A major exhibition to mark the 400th year since Shakespeare’s death (May 3, 1616) opens in the Weston Library, Oxford and is proving popular with the city’s tourists and locals alike.
The Shakespeare exhibition at the Weston gets to the beating heart of the author with important texts displayed chronologically. Arguably the most important is the copy of the full folio of plays acquired by the librarian.
The twists of Shakespeare’s personal life is explored with information about his father being Catholic at a time in English history when Cathedrals were being dismantled. The next generation that Shakespeare was part of would be confirmed Protestant. This parallel is explored in the author’s character development of Hamlet who lived with a conflicted loyalty for his father.
An old dagger is suspended in one of the cabinets at shoulder height so the visitor can feel the moment that took Macbeth from power to a state of desperation. All of Shakespeare’s plays are available to read at the exhibition and it’s wonderful to share the sense of enthusiasm of the work with others. Richard III is a popular manuscript with the recent discovery of his bones under a car park in Leicester. The remains reveal Shakespeare’s description of a hunch back King may not have been accurate and to this end the play manuscript states that not all of the text is taken from reality.
Some exhibits show how Shakespeare’s tales were drawn from other stories such as ‘Metamorphoses’; this epic poem by Ovid is illustrated with scenes from Greek mythology and also inspired Dante and Chaucer.
Records of the time show death during Shakespeare’s life would be caused by something uneventful proving the causes employed in his plots, such as shipwrecks and poisoned wine, were crafted from imagination. It is suggested that Shakespeare was not a fan of actors portraying long drawn out scenes of death on stage and this explains why the narrative of the plots constantly flow and fascinate. An illustration showing ideas that could have inspired the types of death the writer draws upon is shown.
The books display how images inspire writing with an illustration of Henry V battle scene as it would have looked.
Shakespeare’s lean approach to keeping a poetic story tight with a narrative that was ushered in with continual actions shows a great respect for his audience.
I feel jubilant for this.
Thankfully there is also a perfect coffee shop in the exhibition hall so time to celebrate. Cheers!
Sample my own recent stab at novel narrative here
Enjoy more Jubilant feelings here