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Four hundred years after Shakespeare's death, it is difficult to imagine a time when he was not considered a genius. But those 400 years have seen his plays banished and bowdlerized, faked and forged, traded and translated, re-mixed and re-cast. Shakespeare's story is not one of a steady rise to fame; it is a tale of set-backs and sea-changes that have made him the cultural icon he is today. Each performance discussed here holds up a mirror to the era in which it was performed. The first stage appearance by a woman in 1660 and a black actor playing Othello in 1825 were landmarks for society, as well as for Shakespeare's reputation. The book explores productions as diverse as Peter Brook's legendary A Midsummer Night's Dream, Mark Rylance's "Original Practices" Twelfth Night, and a Shakespeare forgery staged at Drury Lane in 1796, among many others. The illustrations include the only surviving playscript in Shakespeare's hand, an authentic Shakespeare signature, and rare printed editions including the First Folio. These and other treasures from the British Library's manuscript and rare book collections feature alongside film stills, costumes, paintings, and production photographs.
About the Author
Gordon McMullan is a Professor of English at King's College London and a director of the London Shakespeare Centre. Zoe Wilcox is Lead Curator at the British Library for the Shakespeare and performance exhibition which this book accompanies.