Senate House Library

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To commemorate Shakespeare400, the University of London ran its first major exhibition, Shakespeare: Metamorphosis, in the Senate House Library.



Shakespeare: Metamorphosis

Over the last four centuries Shakespearean text and scholarship, as well as perceptions of the man himself, have undergone continuous reinvention.  Curated by Dr Karen Attar and Dr Richard Espley, and inspired by the famous ‘seven ages of man’ speech from As You Like It, Shakespeare: Metamorphosis traced and explained the 400-year transformation by highlighting and displaying over 30 rare texts from seven significant ages of development:

  • The first age explored contemporary sources of inspiration for Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets
  • The second age focused on the production of the four folios from 1623 to 1685
  • The third age revealed the eighteenth-century love affair with the Bard and the emergence of serious scholarship
  • The fourth age traced disputes over authorship and identity throughout the nineteenth-century, as well as the publication of the first editions
  • The fifth age highlighted modern scholarship, with the emergence of one authoritative text and corpus of work by the early twentieth-century
  • The sixth age celebrated the popularisation and cultural appropriation of Shakespeare around the world, reflected in the tercentenary commemorations of 1916
  • The seventh age embraced the shift to digital texts with Senate House Library producing a new bespoke website to accompany the exhibition



Throughout the exhibition the Senate House Library held a series of free public events, bringing further life to the documents on display.  Highlights included an evening with the Fox dynasty of actors, a series of performances on 23 April 2016, and Michael Slater’s look at Shakespeare’s influence on Dickens. 

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