Shakespeare: staging the world – The British Museum’s London 2012 Festival exhibition
19 July – 25 November 2012
Round Reading Room
During the summer of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games the British Museum will present a major exhibition on the world and works of William Shakespeare, supported by BP. Shakespeare: staging the worldwill be part of the World Shakespeare Festival in the London 2012 Festival.
The exhibition will provide a unique insight into the emerging role of London as a world city interpreted through the innovative perspective of Shakespeare’s plays, and will be brought to life through objects, digital media and performance. The British Museum has collaborated with the Royal Shakespeare Company in the creative approach to the design of the exhibition, accentuating the connections between the objects, Shakespeare’s text and performance. The arrival of the Games to London in 2012 provides the opportunity to reflect on how the world came to London four centuries ago, and how Londoners perceived the world when global exchange and other aspects of modernity originated.
One of the key innovations of the period was the birth of the modern professional theatre: purpose-built playhouses and professional playwrights were a new phenomenon, with the most successful of them being the Chamberlain's/King's Men at the Globe, and their house dramatist William Shakespeare. The exhibition will show how the playhouse informed, persuaded and provoked thought on the issues of the day; how it shaped national identity, first English, then British; and how the theatre opened a window on the wider world, from Italy to Africa to America.
The exhibition will create a unique dialogue between an extraordinary array of objects – from great paintings to exquisite jewels and rare manuscripts – and the plays and characters that have had a richer cultural legacy than any other in the western world. Among the objects linked to Shakespeare and his works will be the Ides of March coin, the gold aureus commemorating the assassination of Julius Caesar, Rome’s most famous murder and the subject of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. Also the Lyte Jewel, presented to Thomas Lyte in 1610 in thanks for his royal genealogy tracing James I’s lineage through Banquo, whose murder is a key element in Shakespeare’s Macbeth, to Brutus, the mythical Trojan founder of Britain. The jewel is enamelled gold with diamonds set in the royal cipher of James I and containing the king’s miniature by Thomas Hilliard.
Jonathan Bate, Professor of Shakespeare and Renaissance Literature at the University of Warwick and Provost of Worcester College, Oxford, who is contributing to the exhibition said “I am tremendously excited to be working with the British Museum’s brilliant curators in devising an exhibition for the London 2012 Festival – a kind of History of Shakespeare and his World. We will be using Shakespeare’s amazing characters and evocative locations as a way of showing how all the world was a stage, full of dramatic encounters between cultures and nationalities. Shylock is our way into early modern Jewish culture, Othello takes us to Africa and Caliban to the New World. This show is potentially the most exciting thing to have happened in my thirty year love-affair with Shakespeare.”
BP has supported arts and culture in the UK for over 30 years and currently focuses its support on long-term partnerships with four world class institutions; The British Museum, The National Portrait Gallery, The Royal Opera House and Tate Britain. More than 2.4 million people across the UK engaged with BP supported activity in 2010. A Premier Partner of the Cultural Olympiad, BP’s support of the London 2012 Open Weekend and other London 2012 Festival projects is helping to showcase the UK’s cultural excellence and diversity to an even wider audience.
BP is the British Museum’s most longstanding corporate partner, supporting the Museum on an annual basis since 1996. BP most recently supported the hugely successful Fra Angelico to Leonardo: Italian Renaissance Drawings and Journey through the afterlife: Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead exhibitions at the British Museum. They are currently supporting Adornment and identity: jewellery and costume from Oman in Room 2 which will be on display until 11th September 2011.
BP are a Premier Partner of the London 2012 Festival and the Cultural Olympiad.
World Shakespeare Festival
The World Shakespeare Festival (WSF) is a celebration of Shakespeare as the world’s playwright, produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company, in an unprecedented collaboration with leading UK and international arts organisations, and with Globe to Globe, a major international programme produced by Shakespeare’s Globe. It runs from 23 April 2012 to November 2012 and forms part of London 2012 Festival.
London 2012 Festival
The London 2012 Cultural Olympiad is the largest cultural celebration in the history of the modern Olympic and Paralympic Movements. Spread over four years, it is designed to give everyone in the UK a chance to be part of London 2012 and inspire creativity across all forms of culture, especially among young people. Millions of people around the UK are already part of the Cultural Olympiad, through the Inspire programme and Open Weekend.
The finale of the Cultural Olympiad will be in a twelve week UK-wide Festival in the summer of 2012, bringing together leading artists from all over the world.
The Cultural Olympiad has benefited from a National Lottery grant of £16.6 million from the Olympic Lottery Distributor. Other funders include Legacy Trust UK and Arts Council England. British Council will commit £3million to the international development of London 2012 Cultural Olympiad projects. BP and BT are Premier Partners of the Cultural Olympiad. Panasonic are the presenting partner of Film Nation: Shorts.