During my time here, I’ve visited a few Shakespeare themed exhibitions, given due to the quadricentenary of Shakespeare’s death. Since I myself am curating an online exhibition for the RCC, the different ways of approaching The Bard that I’ve seen have been inspiring. As I’m currently working on the exhibition and don’t really have anything to show from that work-in-progress yet, I thought I would share a little about the exhibitions that I have attended.
At the Barber, curatorial master students have created an exhibition called All the World’s a Stage: Court, Patrons and Writers in Shakespeare’s Circle. As the title suggests, this really is an exhibition whose main focus isn’t really Shakespeare, but whose overall theme and connecting thought is Shakespeare. Showing portraits of writers and patrons alongside the books of the time makes this exhibition quite special in the way it focuses on the writers’ social status and image. This is an exhibition in which Shakespeare, however brilliant and famous, is a writer among many, sharing the same kind of lifestyle and dependence. The exhibition celebrates Shakespeare by celebrating his era, his profession and the people around him. But what other ways are there of celebrating Shakespeare?
At The Library of Birmingham I saw the exhibition Our Shakespeare, an exhibition that maybe did not have such an easily defined overall theme. Or rather, the theme was our Shakespeare – as in Shakespeare is for everyone, for every occasion. Somewhat based on Shakespeare being a Warwickshire lad, maps of the area were displayed. There were also theatre posters from all around (even one from Uppsala!), a first, second and third Folio, several quartos, sound files with famous monologues/dialogues and some videos (including Horrible Histories). You could also be insulted by Shakespeare. According to this exhibition, Shakespeare would have called me a “Saucy sheep-biting common-kissing measle”. Charming.
This is an exhibition that tries to show the width and inclusiveness of Shakespeare. While this is something I strive to do in my own exhibition, I think it needs to be done very carefully, so as not to lose focus.
At the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon, I saw the exhibition Well Said!, where artists had worked to visually convey their favourite Shakespeare quotes. In many ways of course, Shakespeare today is his words, which is why an exhibition with his words is as much a celebration of him as an exhibition about the man William Shakespeare.
The Cadbury Research Library had also created a small exhibition, displaying different illustrations from Shakespeare’s work – from different countries, eras &c. The many sides of Shakespeare and his works – and how they affect people – were once again affirmed for me.
My aim is to celebrate the many sides of William Shakespeare, The Bard, whatever you choose to call him, in my exhibition. I will keep you updated on when it’s up!