Exhibition Preview: Shakespeare's Money & Medals @ British Museum

By Zoe Craig Last edited 73 months ago
Exhibition Preview: Shakespeare's Money & Medals @ British Museum
Group of Elizabethan and Jacobean gold coins, © The Trustees of the British Museum
Group of Elizabethan and Jacobean gold coins, © The Trustees of the British Museum
Commemorative medal: Royal Dramatic College; gilt-metal; pierced for suspension; pink ribbon attached; obverse: view of long building; legend; reverse: three Gothic arches; Shakespeare crowned; woman carrying child; aged man; foliate scrolls, © The Trustees of the British Museum
Commemorative medal: Royal Dramatic College; gilt-metal; pierced for suspension; pink ribbon attached; obverse: view of long building; legend; reverse: three Gothic arches; Shakespeare crowned; woman carrying child; aged man; foliate scrolls, © The Trustees of the British Museum
Gold medal of Elizabeth I by Nicholas Hilliard. England, c. 1580–1590
Gold medal of Elizabeth I by Nicholas Hilliard. England, c. 1580–1590
Silver box, © The Trustees of the British Museum
Silver box, © The Trustees of the British Museum

Money makes the world go round. And, if you look at the frequent reference to moolah in Shakespeare’s plays, it seems twas ever thus.

From tomorrow, the British Museum is opening a new mini exhibition in room 69a, all about the role of coins and medals in Shakespeare’s work and his world.

From ducats, dollars and doits to angels, crowns and groats, Shakespeare used money and its metaphors (about worth, value, character, and wealth) throughout his plays. At the British Museum’s show, you can find out more about the range of coins that appear in his works.

In addition, Shakespeare’s world is examined more widely through objects including Nicholas Hilliard's medal of Elizabeth I and a hoard of gold coins from Essex from around the time of Shakespeare's birth in 1564. The Elizabethan and Jacobean eras were a time of mass produced images: the British Museum is displaying coins, medals and prints to further explore this world.

Finally, there’s a chance to see how Our Will’s portrait and plays have become one of Britain’s most important brands, finding their way onto coins, banknotes and credit cards around the world.

Crowns and Ducats is part of a wider celebration of all things Bard, running throughout this summer as part of the Cultural Olympiad and the London 2012 Festival. As well as the British Museum, events will run at the Roundhouse, the Almeida, the National Theatre, the Barbican, the Royal Opera House, and the Globe (obvs), with supporting material on the BBC. If you thought summer 2012 was all about sport, you might be pleased to hear it comes with a lot of Shakespeare too.

Crowns and Ducats: Shakespeare’s Money and Medals runs in Room 69a in the British Museum, Great Russell Street, London, WC1, from 19 April to 25 November 2012. Entrance is free. Open late Fridays. Part of the wider World Shakespeare Festival.

Last Updated 18 April 2012