Shakespeare: Metamorphosis

  • Collections from Senate House Library tracing the 400-year development of Shakespearian text, from Shakespeare’s early influences through to the digital age.
  • Unique opportunity to see the first folio from 1623.
  • Bespoke website featuring digitised documents, interpretation from the exhibition curators, and a film featuring actor Paterson Joseph.
  • Series of free public events.

23 April 2016 sees the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare.  To commemorate the event, the University of London will run its first major exhibition, Shakespeare: Metamorphosis, in Senate House Library from 14 April to 17 September 2016.

Over the last four centuries Shakespearean text and scholarship, as well as perceptions of the man himself, have undergone continuous reinvention.  Inspired by the famous ‘seven ages of man’ speech from As You Like It, Shakespeare: Metamorphosis traces and explains this 400-year transformation by highlighting and displaying over 30 rare texts from seven significant ages of development:

  • The first age explores contemporary sources of inspiration for Shakespeare
  • The second ages focuses on the production of the four folios from 1623 to 1685
  • The third ages reveals the eighteenth century love affair with the Bard and the emergence of serious scholarship
  • The fourth age traces disputes over authorship and identity throughout the nineteenth century, as well as the publication of the first editions
  • The fifth age highlights modern scholarship, with the emergence by the early of one authoritative text and corpus of work by the early twentieth century
  • The sixth age celebrates the popularisation of Shakespeare around the world, reflected in the tercentenary commemorations of 1916
  • The seventh age embraces the shift to digital texts with Senate House Library producing a new bespoke website to accompany the exhibition.

The exhibition is free to enter on a library day pass and visitors are encouraged to join the library at a discounted rate during the exhibition period.

Visitors will also be able to pre-book a 30-minute session with exhibition curators who will lead them through a series of texts focussing on the metamorphosis of the play Othello.  These sessions include access to the Shakespeare quartos and folios, as well as support material from the whole 400 years. There are only 54 of these curator-led events throughout the exhibition period, and each event will be limited to 15 people. Tickets cost £10 (£8 concession) and can be booked on

All of the texts on display in the exhibition, as well as many more, will be digitised and displayed on  Online exhibits will be supported by bespoke films made by the exhibition curators explaining the context and content of the documents. The exhibition will be introduced by a film featuring actor Paterson Joseph. Visitors to the exhibition will be able to access these films in the library through their mobile devices.

Throughout the exhibition period there will be a series of free public events, bringing further life to the documents on display.  Highlights include an evening with the Fox dynasty of actors, a series of performances on 23 April, and Michael Slater’s look at Shakespeare’s influence on Dickens. Full event listings and booking information on

Senate House Librarian Jackie Marfleet said:  “William Shakespeare died on 23 April 1616.  Four hundred years later, he is revered around the world as a literary superstar. His canon of work was first brought together in 1623 with the publication of the ‘first folio’, we are lucky to have this and in fact all four folios, in Senate House Library. We are thrilled that we are going to be able to share these, along with many other exciting and rare documents, as part of Shakespeare: Metamorphosis, our first major exhibition. Through the exhibition and its accompanying website visitors have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to access our excellent Shakespeare collection and to gain curatorial insight.”

Shakespeare: Metamorphosis
runs from 9am – 5.30pm, Monday – Friday and 10am – 5pm on Saturdays, from 14 April to 17 September 2016.  Senate House Library, the building which inspired George Orwell’s 1984, is located at Malet Street, London, WC1E 7HU. Booking and exhibition information at Information about the library on:

Press information from:
Emily Stidston tel. 020 7862 8417

8 images are available for publication including portrait of Shakespeare from the frontispiece of the first folio; Holinshed’s Chronicles; Rowe’s Works of Mr William Shakespeare; and Blackie’s satchel edition of As You Like It.