Shakespeare and His Sophy

In Search of Shah Abbas: British Museum March 19th, 2014


Robert Sherley, BM                       Shah Abbas to Charles I

On this visit to the BM as part of the Global Shakespeare course, we will not only learn about the East-West relations during Shakespeare’s time, but we will also explore a method of investigation and learning through objects in Museums.   Since there is no gallery called, Shah Abbas and Shakespeare, not surprisingly, we will be  journeying through various galleries: you will learn history through curating objects in the museum.  It is the concept behind  History of the World in 100 objects that you are all familiar with, edited by the director of the British Museum.

We begin our search for the Sophy, in the Money Galley, with a 17th-Century token used in Great Russell Street. And, continue to 3 different galleries.  Note that you can begin  the investigation from many different perspectives, as a rooms in the museum.   Museum as a network of rooms and galleries of memory and knowledge.  We could have started in any of the rooms, and the story would have been different.  The point of entry into the network does matter.   We will be passing through galleries, which are “irrelevant” to get to our various objects which I have selected to tell the story of the Sophy.  Try to map your journey and remember the route you have taken. Please take pictures to serve your memory. I will ask you to write one paragraph reflecting upon the substance and the form of this visit.


  1.  Textual Reference From the Twelfth Night:   Act II, Scene 5, Lines 80–81 Sir Toby: I will not give my part of this sport for a pension of thousands to be paid from the Sophy. Act III, Scene 4, Lines 273–79 Sir Toby: …I had a pass with him, rapier, scabbard, and all…They say he has been fencer to the Sophy.
  2. Article: “The Sherleys and the the Shah” Schwartz on Sherleys


 3.  History Through Objects:  We will be visiting  four different galleries —68,  69a, 52, and 34.  


A. Mercantile Capitalism in the 1600s.  Room 68, Money Gallery.

B.  The Sophy’s predecessor the Magi (from the feast of Epiphany or the Twelfth Night), or Archeology of the East- West Encounters.   Temporary Exhibit: Wise Men From the East.  Room 69a.

Twelfth NIght, Feast of Epiphany, Adoration of the Magi, East paying Tribute to the West.

C. Sophy’s Predecessors, Persian Monarchy. Cyrus and Dariush. Ancient Persia. Room 52.

  • Darius at Persepolis
  • Cyrus’s Cylinder

D. The Safavids and Other Gunpowder Empires.  The Islamic Galleries.  Room 34.

4:  Response:  In one paragraph reflect upon  the Itinerant approach to learning through museum objects/   Choose one object around which to  focus your commentary.

DSC_1626 DSC_1596 DSC_1583 DSC_1604 DSC_1661 P1010472DSC_1674


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