairs that have been made to it since. After hours of exacting conservation it is ready to meet its pubic again.

With long flowing sleeves, high waist and long voluminous skirt, the light and airy nature of the style created by the use of lightweight cotton muslin shot through with gold thread, creates a diaphanous, ethereal look. Designed by Alice Commyns Carr and made by Aida Nettleship, it remains one of Ellen Terry's most iconic costumes.

Our guide

The Macbeth museum guide will allow visitors to delve further into the story of the exhibition, and of Shakespearean theatre at this time, by highlighting other items in the remarkable collection at Smallhythe Place.

Front cover of "Souvenir of Macbeth", 1888
Front cover of "Souvenir of Macbeth", 1888 | © National Trust Images/David Levenson