On my day off I headed to Senate House Library for their contribution to the Shakespeare 400th anniversary celebrations: Shakespeare: Metamorphosis, an exhibition which uses the famous “Seven Ages” speech from As You Like It to explore how Shakespearean scholarship has changed over the years. As a librarian, Shakespeare-lover and bibliophile I was very happy to see that the exhibition consisted of several rare and beautiful volumes.
The entrance to Senate House Library has been transformed for the occasion, with a Shakespeare design adorning the steps. Before you even reach the exhibition, there are posters all around, each exploring a different aspect of the history of Shakespearean scholarship.
Once you get up to the exhibition, there are some fascinating works to see. Gallery One, ‘The Infant’, explores the influences on Shakespeare and features Holinshed’s Chronicles and the works of Chaucer. Gallery Two, ‘The Schoolboy’, features early quarto editions of some of the plays, including Othello. Other galleries explore the history of Shakespearean scholarship and performance, including the adaptations performed by actors such as David Garrick. In the search to create an authoritative text various sources were used and there were conflicts between scholars. The twentieth century was especially good for academic Shakespeare studies: the first Oxford Complete Works was produced in 1891 by William James Craig, a forerunner of the modern Oxford Shakespeare series edited by Stanley Wells and Gary Taylor from 1986.
The final gallery, ‘The Superstar’, looks at Shakespeare in the digital world and invites exhibition attendees to make their own contribution, sharing on Instagram or Twitter.
Shakespeare: Metamorphosis runs until mid-September, but if you can’t get to London, or want to explore the topic further, you can view an online version. The University of London’s Shakespeare microsite will remain up for the foreseeable future, a valuable resource for fans and students of the Bard.