O put me in thy books!
400 Years of Shakespeare
3 February — 25 April 2016
William Shakespeare, who created such memorable characters for the stage, has often appeared in fiction as a character himself. Even before his death on 23 April 1616, he made a thinly-veiled entrance in a diatribe by Robert Greene who called him “an upstart crow who thinks himself the only Shake-scene in the country,” able to “bombast out a blank verse” but also prone to plagiarism. From that inauspicious start, Shakespeare’s fictional character generally improves. In hundreds of works of fiction, he appears variously as a boy, a lover, a family man, a courtier, a genius, an oaf, a friend, a hero, and, less commonly, as a villain. Whether in poetry, plays, novels, young adult literature, or movies and television, this one man plays many parts.
The relative paucity of historical information about Shakespeare’s life has led authors to use their imaginations. In this exhibit, we explore the fictional Shakespeare by character type through works that span four hundred years. Shakespeare appears in the works of such authors as Ben Jonson, John Milton, Rudyard Kipling, George Bernard Shaw, Mark Twain, Isaac Asimov, Jorge Luis Borges, and Neil Gaiman, among many others. By exploring Shakespeare as a character, we hope to make him live again in the realm of fiction during this year that commemorates the 400th anniversary of his death.