A free exhibition exploring 250 years of Shakespeare and political cartoons.

25 February – extended to 15 October 2017

PACCAR Room, Level 2

Royal Shakespeare Theatre


Shakespeare’s plays have long shaped the way we understand and engage with contemporary politics and nowhere is this more clearly seen than in the works of political cartoonists. This free exhibition celebrates more than two centuries of political cartoons inspired by Shakespeare and coincides with our Rome Season.

Black and white cartoon by Schrank, of Tony Blair at a press conference. A speech bubble reads 'I COME TO PRAISE THE UNIONS, NOT TO BURY THEM'
© Peter Shrank and the British Cartoon Archive Browse and license our images

The exhibition includes historical works from key political moments in time, including:

  • The 1846 cartoon ‘The Fall of Caesar’ showing Prime Minister Robert Peel, who had just been forced to resign, as Caesar being murdered by his former allies.
  • Peter Schrank’s 2015 depiction of Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon as the star crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet
  • Morten Morland’s cartoon of David Cameron as Hamlet gazing at Boris Johnson’s skull from April 2016

Shakespeare’s plays – both plots and characters – have been a touchstone for cartoonists who have drawn upon them to comment upon the political events and personalities of their time. The plays’ seemingly inexhaustible capacity to reflect human behaviour continues to provide cartoonists with a ready stock of rich imagery that resonates with the reading public.

The exhibition includes historic and recent political cartoons and new commissions by five cartoonists:

  • Steve Bell one of the Guardian’s chief cartoonists, where he has been producing cartoons since 1981. He has won numerous awards, including the Political Cartoon Society Cartoonist of the Year (2005, 2007), and the Channel 4 Political Humour Award (2005). Steve's piece can now be seen below and in the exhibition.
  • Christian Adams a political cartoonist at the Daily Telegraph, for which he has worked since 2005. He previously worked at the London Evening Standard from 1994 to 2002. Christian's piece can now be seen below and in the exhibition.
  • Ann Telnaes a political cartoonist at the Washington Post. In 2001 she won the Pulitzer Prize for her work. A solo exhibition of her cartoons appeared at the Library of Congress in 2004.
  • Victor Ndula a political cartoonist for the Kenyan national newspaper the Star. In 2012 he won first prize in the United Nations/Ranan Lurie Political Cartoon Awards.
  • Lorna Miller a political cartoonist whose work has appeared in Private Eye and the Morning Star. Lorna has been nominated for the 2016 Political Cartoon of the Year Award.

Each will create a cartoon during the period of the exhibition that comments upon current politics through the lens of the four Roman Plays - Julius Caesar, Antony and Cleopatra, Titus Andronicus and Coriolanus. 

The exhibition is curated in partnership with David Francis Taylor, Associate Professor of English at the University of Warwick.