Will & Jane: Shakespeare, Austen, and the Cult of Celebrity

Press Contacts

Garland Scott, (202) 675–0342, gscott@folger.edu
Esther French, (202) 675–0326, efrench@folger.edu
Ben Lauer, (202) 675–0376, blauer@folger.edu

Press Preview

Fri, Aug 5
Curator-led press tours available by request

Preview and reception
Fri, Aug 5, 7pm
Press tickets available by request

Additional press tours available Mon, Aug 8 by request

 

On Exhibit

August 6  November 6, 2016

Washington, DC— Explore how the fame of past authors survives and soars through our new exhibition on the literary celebrity of William Shakespeare and Jane Austen—or, as the exhibition calls them, Will & Jane.

Will & Jane: Shakespeare, Austen, and the Cult of Celebrity, curated by Janine Barchas and Kristina Straub, features more than 140 items related to Shakespeare and Austen. The intriguing story of both writers' continued popularity is especially apt this year: 2016 is the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death, and 2017 will be the 200th anniversary of Austen's.

Playful and often surprising, the exhibition brings together a rich variety of souvenirs, rare books, manuscripts, and other materials from the 1700s to the present—among them, a letter that Jane Austen wrote to her sister, Cassandra Austen; a large oil painting of the "infant Shakespeare" by George Romney; and Shakespeare and Austen modern-day action figures.

The materials include remarkably parallel items for each writer. For both Shakespeare and Austen, the exhibition includes aspects of literary tourism, stories of imagined love lives, household wares, toys, and more. Each writer is depicted in multiple formats, from portraits and busts to porcelain figures and bobbleheads. For both authors, there are adaptations, parodies, mash-ups, and books taken to war, as well as the merchandizing of the writers' characters through celebrity actors, portrayed in porcelain figures, prints, photos, and film clips.

About two centuries after each of their lifetimes, Will and Jane were also publicized through major events. For Shakespeare, the actor David Garrick celebrated the playwright (and himself) at the 1769 Shakespeare Jubilee in Stratford. For Austen, the landmark 1995 BBC mini-series of Pride and Prejudice drew a wealth of viewers and was followed by many Austen films.

Exhibition Highlights

  • A copy of Jane Austen's novel Emma owned by her sister, Cassandra Austen
  • A signboard, likely for a tavern, of William Shakespeare from the late 1600s to early 1700s
  • The shirt worn by Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy for the "lake swim" scene in the 1995 BBC mini-series of Pride and Prejudice
  • A playbill for the production of The Merchant of Venice that Jane Austen attended on March 5, 1814, as well as a letter she wrote critiquing the acting in the play
  • A copy of As You Like It owned by author James Joyce
  • A manuscript of dramatized scenes from Richardson's novel Sir Charles Grandison, handwritten by Jane Austen
  • Painting, after Thomas Gainsborough, of David Garrick Leaning on a Bust of Shakespeare
  • Emma Thompson's annotated typescript for Sense and Sensibility (1995)
  • Manuscript scrap and typescript page by Tom Stoppard for Shakespeare in Love (1998)
  • Gravestone rubbings of the inscriptions on Shakespeare's and Austen's tombs
  • A silver-trimmed mulberry goblet said to be made from the wood of a tree planted by Shakespeare—and an acorn-shaped darning egg made from an oak that Jane Austen is thought to have planted.

The exhibition also includes interactive touchscreens and media stations with film clips, many from movie adaptations of Austen's and Shakespeare's works. A number of stars, from Laurence Olivier to Kate Winslet, appear in films related to both authors.

Sources for the objects on view include Goucher College, the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin, the Morgan Library & Museum, Chawton House Library, Jane Austen's House Museum, and the Library of Congress, as well as the Folger collection.

Will & Jane: Shakespeare, Austen, and the Cult of Celebrity is generously supported by May Liang and Roger and Robin Millay.

This exhibition is part of The Wonder of Will, the Folger’s yearlong celebration of Shakespeare and his extraordinary legacy through special events, exhibitions, performances, and more—online, at the Folger, and across the country. Visit www.wonderofwill.folger.edu for more details.

ABOUT THE CURATORS

Janine Barchas is a professor of English at the University of Texas at Austin—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). The website, included in this exhibition, features reconstructions of two art galleries from Jane Austen's time, including the Boydell Gallery of Shakespearean paintings.

Kristina Straub is a professor of English 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 ideologies of sexuality; and Domestic Affairs (2008), on 18th-century servants and masters in Britain. She is editing a new Anthology and Sourcebook of Restoration and Eighteenth-Century Drama and writing about 18th-century theatrical performances based on Shakespeare's plays.

