“The greatest misconception is that there was an inevitable conflict. That’s not the case. We’re not in the business of saying there was no conflict, but there are also ways people maneuver [in] different circumstances to advance their way in the world,” Kane said.
As a result of this relationship, there is — like it or not — an English component to the Irish diaspora. Indeed, the case is made in this exhibit that taking Ireland under the control of the English crown was the blueprint for England’s colonial ambitions across the globe.
“Ireland is always playing importantly in London politics,” Kane explained. Eventually the crown decided to allow English subjects wishing and hoping to trip into the ranks of the nobility to buy Irish titles for a relatively low sum: 2,000 quid.
The family trees and pedigrees, like the one outlining the upward trajectory of the Taylor family, are on display and beautifully demonstrate this progress.
As the viewer moves through the exhibit, it’s important to keep watch on the wealth of literary artifacts on display. There is a copy of John Milton’s prose and poetry, Edmund Spenser’s written correspondence, William Shakespeare’s first folio of “Henry V” and an early edition of “The Tempest,” a rare Irish family poetry book, as well as a portrait of Shakespeare’s bisexual Catholic patron, the Earl of Southampton. The reciprocal relationship between Ireland and England’s literary history is as striking as it is unmistakable.
“If you’re interested in Shakespeare or Elizabeth or James I, then Ireland is part of that story, too,” Kane said.
“Nobility and Newcomers in Renaissance Ireland” is on display at the Folger Shakespeare Library, 201 East Capitol St., through May 19.