“ ‘We do not like the idea of a monument at all,’ wrote The Times on the 20th of January 1864. ‘Shakespeare,’ wrote Punch on the 6th of February following, ‘needs no statue’ ”, Sidney Lee recalls in “The Commemoration of Shakespeare in London”, 1905.

Plans for the 1916 tercentenary in Britain were underway by 1912, if not earlier, with designs to build a national theatre. A short interlude written by George Bernard Shaw to help raise funds for the Shakespeare Memorial National Theatre, The Dark Lady of the Sonnets, was first performed at the Haymarket Theatre on November 24, 1910. It toured the provinces and was eventually broadcast but, according to Shaw himself, brought more applause than subscriptions. When Shakespeare asks the Queen for a boon to endow a national theatre, she replies it would offend the Puritans, and prophesies the most barbarous countries will have their publically funded playhouses before England.