Shakespeare: the gift that keeps giving

August 16 / 185

To coincide with the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death in April, the University of Melbourne has been honouring the poet and playwright with an extensive program of lectures, exhibitions, performances and screenings.

The University’ Baillieu Library exhibition After Shakespeare brings together early folios of Shakespeare’s works (1632, 1685), 19th-century playbills and costume sketches from State Library Victoria and a unique prompt book for a slated goldrush-era performance of Antony and Cleopatra in Melbourne.

Drawing on items from the University’s extensive cultural collections, including the Rare Book Collection, the Baillieu Library Print Collection and University of Melbourne Archives, After Shakespeare is evidence of the enduring importance for audiences of the English language’s most influential writer.

Presented by the exhibitions team of Brian Allison and Susie Shears from Research and Collections at the University Library, the exhibition built on expert advice from Dr David McInnis, Gerry Higgins Lecturer in Shakespeare Studies in the University’s English and Theatre Studies Program.

Dr McInnis says the impact and influence of Shakespeare’s work is global and far-reaching in the way it has changed literature and language.

“The 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death allows us to pause and reflect on the endurance of his legacy and the way contemporary life still finds affinity with the stories, language and insights of the Bard,” Dr McInnis said.

“Shakespeare’s plays were among the precious few books brought to Australia by Captain Cook on his ship, The Endeavour,” he said.

“His plays were performed consistently in Australia throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and have a strong role in shaping Australian literary history.”

The exhibition features unpublished works from the Germaine Greer collection, which is part of the University of Melbourne Archives. Dr Greer completed her thesis on issues of gender, love and marriage in Shakespeare’s works.

It also includes a rare script prepared for The Barry Humphries Show on BBC TV – ‘Edna takes us to Stratford on Avon’, costumes and promotional materials from Melbourne Theatre Company, and programs from the Melbourne University Shakespeare Company and Union House Reperatory Theatre.

After Shakespeare is on show in the Noel Shaw Gallery until January 2017.

Story by Annie Rahilly.

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