A great deal of my college experience has revolved around explorations and interpretations of the works of William Shakespeare. From creating short adaptations to an interactive documentary, I have possessed by this topic, even when I’ve endeavored upon original works, I still find myself heavily influenced by Shakespeare’s plays. Why did Shakespeare and his contemporaries write what they wrote? What caused it?
I discovered the Special and Rare Books Collection at the University of Colorado Boulder as part of an English for non-majors course focused on Shakespeare, and as part of the class we were to visit the collection learn from many of the items and books therein that may have influenced or been a source of inspiration for parts of, or in fact entire, plays written by Shakespeare and his contemporaries.
I chose to revisit the collection for this assignment and include it as an addition to the interactive documentary I created for my honors thesis project in journalism, Breaking the Bard. The focus of that project was to research and analyze the societal and political influences of the era in which Shakespeare wrote his plays and paying particular attention to the years succeeding 1603 wherein Elizabeth I was succeeded by James VI of Scotland, I of England. I focused on this stretch of time specifically because there was a massive dynamic shift in the subject matter of the plays.
In working with the objects in the collection, I had already formed a reasonable about the contents and history of what they depicted or presented due to prior and continued research for both academic and theatrical purposes; however, interacting with the items in the space was a different experience entirely. An essence I wanted to capture was the feeling in the room that I felt. It was like breathing in memory. I have spent so long being ingratiated in the words of the Bard that actually seeing and touching texts that existed during his time, items he may have even read himself, was a remarkable experience. My aim when beginning this project was to capture some of that, but as this is an online, and therefore ironically disconnected medium, it can only go so for in accomplishing that. The exploration of the space, how the items rested in their presentational format, in their cradles, was the thing to capture. Seeing the items in space amongst each was a major part of the experience I wanted to capture, and thus represented in the introductory video prior to this page.
What follows will not only be images and words describing how these texts may have influenced the dramas of Shakespeare’s (and his contemporaries) hand, but also how they have affected and influenced my own. There will be excerpts from projects I have created, a poetic description of imagery, and an essence of what it was like in the room on the day of photography.
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