Shakespeare in Ten Acts Exhibition

Open until Tue 6 Sep 2016
Final weeks to see Shakespeare in Ten Acts at the British Library. Image of Vivien Leigh (as Titania) from a Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Old Vic Theatre, 1937, Photograph by J W Debenham  courtesy of the Mander and Mitchensen collection at the University of Bristol
Book now Members go free

A landmark Shakespeare exhibition on the performances that made an icon, charting Shakespeare’s constant reinvention across the centuries

Visit our exhibition in London to share in the journey through 400 years of history – from the first productions of Hamlet and The Tempest – to understand how Shakespeare’s plays have been transformed for new generations of theatre-goers.

Imagine how audiences reacted to ground-breaking moments like the first stage appearance by a female actor in 1660 and the first British performance of Othello by a black actor in 1825.

Experience the glamour of Vivien Leigh’s Lady Macbeth costume, the surprising circus prop from Peter Brook’s radical 1970s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and the stunning detail of the award-winning costumes from Twelfth Night starring Mark Rylance, as performed at Shakespeare’s Globe.

Shakespeare in Ten Acts showcases over 200 unique and rare items such as the only surviving literary manuscript in Shakespeare’s hand, the earliest printed edition of Hamlet from 1603 and Shakespeare’s First Folio.

Discovering Literature: Shakespeare, our brand new online learning resource, has now launched. Whether you’re a student, teacher, researcher, or simply a lover of literature, Discovering Literature: Shakespeare will encourage critical thinking and independent learning to enrich your understanding of all-things Shakespeare.

You may find the PACCAR Gallery cooler and darker than other areas of the Library. The temperatures in the galleries are maintained at approximately 17-19 degrees centigrade and light levels may be reduced in order to preserve the treasures in our collection. This controlled environment protects any items that may fade, discolour, or be damaged in bright light or humid conditions.We recommend bringing an extra layer, especially in the summer months, when the outside temperature can feel considerably warmer. As a guide, you should allow at least 90 minutes to go round our PACCAR exhibitions. Please note that photography is not allowed in any of our exhibition spaces. 

Press reviews

'fascinating exhibition and nobody does that better than The British Library' Four star review – Londonist

'intriguing leaf through Shakespeare’s mysterious life' – The Telegraph

'fascinating' – The Guardian

'a must-see' Four star review– The Upcoming 

'A show of shows' – The Times Literary Supplement

Visitor reviews

‘This is the best exhibition I’ve ever been to.’ Peter Brook

'A must for Shakespeare enthusiasts.' – Judy   

'definitely well worth it' – Rose 

'fantastic range of artefacts' – Lisa Read full review >

'Wonderful Shakespeare exhibition' – Davel Read full review >

Vivien Leigh (as Titania) from A Midsummer Night’s Dream at The Old Vic Theatre, 1937. Photograph by J W Debenham. Courtesy of the Mander and Mitchenson collection at the University of Bristol and ArenaPAL.


Name: Shakespeare in Ten Acts Exhibition
Where: PACCAR Gallery
The British Library
96 Euston Road
Show map      How to get to the Library
When: -
Opening times and visitor information

A voluntary donation can be added over the regular ticket price. You will be helping the Library to conserve and share its collection. If you are a UK tax-payer and ‘Gift Aid’ your donation, the Library can reclaim the tax you have paid.

Enquiries: +44 (0)1937 546546
Book now

View our Shakespeare-inspired range

Shakespeare in Ten Acts

Shakespeare in Ten Acts (paperback)

Ten leading experts take a fresh look at Shakespeare


Shakespeare Desk

Shakespeare Desk Diary 2017

Pictures and quotations to celebrate the life and works of 'the bard'


Shakespeare Star Wars

William Shakespeare's Star Wars

George Lucas's Star Wars retold in the style of the immortal Bard of Avon