This morning we visited The British Museum to catch the Shakespeare: Staging the World exhibition before it closes on Sunday. There was a huge amount to see and read, and we could have stayed for far longer than our schedule permitted. Below we have detailed some of our personal favourite objects.

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Painting of  ’Going to Bankside’ chosen by Hannah, Creative Art-worker 
Unknown artist, about 1619.
Painting depicting a boat going to the Globe.

This shows a little rowing boat rather than the Clipper I use… And there are less heads on spikes.
At the time this painting was made London Bridge was the only bridge across the river. It was here that the decapitated heads of criminals were displayed, making the walk across rather grisly. The alternative was to take a boat as depicted in the painting Hannah chose. It cost 4-6 pence to use. Considering that it only cost a penny to stand at the Globe travelling by ferry was a luxury few could, or would pay out for.

Advertisement for the Bear Garden chosen by Louise, Marketing Officer 
Paper poster, about 1603-25

Apparently they used to advertise bear baiting, brothels and plays in a similar way, with posters stuck up in public places. The poster I have chosen was the only one to survive and it features a bear, not play by Shakespeare. Bears, like actors could become celebrities. Most famous of all was Sackerson, kept at the Paris Garden on Bankside who is name checked in The Merry Wives of Windsor.
I found it interesting because I work in marketing and my job includes working on poster designs. I also love the idea of famous bears.

Here is the mention of Sackerson in The Merry Wives of  Windsor:

That’s meat and drink to me, now. I have seen
Sackerson loose twenty times, and have taken him by
the chain; but, I warrant you, the women have so
cried and shrieked at it, that it passed: but women,
indeed, cannot abide ‘em; they are very ill-favored
rough things.
Act 1, Scene 1

Robben Island Bible chosen by  Sian-Estelle, Digital Officer
Complete works of Shakespeare covered in Diwali icon cards

Owned by political prisoner Sonny Venkatrathnam, this remarkable book, the last object in the exhibition really brought home to me the strength and permanence of Shakespeare’s work, and its ability to cross the boundaries of language, culture and time. Particularly moving are the passages highlighted and signed by other famous political prisoners, including Nelson Mandela who chose the following passage from Julius Caesar:

Cowards die many times before their deaths;
The valiant never taste of death but once.
Of all the wonders that I yet have heard.
It seems to me most strange that men should fear;
Seeing that death, a necessary end,
Will come when it will come.
Act 2, Scene 2 

You can read more about the Robben Island Bible here

Robben Island Bible (c) British Museum

Robben Island Bible (c) British Museum

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Image taken from British Museum Storify of Live Q&A with curator Becky Allen.

The exhibition is only open until 25 November 2012, we highly recommend you visit. See their website for more details.