Shakespeare, Austen, and the Cult of Celebrity
Will & Jane: Shakespeare, Austen, and the Cult of Celebrity will take a close look at these two celebrated authors’ literary afterlives—and find some surprising parallels. For both, adaptations and parodies in different eras helped popularize their work and make it more approachable (think Shakespeare Undead and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies). Milestone events also increased their fame: for Shakespeare, the much-heralded 1769 Shakespeare Jubilee, and for Austen, a burst of 1990s films and a watershed BBC production. From portraits to porcelain collectibles, branded merchandise, and gravestone rubbings, these two authors have traced intriguingly similar arcs in their posthumous fame. Explore their stories and the nature of celebrity in the 400th anniversary year of Shakespeare's death and the 199th anniversary of Austen’s in 2016.
"Lit's Dynamic Duo, Will and Jane, Shared Path to Pop Stardom" (New York Times)
Part of The Wonder of Will, a Folger celebration of 400 years of Shakespeare
This exhibition is generously supported by:
Roger and Robin Millay
Sometimes certain performances became as much of a part of a character's identity as Shakespeare's own words. The gesture made by these figurines of actors David Garrick, John Philip Kemble, and Edmund Kean became a quintessential part of an 18th century portrayal of Shakespeare's Richard III.
This grave rubbing of the inscription on Jane Austen's tomb was taken by co-curator Janine Barchas with special permission. The rubbing here reads:
"In Memory of
youngest daughter of the late
Revd GEORGE AUSTEN,
formerly Rector of Stevenson in this county
she departed this Life on the 18th of July 1817
aged 41, after a long illness supported with
the patience and the hopes of a Christian."
Relics were often created for sincere admirers of authors such as Shakespeare and Austen. This goblet is part of a matching set made from the wood of a mulberry tree planted by Shakespeare. The inscription on the silver rim reads "Made from a piece of Shakespeare’s mulberry tree by Mr. Sharpe [sic] silversmith [sic] Stratford on Avon."
For many, the love of Jane Austen does not stop at the printed word. These salt and pepper shakers are made to look like Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet, two of the most beloved characters from Pride & Prejudice.
It is not a new phenomenon for literary fans to travel to locations related to their favorite author. This 19th century print depicts popular Shakespeare-related sites, including the Tomb of Shakespeare, Charlecote Hall, The old font, Shakespeare's school, Shakespeare's house, New Place, Fulbrooke Deer Barn, Church of the Holy Trinity, Globe Theatre, Shakespeare's cliff, Anne Hathaway's cottage, and Herne's Oak.
Meet the Curators
Janine Barchas is Professor of English at the University of Texas, where she teaches Austen in Austin. Her publications include Graphic Design, Print Culture, and the Eighteenth-Century Novel (2003), which won the SHARP DeLong prize, and Matters of Fact in Jane Austen: History, Location, and Celebrity (2012). She is also the creator of What Jane Saw (www.whatjanesaw.org), an online gallery that reconstructs two Georgian art exhibitions attended by Jane Austen—including the first-ever Shakespeare museum.
Kristina Straub is Professor of Literary and Cultural Studies at Carnegie Mellon University where she teaches 18th-century British literature, gender studies, and performance theory. Her publications include Divided Fictions (1986, on the novelist Frances Burney), Sexual Suspects (1991, on 18th-century actors) and Domestic Affairs (2008, about servants and masters in 18th-century literature). She is currently editing a new anthology and performance sourcebook of Restoration and 18th-century drama, and writing about 18th-century theatrical performances based on Shakespeare’s plays.