The Bard’s Birds

By: Matt Foss on April 13th, 2016

I love old books. I love how they feel, how they smell, and the memories they contain in their pages. One book I was lucky to find in a family collection was a 1850s copy of William Shakespeare’s tragedies. Although in rough condition, it had promise. Belonging to my great-great-great grandfather, you could believe he was the type who could actually recite more than just the famous lines.


Another reason the book piqued my interest was because although I was assigned to read Shakespeare in high school, my thoughts tended to drift to the girls sitting around me. I could use a refresher. After having the book restored, I enjoyed re-reading the famous plays. One thing I noticed while reading Hamlet and Macbeth, in particular, was Shakespeare’s use of bird imagery (usually to symbolize imminent death).

This observation proved fruitful when the Woodson Art Museum and other downtown Wausau businesses stepped up to participate this month in the Grand Theater’s “Wausau Shakespeare 400,” celebrating the Bard’s life 400 years later. Thinking a connection between Shakespeare’s references to birds and avian-themed artwork in the Museum’s collection would be a natural starting point, we agreed to play a part.

I combed my Shakespeare volume for specific mentions of birds and we created a crossword puzzle through which visitors can connect three birds referenced in the Bard’s verse to artworks in a new permanent collection exhibition, Making Marks. blog-4-13-16-billshakes3

We think it’s a fun, mildly brain-teasing activity for those who come to the Museum during the “Wausau Shakespeare 400” celebration. Stop by between now and April 30 to give it a try!

I also found a beat up copy of Lady Chatterley’s Lover. I don’t know if I should take the lead in creating a crossword puzzle for that one.

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