"Which...gets to be on top...and does size matter?" In 1604, in the Shakespearean era, playgoers lived their lives against an interesting political backdrop: Queen Elizabeth I had died and suddenly Scotland and England--nations that had warred during most of the preceeding centuries--for the first time shared a monarch, James I, who had been James VI of Scotland first. The "intractable problem of union" on the island of Britain is alive and well today with devolution seemingly the norm and a referendum on Scottish independence expected relatively soon.
Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum, continues his object-based history. Taking artefacts from William Shakespeare's time, he explores how Elizabethan and Jacobean playgoers made sense of the unstable and rapidly changing world in which they lived.
With old certainties shifting around them, in a time of political and religious unrest and economic expansion, Neil asks what the plays would have meant to the public when they were first performed. He uses carefully selected objects to explore the great issues of the day that preoccupied the public and helped shape the works, and he considers what they can reveal about the concerns and beliefs of Shakespearean England.