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

Israel Gollancz's Book of homage

Opening showing the first pages of Gollancz’s essay concerning the derivation of the names Shylock, Polonius and MalvolioOpening showing the first pages of Gollancz’s essay concerning the derivation of the names Shylock, Polonius and MalvolioKing’s College London played a significant part in the celebrations of the tercentenary of Shakespeare’s death in 1916 when Israel Gollancz (1863-1930) chaired the committee which oversaw the commemorations.

Professor of English language and literature at King’s for nearly 30 years, Gollancz was one of the world’s foremost Shakespeare scholars, and in A book of homage to Shakespeare he collected and edited over 170 contributions in prose and verse from writers, academics and statesmen from Britain and throughout the world (with the understandable absence of the German Shakespeareans of the time).

Grand plans for the celebrations, including the construction of a dedicated Shakespeare theatre, were being drawn up by the committee in July 1914 when, as Gollancz writes in his preface, ‘came the War; and the dream of the world’s brotherhood to be demonstrated by its common and united commemoration of Shakespeare, with many another fond illusion, was rudely shattered.’ The commemorative volume alone remained, featuring contributions from such luminaries as Thomas Hardy, John Galsworthy, Rudyard Kipling, Rabindranath Tagore, George Santayana and Henri Bergson.

The Foyle Special Collections Library holds two copies of the Book of homage. The opening reproduced here shows the first page of Gollancz’s own contribution, an essay concerning the derivation of the names of Shylock, Polonius and Malvolio. ’Shylock’ he equates with an erroneous association with ‘Shallach’, the Biblical Hebrew for ‘cormorant’, an Elizabethan metaphor for a usurer; and he suggests that Malvolio (‘Ill-Will’) is a reference to an irascible and pretentious courtier, Sir Ambrose Willoughby, who had been involved in a notorious quarrel with the Earl of Southampton in 1598.

In this exhibition


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