Delacroix discovered Shakespeare in 1825 on a trip to London, where the celebrated Edmund Kean was playing Richard III. In Paris, the equally famous Talma - whose town house was decorated by
Delacroix - did much to popularise Shakespeare's work in French. Delacroix saw Hamlet in Paris, in the company of Hugo, de Vigny, Dumas, Nerval and Berlioz.
The Shakespearean hero, imperfect, immoderate and immature, was perfectly adapted to Delacroix's temperament, and gave free rein to his imagination; in his hands, the hero could be completed and perfected. It was, of course, Hamlet who most fascinated Delacroix.
"Alas, poor Yorick! - I knew him, Horatio: a fellow of most infinite jest..." (Act V, Scene 1). The scene of Hamlet and Horatio in the Graveyard inspired a painting and a series of lithographs which mirror the development of his art as a whole.