Shakespeare’s props

An exhibition exploring William Shakespeare’s works as inspiration for theatrical interpretations through the centuries is to go on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) in London.

A printed Shakespeare folio

An exhibition exploring William Shakespeare’s works as inspiration for theatrical interpretations through the centuries is to go on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) in London.

In celebration of the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth on 23 April 2014, the museum will display the playwright’s First Folio – a collected edition of 36 of Shakespeare’s plays (excluding Pericles), published in 1623. The folio contains the first known versions of many of his plays.

An exhibition exploring William Shakespeare’s works as inspiration for theatrical interpretations through the centuries is to go on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) in London.

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In celebration of the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth on 23 April 2014, the museum will display the playwright’s First Folio – a collected edition of 36 of Shakespeare’s plays (excluding Pericles), published in 1623. The folio contains the first known versions of many of his plays.

Surrounding the folio will be archive footage, photography, and 25 props, costumes, set models, design sketches and printed ephemera from the V&A collections, to explore how the plays have been interpreted and re-imagined by successive generations. Highlights include a skull used by Sarah Bernhardt during her role as Hamlet in 1899, and the embroidered handkerchief used by actress Ellen Terry while playing Desdemona in 1881 at the Lyceum Theatre.

Costumes include a headdress by the prominent society designer Oliver Messel, worn by the actress Vivien Leigh during performances of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in 1937, and a pair of red boots worn by actor-manager Henry Irving in an 1877 production of Richard III. With a stacked right heel, the boots helped Irving to perform with the character’s distinctive limp.

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Shakespeare: Greatest Living Playwright will be shown in the V&A’s Theatre and Performance Galleries from 8 February to 21 September 2014.

Boots worn by Henry Irving in Richard III
Boots worn by Henry Irving in Richard III, 1877. (© Victoria and Albert Museum, London)
A printed Shakespeare folio
A folio printed by Isaac Jaggard and Edward Blount. (© Victoria and Albert Museum, London)
A poster for the Shakespeare play Hamlet
(© Victoria and Albert Museum, London/ Desmond Banks)
A headdress worn by Vivienne Leigh
A headdress worn by Vivien Leigh in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Old Vic. Designed by Oliver Messel. (© Victoria and Albert Museum, London)
A hat box.
(© Victoria and Albert Museum, London)
A photograph of the actress Sarah Bernhardt
Sarah Bernhardt. (© Victoria and Albert Museum, London)
A Shakespearean set
Philippe James de Loutherberg (© Victoria and Albert Museum, London)
A prop skull used in a Shakespeare play
A prop skull. (© Victoria and Albert Museum, London)
An image showing various Shakspearean performers
(© Victoria and Albert Museum, London)