William Shakespeare’s influence on society and the arts is immense, remaining to this day an icon in literature, theatre, storytelling, comedy, drama and morality. It’s for all of this that the Shakespeare: Staging the World exhibition was such an impressive homage to the legendary bard. It took place at The British Museum in the summer of 2012, bringing back Shakespeare’s London and looking at the impact his work had on the British national identity.
Looking at his work from a new angle, the angle of British capital city on the world stage, the exhibition gave a unique insight into the city as it was 400 years ago. Using objects drawn from The British Museum’s huge collection and from other collections throughout Europe, the landscape of the late 16th and early 17th centuries were brought together under the museum’s massive microscope-like roof.
Through the scrutiny of Shakespeare’s work, the objects and art that were drawn together for the exhibition went on to be viewed in a whole new way. With the theatre stage as the looking glass on the history of the objects, the development of London and the evolution of the British identity, the Shakespeare: Staging the World exhibition gave a whole new perspective on the past.
Part of the London 2012 Festival in the shadow of the London 2012 Olympic Games, the impressive exhibition opened on the 19th July 2012 and ran through until the 25th November 2012. Tickets went on sale towards the end of 2011 and cost £10 with £7 concessions.
The image above is courtesy of the British Museum. It features The Lyte Jewel (open, enamelled gold with diamonds and containing the king’s miniature) by Thomas Hilliard. Made in London and presented to Thomas Lyte in 1610 in thanks for his royal genealogy tracing James’ descent, through Banquo, from Brutus, the mythical Trojan founder of Britain. James VI and I claimed descent from Brutus and Aeneas of Troy via Banquo, whose murder is a key element in Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Waddesdon Bequest in 1898 to the British Museum © The Trustees of the British Museum.
What the enameled gold jewel shows is the power link between the monarchy and their history to legitimise their place ont he throne. It’s a theme that could easily have been inspired by the influence of great Shakespearean works on the psyche of both the king and his subjects at the time.