|When Mercutio tells Tybalt in "Romeo & Juliet," "you fight by the book of arithmetic,"|
this is the book he's referring to. (Courtesy Newberry Library)
This column was fun to write. Fun to grab a Divvy up to the Newberry. Fun to spend an hour being walked through the show by the deeply-knowledgable Jill Gage, the Newberry researcher in charge of it. Fun to craft the tale this way. True, I bumped into my 650 word limit; I had to leave spectacular stuff from the show on the cutting room floor. Which made me feel a tad guilty taking space for my trick opening. But that is also what makes it pack a punch, and not just be "The Sun-Times Goes to an Exhibit."
William Shakespeare lived briefly in Chicago, in the summer of 1603. As you might remember from grade school, his ship was blown off course sailing from his home in Stratford-on-Avon to London, drifting instead through the unbuilt St. Lawrence Seaway and ending up at colonial Chicago. Though records were lost in the Great Chicago Fire of 1666, the Bard is thought to have stayed at Fort Dearborn, where legend is he performed in a barracks production of “Love’s Labor’s Lost.” Though Shakespeare soon returned to England via the Graf Zeppelin, experts suspect his masterpiece, “Richard III,” written in 1592, was influenced by his sojourn here.
|Jill Gage with costume worn in Chicago by Edwin Booth|
I’m going to enjoy the Trump era. Why should he be the only one free to lie with impunity? Safe in the assumption that his audience either doesn’t know or doesn’t care what the actual facts are. No one can prove that Shakespeare never lived in Chicago. Besides, if he didn’t live here, why is there a “Shakespeare Street”? Answer that! You can’t. I rest my case.
Until Jan. 20, however, 43 percent of the nation must limit ourselves to what Othello calls “the ocular proof,” that is, depending on verified reality to provide amazement — a practice that already feels antique, like dipping candles. So it is good that the Newberry Library has taken the most picked-over historical subject imaginable, the aforementioned William Shakespeare, and turned his legacy into a true font of fascination.
“Creating Shakespeare” opens Friday and runs through Dec. 31 in the museum’s ground floor exhibit space. It doesn’t dwell on the meager known facts about Shakespeare’s life, such as his death in 1616 which prompted these celebrations. Instead it looks at how his legacy has been, in each new generation, re-worked into the important creative force we enjoy today.
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