By Patricia H. Kushlis
The most talked about play in London this summer is the Globe’s “Richard III.” At least among my small circle of friends and relatives. The most reviewed exhibit is “Shakespeare Staging the World” on display at the British Museum until November 25. I don’t pretend to have seen the former but I did visit the Shakespeare exhibit last week.
This special exhibit – a hefty entry of 14£ for non-museum members except for half prince for seniors on Mondays – has been on display since July 19 presumably to coincide with the 2012 Olympic games in London. The title is catchy and the exhibit uses multi-media effectively but it seems to me that Shakespeare focused primarily on British history, the flora and fauna surrounding Stratford-on-Avon, plus the Greeks and the Romans – don’t recall seeing a play of his that even included a Native American, for example, so I’m not sure that the Bard did “stage the world.” But never mind, this special exhibit itself placed Shakespeare’s world in the context of his time and I guess the museum needed a title that somehow tied it into the world class games.
Shakespeare wrote when England had just begun major expansion beyond its core – from the hostile takeover of Scotland - or the consolidation of Scotland into England - depending upon how one looks at it - to the exploration and colonization of the New World. Spain was its major international rival although, as it turned out, plenty of land existed for both and the French too.
Censorship and Propaganda Not Just Twentieth Century Phenomena
Years ago when I worked in Moscow, one of our exchange students described a production of Hamlet that he had just seen. Theater was one of the Russian intelligentsia’s few outlets for expressing opposition to the Communist regime. But it had to be done carefully. Productions had to be approved by the censors. That meant many plays never appeared on the official stage but, the student told me, in the case of Hamlet, it was how the actors had performed the story that turned the production into a riveting indictment of the Soviet leadership not Shakespeare’s lines themselves which had been rigorously adhered to and, of course, had been written three centuries before Brezhnev.