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Shakespeare Connected - Shakespeare and Literary Pilgrimage

4. Shakespeare’s Chair

This chair was acquired by Samuel Ireland sometime in 1792 from the house now known as Anne Hathaway’s Cottage. He had been shown it on his tour as ‘Shakespeare’s courting chair’. It is only one of a number of chairs reputed to have been Shakespeare’s which have enjoyed cult status from the 1760s onwards. Their affective power comes from the promise that connection between dead writer and living tourist can be established through contact with something that the dead writer once touched, what scholars of religion call a ‘contact-relic’. The ‘courting chair’ had a special significance in the nineteenth century as it helpfully located Shakespeare in relation to his comedies, especially As You Like It with its supposedly local setting in ‘Arden’, and so installed Shakespeare within an idealised domesticity. The sentiment that caused Ireland to have the chair carved with the intertwined initials WS and AH would culminate in the celebration and museumization of Anne Hathaway’s Cottage and in this sort of souvenir ceramic (see below). 

SBT 2002-49


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'Shakespeare's Courtship' Ceramic Figure depicting Shakespeare with Anne Hathaway, c.1850-1900 (SBT 1998-5/12)


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