Shakespeare exhibition coming to Harry Ransom Center in December

Audrey Browning

The Harry Ransom Center's next major exhibition will honor the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death. The exhibition will showcase manuscripts and artifacts related to Shakespeare’s work, according to a Harry Ransom Center press release. The exhibition will be open Dec. 21, 2015 through May 29, 2016 and will be free to view at the Harry Ransom Center.

The exhibition, named “Shakespeare in Print and Performance,” will offer several works from the Pforzheimer Collection, an inventory of Carl H. Pforzheimer’s old English manuscripts that UT owns. The collection includes some of Shakespeare’s own personal books and sources as well as the first known occurrence of Shakespeare’s name in print. The exhibition will also include Victorian period costumes and modern set designs.

Gerald Cloud, Pforzheimer Curator of Early Books and Manuscripts at the center, said people think that most of Shakespeare’s life remains a mystery and much is still unknown about the writer.

“We think we know so little about Shakespeare, when in fact there’s quite a lot that’s known just from these rare printed books,” Cloud said. “With this exhibition we bring visitors closer to Shakespeare.”

Eric Colleary, Cline curator of theater and performing arts at Ransom Center, said the exhibition will feature John Wilkes Booth’s working transcript of “Richard III” and Rosalind Iden’s gown for Beatrice in Donald Wolfit’s production of “Much Ado About Nothing.” 

“One of our goals in this exhibition is to highlight the incredibly different ways directors, designers, playwrights and actors have interpreted the Bard’s works in performance,” said Colleary.

This exhibition adds to the center’s legacy of showcasing rare cultural artifacts not previously on display.

“Shakespeare’s plays have an enduring quality, versatility and ability to affect the human spirit and imagination that is unmatched by any other author in the Western world,” the press release read.

English professor Janine Barchas, an expert on Jane Austen, said in an email that Austen visited The Shakespeare Gallery in 1796. Barchas has recreated what the gallery, which closed in 1804, would have looked like at that time.

“It is marvelous that Shakespeare’s celebrity, more than two centuries after the London phenomenon that was The Shakespeare Gallery, continues to draw museum visitors to exhibitions dedicated to his art and influence,” Barchas said.