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Shakespeare celebrated in two new exhibitions

Image of John Neville as Hamlet, London Old Vic, 1957

John Neville as Hamlet, London Old Vic, 1957. Angus McBean Photograph. © Harvard Theatre Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard University

Press release issued: 22 April 2016

The University of Bristol Theatre Collection is making its contribution to the Shakespeare 400 celebrations, marking the 400th anniversary of the playwright’s death on 23 April, with two new exhibitions, both of which opened this week.

Back to Black: The iconic image of Hamlet, curated by MA History of Art students, explores the image of Hamlet through the ages, particularly focusing on the use of black for Hamlet’s costume and how an iconic look has established itself over time.  

At the heart of the exhibition is a striking black costume. But, whilst the black-costumed Hamlet may be the iconic image of the character there are also other, less familiar versions featured in this exhibition. Despite these alternatives, the majority of productions have gone ‘back to black’ in honour of the protagonist’s melancholic temperament. Few indeed have followed Gertrude’s advice to the character himself: ‘Good Hamlet, cast thy nighted colour off’ (Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 2). 

Shakespearabilia: the iconic image of Shakespeare looks at the image of Shakespeare and its use in the marketing and sale of everyday objects from beer bottles to tea towels, cigarette cards to postcards.

The items on display are grouped around four key images of Shakespeare which have perpetuated since his death: the Chandos portrait, the Droeshout image, the Stratford Memorial and the Westminster Memorial.  Artefacts and images derived from these portrayals of Shakespeare are all strongly represented in the Theatre Collection’s holdings, particularly in the Mander & Mitchenson Collection as these two collectors (Raymond Mander and Joe Mitchenson) had a voracious appetite for Shakespeare memorabilia.

The exhibitions are open Monday to Friday (Monday: 12- 4pm; Tues to Fri: 10am- 4pm) until 13 September 2016 at the University of Bristol Theatre Collection, Vandyck Building, 21 Park Row, Bristol BS8 5LT.

Further information

For further information, email or phone 0117 3315086 

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