This week marks the opening of the new exhibition For All Time: Shakespeare in Yorkshire at the Treasures of The Brotherton Gallery. Leeds Confidential's self-confessed Big Willie nerd, Megan Jones (who recently spent £19.95 on a Shakespeare-themed mug...don't ask) was there at the launch evening.


The opening took place against a backdrop of pretzels and wine in the Parkinson Court, with a brief welcome from the university librarian, and a rousing speech from the Bard of Barnsley himself, Ian McMillan.

This exhibition demonstrates Shakespeare’s influence, through his ability to imprint - ‘For All Time’ - his interpretation of history on a nation’s identity.

McMillan’s introduction answered the age old question: how do you excite a room full of stuffy Leeds academics to the point of near hysteria? Why, you belt out Henry V’s ‘once more unto the breach’ before declaring the glory of Yorkshire in an almost inconceivably broad accent; you exclaim that anyone can be Shakespeare if they put their mind to it, and you finish with a joke about thieving Lancastrians. If Ian were rallying troops to follow him into battle, he’d have no trouble earning the loyalty of this small, bookish battalion.

Riding unto the Treasures of the Brotherton Gallery, it became instantly clear that this exhibition is, in all respects, special. Full of reverential air of universal awe, the gallery is furnished to the brim with Lord Brotherton’s outstanding collection, including apocrypha (texts credited to Shakespeare but actually by other writers) and, most incredibly, the ‘holy grail’ of English literature: the coveted 17th century First Folio, nestled amidst three of her slightly younger successors. For four to be in one room is almost as historic an occurrence as the events documented within them.

Commemorating the 400th anniversary of the Bard’s death, the exhibition exposes the close relationship between Shakespeare and Yorkshire, ensuring everybody leaves knowing that some of the greatest works in English Literature have the rich history of God’s Own Country to thank for their timelessness.

Three of Four FoliosThree of Four Folios

The Wars of the Roses, the history of John Oldcastle, and the Battle of Towton are some of the events that the Bard clocked and transformed into literature’s greatest battle scenes and most devious villains.

One of the folios lays open at scene I of Richard III, the play that perhaps best represents the Bard’s persistent influence throughout time. Richard’s legacy is the greatest sufferer at the nib of Shakespeare’s quill: even now he is considered in the murderous and tyrannical light that his namesake play intended. This exhibition demonstrates Shakespeare’s influence, through his ability to imprint - ‘For All Time’ - his interpretation of history on a nation’s identity.

Seeing these folios and the works that inspired them – such as the writings of Sir Thomas More and Thomas Middleton’s A Yorkshire Tragedie, featuring ‘fill me a bowl of wine’, a sentiment befitting now as it was in the 17th Century - is frankly moving.

Treasures of the BrothertonTreasures of the Brotherton

Admittedly, I sit here typing this while drinking from my Shakespeare mug, having adored the Bard’s work since I was old enough to fantasise about Leo, à la Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet, so I may be slightly biased - but this exhibition is insightful, thought-provoking and genuinely enthralling for all who appreciate the written word.

The Treasures of the Brotherton Gallery have created an exhibition that presents Shakespeare and regional history hand-in-hand, with the Bard, often enough, navigating the route. What a guy.

For All Time: Shakespeare in Yorkshire is at Treasures of the Brotherton Gallery from 5 September 2016 to 31 January 2017.