Partners’ Exhibitions Bring Shakespeare To Life

The London 2012 Festival and Cultural Olympiad are ramping up, and that means the World Shakespeare Festival is now in full swing.  With that in mind we thought it would be a great time to tell you a bit more about some of the partners we are working with for Will’s World and the types of material that the Will’s World registry will connect to.

One of our partners, the British Museum, has gathered up as much tangible history that relates to Shakespeare’s work and life as they could and have partnered with the Royal Shakespeare Company to bring it to life as part of their participative offering.

'The Way of the World' is comedy and tragedy. Image © Trustees of the British Museum

The resulting exhibition, ‘Shakespeare: Staging the World’, will explore the influence Shakespeare had on the people’s minds with the sway of his pen. Visitors will be able to take a behind-the-scenes look at Will’s integral role in shaping 17th century London.

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Developers accessing the Will’s World registry will be able to access and develop new uses and combinations of the digitised materials associated with the exhibition.

17th Century New Media

Plays and professional theatres were the new media of the day. Up until that point the public had no such access to theatre with the travelling players and productions – such as those at the centre of A Midsummer Night’s Dream – very much the preserve of wealthy patrons. The technology of theatre was also radically changed with the first building of professional theatre buildings and the amplification, lighting, and special effects such spaces afforded. To Elizabethans, art at Shakespeare’s Globe theatre was state of the art, and the ‘house dramatist’ had to entertain, enlighten, and inspire.

Theatre has had a unique capacity to transport the audience to the far reaches of history and the British empire. Time and space were no match for the The Globe, and so it became the people’s information source. And compared to bear-baiting, it must have been a no-brainer.

The original Globe Theater. Image © 2012 National Library of Scotland

Hold the Sweetmeats

The exhibition at the British Museum shares icons of Shakespeare’s inspiration, but also timeworn objects like a sucket fork. Fortunately, though, eating the ‘sweetmeats’ it was used on aren’t part of the experience.

The playwright’s most precious legacies, literary icons, have been brought to life by the Royal Shakespeare Company. Their performances will transport us to standing grounds of The Globe when London was still coming to terms with the world at its doorstep.

Whilst the British Museum is looking at Shakespeare’s world through the lens of the emergence of London as a city, the National Libraries Scotland’s recent ‘Beyond Macbeth‘ exhibit explored the lives that kept Shakespeare’s works alive and well in Scotland. Without their help, there’s little wonder whether a 413 year old copy of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ on showcase would have survived.

Print from the play Romeo and Juliet. Image © Trustees of the British Museum

Knowing ‘The Bard’

By understanding the lives and personalities of Scottish icons like William Drummond and the Bute family, and why they prized his works, we can better understand contemporary society near-after Shakespeare. Re-examining the work of these people bring us closer to knowing the bard.

The National Library of Scotland brought Shakespeare into the present with modern takes on his stories and a series of specially commissioned shorts that had Edinburghers delivering their favorite lines. The exhibit also placed sculptures of signature quotes around the city. Seeing ‘double, double toil and trouble’ in the dark evening fog is more than a little hair-raising.

"This place is too cold for hell" Sculpture Associated with the National Library of Scotland Macbeth Exhhibition

National Library of Scotland Word Sculpture

Though the exhibition has now come to an end the collections live on at the NLS and the digitised materials will be available for further creative and modern reinvention via the Will’s World registry.

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