Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Real Thing

This moss-covered bust of Shakespeare stands (where else?) in the Shakespeare garden at the Huntington Library and Gardens. He looks like a friendly, handsome guy, doesn't he? Maybe, maybe not.

The Huntington owns many fine portraits. I especially admire those by the great Sir Joshua Reynolds, who knew how to make a likeness look like it was painted from life. But none of the portraits in their collection are of Shakespeare. Only two likenesses of Shakespeare have been proven to be definitive. Both are posthumous. One is the funerary monument that looks over his grave inside Holy Trinity Church at Stratford-on-Avon, England. The other is an engraving by Martin Droeshout, printed in the First Folio of Shakespeare in 1623 (Shakespeare died in 1616). Many have claimed to own a portrait of Shakespeare, but only these two are proven to be the real thing.

It's thought that about 1,000 Shakespeare First Folios were printed back in 1623. Of the 228 still extant, one is housed at the Huntington Library. It's one of the most valuable books in the world and it's often on display for viewing by the likes of you and me.

I had long been using the Folio in my research when I had the good fortune to study Shakespeare in England one summer. My teachers included members of the Royal Shakespeare Company. I got to walk the ground Shakespeare walked. I went to Stratford-on-Avon and visited Shakespeare's grave. I returned to the States with a reverence for the bona fide genius of the man.

My First Folio is a 20th century facsimile copy of the original. Every once in a while I like to make a pilgrimage to the Huntington to see the real thing.

14 comments:

Shell Sherree said...

I only studied Shakespeare when at secondary school, but I loved it! It seemed very cool to me. I even quoted it every now and then, which could go a long way towards explaining my lack of suitors at the time. Your own history with Shakespeare is lovely, Petrea. I'm glad you can see an original edition of your beloved First Folio when the mood takes you.

pasadenapio said...

I haven't cracked open my "Complete Works of William Shakespeare" in a long time. I feel the need to dust off that tome.

Bellis said...

You'd enjoy going back to Stratford, as they've opened more houses lived in by Shakespeare and his daughter. Seeing the actual bed he was born in was such a thrill.

I tried to catch up on Shakespeare by listening to the plays on the car CD player. Bad idea. Had to concentrate so hard to follow the language that I couldn't watch the road.

Irina said...

We almost "run" over Shakespeare in secondary school, about two 45 min lessons, that was it. Need to revisit.

Laurie said...

One of my favorite places to stand and ponder! Surprised we haven't bumped into each other more at the Huntington. Little Bit and I go all the time.

altadenahiker said...

The Shakespeare Garden has been looking particularly lovely this fall.

Do you have a favorite role? I've heard your English accent, and even Bellis says it's dead-on.

Petrea said...

I'd love to go back to England, Stratford included, and do it all again. My time there was a summer course at Oxford. Idyllic.

I haven't done any Shakespeare in a while. As a young actress I didn't study Shakespeare, so I never even auditioned to play Desdemona or Juliet (I would still love to play Juliet!), or Katherina in The Taming of the Shrew.

I'd still like to play Paulina in The Winters Tale.

I had a lot of fun playing Cleopatra. Then there's Tamora (Titus Andronicus)--she's pretty wild. I even played Julius Caesar, which was wonderful.

I guess I don't have a favorite. They're all good.

Margaret said...

The Royal Shakespeare Company is doing Merry Wives of Windsor at the Broad Theatre, which is somewhere on the westside, I guess. A friend's son saw it and thought it was fantastic.

Susan Campisi said...

That's a lovely piece of your history. It certainly does sound idyllic. I could use some brushing up on my Shakespeare. Maybe I'll see the Merry Wives of Windsor. Thanks for the tip, Margaret.

Katie said...

Another stunning Huntington garden photo. And Will looks pretty good too. I don't have any Shakespeare First Folios, but I do have the complete works of Shakespeare on my ipod Touch. Yes there's an app for that. Great search function.

Petrea said...

Margaret and Susan, I did some Googling and found that it's the Globe Shakespeare Company that's here in town, performing "The Merry Wives" at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica through 10/24. Unless things have changed since my time in England they have a different style than the RSC; both companies are excellent and unique.

Katie, I've got the Complete Works on my iPhone. Love that app! Have you checked out the Louvre app? Very pretty.

Ms M said...

Enjoyed learning more about your past. :) We have the Complete Works, too, but in old-fashioned book form. We go to the ID Shakespeare Festival every summer -- one of our favorite things to do.

lewi14 said...

What a flowery frame for Mr. Shakespeare! Great!

Petrea said...

Idaho Shakespeare's got a great reputation, Ms. M. How lucky for you that you get to see them often.

Steffen, I think Mr. Shakespeare would like his surroundings, too.