Good Fortune, Bad Fortune: which will it be? who will rise? who will fall? These are timeless questions about love, politics, war--about life. But the answers are uncertain, and often the successful fail, the good suffer, the bad win.
A central element of many of the plays, poems, and prose works of the early modern period, Fortune represents the feeling that we have limited power to control both the momentous and the every day happenings of our lives.
That the ways of Fortune are uncertain and unpredictable has not stopped human beings from wanting to know the future. For as long as religions have advocated endurance and the acceptance of what comes, there have been astrology, palmistry, and other forms of fortune-telling. Today predicting the future is big business, as any glance at a newsstand or telephone book will confirm, but we have merely inherited practices with their origins in pagan antiquity. As we look toward a new century and a new millennium our awareness of the revolutions of time, pictured in the turning of Fortune's wheel, is especially acute, and centuries after she was born Fortune is still the goddess of the changing world we experience every day.
The phrase "all is but fortune" (The Tempest 5.1) expresses both the hope and the resignation that characterizes the Renaissance attitude to fortune illustrated and examined in this exhibition.