This year, Senate House Library will commemorate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death with a season of activities running from 14 April to 17 September. This includes a free onsite exhibition, a programme of events, and a website that provides rich digital content as well as research resources. The theme of the season is metamorphosis, loosely based on the ‘seven ages of man’ soliloquy from As You Like It – reflecting the fact that Shakespearean text and scholarship has changed dramatically over the last four centuries. We want to tell this story through our collections, ranging from some of the material that Shakespeare used as a source of inspiration for his plays, to modern editions of his work that often appear online as digital text with multimedia content. You can take a look at our online exhibition galleries to read and experience the full narrative, as well as view images from our most important material and hear from the curators, Karen Attar and Richard Espley.
However, the choice of metamorphosis as the theme was also a deliberate reference to the way the Library is evolving. We strongly support the advancement of scholarship both within the University of London and more widely. We are firmly committed to preserving the wonderful highlights of our collection, and recognise that they are national, even global, heritage treasures that underpin academic research which we wish to support and bring to the widest possible audience.
For example, the Library holds three early quartos and all four early folios, as well as some later seventeenth-century quarto adaptations from Shakespeare’s plays. Equally, attempts to produce scholarly editions of Shakespeare’s works in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries can all be found in the Library, alongside attempts to bring the Bard to a wider, popular audience – penny editions and school books, for example. This is a stunning resource for Shakespearean scholars, and we’ve put together a new research guide that provides a summary of these holdings which we’ll continue to develop over the coming months.
We also have an exciting range of speakers and performances as part of our events programme, and with one or two exceptions these are all free to attend. You can follow the links on this site, but we do recommend booking early to avoid disappointment. Given the global appeal of Shakespeare, we hope to record some of the talks and produce a ‘highlights’ package to give you a flavour of the lectures and associated debates. We will also be arranging more talks, so don’t forget to come back to the site to see what’s new; after all, in the words of the Bard himself, 'parting is such sweet sorrow.’