Did A Whore Inspire Shakespeare? The British Museum Will Show You

You know How To Think Like Leonardo Da Vinci, thanks to the book of the same name. Now, how to be inspired like William Shakespeare? The British Museum in London has devoted an entire show to precisely that subject.

The show will include paintings, jewels, and the piece de resistance, a "racy" image of a Venetian woman thought to be both an aristocrat and a courtesan. A panel on the woman’s dress can be lifted, revealing men’s underwear and shoes underneath. Quite the scandal, I know. Yet the UK’s Telegraph reports the image supposedly inspired Shakespeare when writing the courtesan Bianca in Othello. Will also loved writing cross-dressing ladies in other plays, as he you can see from Viola in Twelfth Night, Portia in The Merchant of Venice, and Rosalind in As You Like It. And don’t even get me started on Gwnyeth Paltrow in Shakespeare in Love.

Shakespeare: Staging The World won’t be all about ladies of the night, however. Visitors can also peep at one of the only 40 First Folio’s of Shakespeare’s work in existence; plus, Royal Shakespeare Company actors will perform excerpts from his plays. The show opens July 19 and you’d best be getting there before it’s gummed up with London 2012 Olympics tourists.