King's College London
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'The very age and body of the time': Shakespeare's world

Israel Gollancz and the Shakespeare Association

Programme for the Shakespeare Day festival held on 23 April 1920, with decorative illustrationProgramme for the Shakespeare Day festival held on 23 April 1920Founded by Israel Gollancz in 1916 as part of the tercentenary commemoration of Shakespeare’s death, the Shakespeare Association aimed to promote the study and interpretation of the dramatist’s works in the UK. The indefatigable Gollancz was its first chairman and the Association’s meetings were usually held at King’s.

Despite the limitations imposed on its early activities by wartime, the Association soon developed an ambitious programme, which included the promotion of an annual Shakespeare Day on 23 April, not only the date of the dramatist’s death, but also that generally regarded as his probable birthday (in addition, it is, of course, St George’s Day).

The Shakespeare Day campaign was launched at the Association’s meeting of 23 May 1917 and by 1920 considerable progress had been achieved. The image to the top left shows the programme for the Shakespeare Day festival matinee held at the New Theatre (now the Noel Coward Theatre), St Martin’s Lane, on 23 April 1920.

An impressive array of actors and actresses performed selected scenes from Shakespeare’s plays, the highlights being two soliloquies,  Sir Johnston Forbes- Robertson (then 67) delivering Hamlet’s ‘To be or not to be …’ and Ellen Terry (then 73) performing Henry IV’s ‘How many thousands of my poorest subjects …’.

Cover of item, with details of address given at King’s College LondonCover of item, with details of address given at King’s College LondonProspectus and membership application formProspectus and membership application form, 1931As the 1931 prospectus, reproduced here to the right, indicates, the Shakespeare Association continued to be run from King’s College London after Gollancz’s death in 1930; he was succeeded as chairman by his King’s colleague, Professor Arthur Reed.

The dramatist, theatre director and writer on Shakespeare, Harley Granville-Barker, was the Association’s energetic president and to the left is an image of the cover of a publication detailing the November 1931 Shakespeare Association address given at King’s College London.

In this exhibition


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