December 2014 saw a new Shakespeare’s Treasures Exhibition open at the Shakespeare Centre, featuring a fresh selection of objects, books and documents from our collections.
Inspired by the 800th anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta, the royal charter that established individual rights and the idea of the law applying equally to all, the exhibition includes objects from the legal, political and financial world of Shakespeare. There’s also a chance to take a closer look at different interpretations of Shakespeare’s character King John. King John was forced to agree to Magna Carta by his rebellious barons, though Shakespeare doesn’t mention this in his text. Theories about the omission of the charter differ wildly from Shakespeare not being aware of the document to his dismissal of it as irrelevant in the history of civil liberty. What is clear, however, is that Shakespeare found more humanity and drama in the struggle of John with the Church of Rome than in his argument with the English nobility. Shakespeare borrowed much of his content from Hollinshed’s Chronicles of England, Ireland and Scotland, a copy of which is on display in the exhibition.
We’re also shining a spotlight on recent additions to our collections as they continue to grow, and highlighting the breadth and variety of objects we care for by including special items from across the centuries.
In a new addition to the Treasures gallery walls, we have incorporated a QR code link to www.shakespaedia.org. Our exhibitions aim to explore Shakespeare though the collections and Shakespaedia supports this with lots of fascinating additional information on some of the objects on display in both current and previous Treasures exhibitions.
Millennium Atmos Clock
Made by Jaeger LeCoultre of Switzerland and designed by Robert Kohler, the clock was generously presented to us by George Pragnell, Jewellers of Stratford-upon-Avon, as part of the millennium celebrations in 2000, during a ceremony that included the fitting of a time capsule in the visitor centre.
The clock, which has a face showing time, month, year and phase of the moon, is designed to run for a thousand years and doesn’t need manual winding or batteries to keep it going. It uses differences in atmospheric pressure and temperature as its power source. For example, a temperature variation of only one degree Celsius is enough to harness energy that will keep it running for two whole days.
Shakespeare makes numerous references to time in his works, be it to highlight lack of clocks, “There’s no clock in the forest” (As You Like It, Act 3 Scene 2) to romantically “entertain the time with thoughts of love” (Sonnet 39), to bemoan the passing of time or to comment on the time of year. The atmos clock casing is decorated with one such quote, “and thus the whirligig of time brings in his revenges”, a famous line spoken by Feste the Fool in Twelfth Night (Act 5 Scene 1). Feste is reminding Malvolio of the instance he (Malvolio) insulted him in Act 1 and crowing to see Malvolio, who has been wrongly locked up, brought low. A whirligig is a child’s spinning top and effectively Feste is saying that given enough time, what goes around comes around! Shakespeare often talks about wasting time, notably in Twelfth Night and Richard II, drawing attention to clocks ticking away life, love and youth.