ONLINE RESOURCES

Shakespeare & Beyond blog

This Folger blog will include several posts by exhibition curators Janine Barchas and Kristina Straub. Their first blog post is on the movie Love & Friendship (2016)—and how Kate Beckinsale is one of many actors to appear in Shakespeare and Austen films.

Eighteenth-Century Life article, Duke University Press

"Curating Will & Jane," an illustrated article by curators Janine Barchas and Kristina Straub, provides an overview of the exhibition.

Featured website

What Jane Saw (www.whatjanesaw.org), included in the exhibition, features a reconstruction of the Boydell Gallery of Shakespearean paintings that Jane Austen may have seen in London in 1796.

Shakespeare Unlimited Podcast  |  Recreating the Boydell Gallery

This episode from the Shakespeare Unlimited podcast, produced by the Folger Shakespeare Library, is a conversation with curator Janine Barchas about the Boydell Gallery of Shakespearean paintings and the challenges of recreating it online. Listen.

Folger website and social media

The exhibition is featured on the Folger’s website at www.folger.edu/willandjane, as well as on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter via the hashtag  #WillAndJane

RELATED FOLGER PROGRAMS

Folger Family Programs

Much Ado about Shakespeare
Saturday, Aug 6; 10–11 am (ages 5–7), 11 am – noon (ages 8–14). Free. Registration required.

Sigh no more, ladies (and gents)—come to the Folger theater to exercise your matchmaking skills and perform scenes from Shakespeare’s romantic comedies.

Shakespeare and Celebrities
Saturday, Sept 3; 10–11 am (ages 5–7), 11 am – noon (ages 8–14). Free. Registration required.

Shakespeare isn’t the only author who became famous. Come take a look at the ways  Shakespeare and Jane Austen became celebrities.

Folger Theatre

Sense and Sensibility
Adapted by Kate Hamill, based on the novel by Jane Austen
September 13 – October 30, 2016; Tickets $35-$75

Reason and passion collide in Jane Austen’s beloved tale of sisterhood and romance. This all-new production of the critically acclaimed play is directed by Eric Tucker, The Wall Street Journal’s 2014 Director of the Year.

Shakespeare Anniversary Lecture Series

Joseph Roach
Stars Down to Earth: Materializing Celebrity
October 4, 2016, 7pm; Tickets $15/10 for members

Standing above and apart in the scope of their fame, Shakespeare and Austen also claim pride of place in the number and ingenuity of the physical objects created to represent them. Dr. Joseph Roach, the Sterling professor of theater and English at Yale University, asks what heavenly magic do these two writers have in common that makes so many admirers want to bring them down to earth. Presented by the Folger Institute.

VISITOR SERVICES

Hours and Admission

Monday through Thursday, 10 am – 5 pm
Friday, 10 am – 8 pm
Saturday, 10 am – 5 pm
Sunday, noon – 5 pm

Admission is free.

Families

A guide to the exhibition for younger visitors is available.

Tours

Monday – Saturday at 11 am, 1 pm, and 3 pm; Sunday at 12 pm and 3 pm

Folger docents offer guided tours of the exhibition, as well as the Folger’s national landmark building, free of charge. No advance reservations required.

Wednesday at 12 pm; Saturday at 2 pm

Folger docents offer a special exhibition-focused tour, free of charge. No advance reservations required.

Group Tours

Docent-led tours of the exhibition, as well as the Folger national landmark building, are offered for groups of 10 or more. To arrange, please call (202) 675-0395.

ABOUT THE FOLGER

Folger Shakespeare Library is the world’s largest Shakespeare collection, the ultimate resource for exploring Shakespeare and his world. The Folger welcomes millions of visitors online and in person. We provide unparalleled access to a huge array of resources, from original sources to modern interpretations. With the Folger, you can experience the power of performance, the wonder of exhibitions, and the excitement of pathbreaking research. We offer the opportunity to see and even work with early modern sources, driving discovery and transforming education for students of all ages. Join us online, on the road, or in Washington, DC.

Located at 201 East Capitol Street, SE, the Folger is open to the public Monday through Thursday, 10 am –5 pm; Friday, 10 am – 8 pm; Saturday, 10 am – 5 pm; and Sunday noon – 5 pm, and during evening performances. (The Folger is closed Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.) Admission is free.

Learn more about the Folger at www.folger.edu, and on social media at Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Or connect with our e-newsletters and blogs at www.folger.edu/connect

Press Contacts

Garland Scott, (202) 675–0342, gscott@folger.edu
Esther French, (202) 675–0326, efrench@folger.edu
Ben Lauer, (202) 675–0376, blauer@folger.edu

Press Preview

Fri, Aug 5
Curator-led press tours available by request

Preview and reception
Fri, Aug 5, 7pm
Press tickets available by request

Additional press tours available Mon, Aug 8 by request