How do you begin to lead your reader through nine distinct and highly educational rooms that constitute an exhibition? Chronologically? Sure… And, tell me, how do you do this if the exhibit’s subject is a playwright who no longer needs introduction, if its rooms are intertwined within an apple shape in the centre of the British Museum, and if its “objects” go from coins and instruments to screenings and podcasts uttering words that can’t help but make you smile and nod?
Some events, and certain exhibitions, are not imaginable if one has not been to them… Hence, I’d like to take you out into the streets of London thanks to this short video which served as a trailer for Shakespeare: Staging the world.
The words we hear are a mix of those of Ben Jonson, who wrote the introduction to the first publication of Shakespeare’s plays (the First Folio, 1623).
Sweet swan of Avon – What a sight it were to see thee in our waters yet appear – Soul of the age – The applause; delight; the wonder of our stage – My Shakespeare rise – Thou art a monument without a tomb – And art alive still, while thy book doth live – Triumph, my Britain! Thou hast one to show – To whom all scenes of Europe homage owe – He was not of an age – But for all time.
I do find this video a tad over dramatised, but I must admit that it shows a part of how I feel and what I see when I exit the Globe, and how I have felt during these Olympics. It is as though the discovery of a way of writing that is specific to an era long past has made me more curious than ever about the history of this city, about the people who lived in it, their own baggage, neuroses, aspirations, jealousies, rejections and loves. This is what is shown at the British Museum: parts of history that, if one looks close enough, are omnipresent in Shakespeare’s plays.
And why wouldn’t they be? This was a man who loved his country, in particular the country (Warwickshire) which he lived in. He described small and big events, always focusing on the human beings – their fears, incomprehensions, but also surprises and laughs – who are simply trying to survive and be remembered on these small but unique islands which form Great Britain.
There seems to be a lot of Will Shakespeare floating around The Balcony these days and I admit there is even more to come – I just hope you will not run away.