UK exhibition stresses Shakespeare's relevance today

Wed Jul 18, 2012 5:22pm EDT
 
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters) - Anyone wondering whether Shakespeare's plays are relevant today could do worse than visiting a new exhibition at London's British Museum dedicated to the "Bard", and, more importantly, the world in which he lived.

Parallels between the works of Britain's greatest cultural export, his own tumultuous times and the contemporary world run throughout "Shakespeare: staging the world", which opens on Thursday in the vaulted, circular Reading Room.

Using some 200 objects, many dating from the late 16th and early 17th century, the exhibition seeks to conjure up London as it was when Shakespeare was a dramatist at the Globe theatre at a time when professional playwrights were a new phenomenon.

It is part of the London 2012 Festival, a celebration of British culture designed to coincide with the Olympic Games opening in the city next week, and of the World Shakespeare Festival celebrating the playwright through to November.

Among the prize exhibits is the so-called "Robben Island Bible", a cheap edition of the complete works of Shakespeare kept secretly at the South African jail by political prisoner Sonny Venkatrathnam in the 1970s.

Disguised as a Hindu religious book, Venkatrathnam handed the volume to other prisoners on Robben Island, including Nelson Mandela, one of dozens who signed their name next to passages that resonated with them personally.

The "bible" is opened at "Julius Caesar", where in 1977 Mandela left his name beside a passage that begins:

"Cowards die many times before their deaths;   Continued...

 
A silver reliquary containing the right eye of the Blessed Edward Oldcorne SJ, circa 1606 is seen in an undated photo released by the British Museum in London July 18, 2012. Anyone wondering whether Shakespeare's plays are relevant today could do worse than visiting a new exhibition at London's British Museum dedicated to the "Bard", and, more importantly, the world in which he lived. REUTERS/British Jesuit Province/handout