First and foremost, if you clicked on this post in curiosity at the last two words in the title and aren’t one bit interested in the current exhibit at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington DC than skip to the last paragraph now. Especially if you are a blogger. I’d rather have you know the insidious things potentially on the horizon for those of us who offer our writing (currently) free of charge than click out and miss it. Forewarned is forearmed, as Nelson would say.
And speaking of Nelson, through September 4th of this year the Folger Shakespeare Library’s exhibit “Lost at Sea: The Ocean in the English Imagination, 1550 – 1750” is on glorious display in the U.S. capitol. The library has a tremendous amount of Shakespeare related items that have seafaring connections (or, as the Bard would have written it, “connexions”) and they have borrowed other items to round out this thought provoking exhibit.
Nothing among the charts, instruments, books and even household items is unremarkable, or even homely. Everything is lovingly currated. Whether it be the glorious Dutch atlas known as The Mariners Mirrour or this delightful model of the 1637 man-of-war Royal Sovereign:Which I would personally love to display in my own home, there is very little here that is not breathtaking. That which does not take one’s breath makes your heart skip a beat. The ring at the header, for example, is a woman’s posey (or memory) ring from 1592. The inscription reads “The cruel seas, remember, took him in November.” A small, homey testament to just how unpredictable and all powerful the vast ocean can be.
That, though, is not the theme of the exhibit. Despite what this article from the New York Times would have you believe. The writer begins and ends with the oil spill in the Gulf and the post-Katrina devastation of New Orleans. What either of those modern tragedies have to do with the English – and particularly the Shakespearean – view of the vast ocean escapes me. Even when the article tries so desperately to tie them together. Beyond that the assertions that our ancestors were “… far more ignorant in many things” and that we as modern people are “… preoccupied with issues of blame” are insulting at the very best. If our ancestors were troglodytes this exhibit wouldn’t exist and I know for a fact that the thousands of people – most of them volunteers – who save lives, both human and animal, after any disaster are too busy to worry about blame. Sometimes we trip on our tongue when we speak too “loftily” and the words and actions of our politicians rarely – if ever – reflect what we say and do out here.
Be that as it may, from going through the online catalogue of the exhibit, it seems to me that the theme is simply the English view of the sea seen through the lens of Shakespeare’s prose and the tools used by our ancestors. It is England on the cusp of becoming the international ruler of the waves; a supremacy that affected every corner of the world in one way or another. No hidden agenda, no “bad guy” malignity, just an honest respect and perhaps even awe for the people who came before us. Something Triple P tries to dish up every day, although you’ll find no Shakespeare here (I’m not up to that by half).
If you can’t get to the Folger in the next week or so, do check out the online exhibit. I think you will find it well worth your while but beware: a whole day could be lost browsing this fascinating collection of our histories.
And speaking of being aware, read this article from Broad Street Hockey at the peril of your blood pressure. It seems the city of Philadelphia is charging some bloggers within the municipality a $300 per year fee to write and post on the Internet. This decision is based on unreleased numbers gleaned from tax records. Read the article yourself and form your own opinion but to my mind this is only a first step. Keep an eye on this one, Brethren, because I promise you the city, state and federal governments in the U.S. at least are. If it flies in Philly, where might it land?