Ten exhibits celebrating Shakespeare in UK galleries

| 23 April 2014 | Updated: 22 April 2016

Here are ten places to honour William Shakespeare in UK galleries and museums

A cast of Shakespeare’s features at death bought by the National Portrait Gallery, London

An image of a white sculpture of a man in a suit against a black background
© National Portrait Gallery, London
Sculptor Gerard Johnson is said to have won the approval of Shakespeare’s family for this strange plaster-cast – the bard has a calm, thoughtful look – following his death at the age of exactly 52 on April 23 1616. It peered from the chancel in the Church of Holy Trinity, in Stratford-on-Avon, and was bought by the gallery in 1914.

Shakespeare: Greatest Living Playwright at the V&A, London

An image of a white sculpture of a man in a suit against a black background
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London
One of the most in-demand European actresses of the late 19th century, Sarah Bernhardt played Hamlet to apparent acclaim during an 1899 tour which took in London, Dublin, Glasgow, Manchester and Belfast.

This picture is part of the V&A collection, which also includes the First Folio, which can be seen in their Theatre and Performance Galleries.

A volume of Shakespeare plays which went to the Arctic at National Museums Scotland, Edinburgh

An image of two ancient books next to a small black sack
© National Museums Scotland. On loan from the University of Edinburgh
John Rae was a Scottish doctor with seemingly Olympian stamina. His notable circumnavigations spanned from Northern Canada to Greenland, and one of his frost-bitten explorations, through the Arctic in 1846, was assisted by this volume of Shakespeare plays, originally published 13 years beforehand.

The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust’s only portrait of Shakespeare made during his lifetime – or is it?

An image of a painting of a 17th century man in profile
© Courtesy Shakespeare Birthplace Trust
When The Cobbe Portrait appeared at Shakespeare’s Birthplace, on his birthday in 2009, it was met with a mix of excitement and conjecture that the man in question could actually have been one Sir Thomas Overbury. Scholars used tree-ringing and x-rays to conclude it was made in 1610, when Shakespeare – if it was him – would have been 46.

The Skipton First Folio at Craven Museum, Yorkshire

An image of an ancient book
© Craven District Council
These 36 plays – then-unprinted, when they were published as a compendium in 1623 – add up to one of the most important books in Britain, and one of only four copies worldwide on public display. Craven Museum displays the folio in specialised conditions within a new display area in low lighting. The display includes information about the folio’s history and an audio-visual interpretation voiced by Sir Patrick Stewart.

The Royal Albert Memorial Museum’s largest painting in Exeter

An image of a man in an apron conserving a huge old artwork
© Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery, Exeter City Council
At 3.5 metres tall and 4.5 metres wide, The Entry of Richard and Bolingbroke into London was too vast to fit through the doors of the Royal Albert Memorial Museum. Conservators used honey and materials from the swim bladders of Brazilian Lumpfish to protect the 1793 painting, based on the monarch-humiliating Act 5, Scene 2 of Richard II, during a recent restoration.

A digital facsimile of the First Folio of Shakespeare's plays from the Bodleian Library, Oxford

An image of an ancient book bearing text from a play called the tempest
© Bodleian Libraries
Study every crease, crinkle and fold of the First Folio in this comprehensive page-turner compiled during a five-month project at the end of 2012. It’s part of Sprint for Shakespeare, an expert-informed commentary on the precious works and the techniques used to conserve them.

The skull-caressing Mother of Wales at National Museum Wales, Cardiff

A painting of a 17th century woman holding a skull
© National Museum Wales
A noblewoman who had four husbands during her 50 years, Katheryn of Berain’s son, John Salusbury, was executed for his part in the Babington Plot to murder Elizabeth I. Shakespeare’s poem in a lovelorn anthology, The Phoenix and the Turtle, from 1601, is thought to have been dedicated to him.

Meet multiple incarnations of Hamlet in the Quartos

An image of a page in black ink showing the tragedy of hamlet prince of denmark
© quartos.org
Backed by institutions including the British Library and the National Library of Scotland, this dedication to Shakespeare’s pre-1642 plays allows you to browse all 32 quarto copies of Hamlet held by its participants. That means you can absorb all the drama in hi-res glory.

A small Staffordshire take on Shakespeare at the
Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

A photo of a small glazed figurine of a man in green stockings and a blue jacket
© Fitzwilliam Museum, collection of the late Colonel RG Turner. Given by Mrs J E Campbell, 1984
Shakespeare leans his left elbow on a column and crosses his legs while draped in a pink coat with orange trim, a blue and gold jacket, green breeches and blue stockings in this lead-glazed earthenware. Made by John and Rebecca Lloyd in Victorian Staffordshire, the gilt-edged figure carries a black-marked scroll.

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Latest comment: >Make a comment
Sir John Salusbury was not executed in 1586, as you claim. His brother Thomas was.
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