Forsooth! Shakespeare First Folio on U.S. Tour

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January 10, 2016

The Folger Shakespeare Library has released a few copies of William Shakespeare’s First Folio on a nationwide tour. As a result, people in all 50 states and in Puerto Rico will have an opportunity to get up close and personal with the first published collection of plays from perhaps history’s most famous playwright. The tour is in conjunction with the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.

The exhibit, titled “First Folio! The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare,” is already on, with showings of the folio in Indiana, Oklahoma, and Oregon. The travel schedule shows host sites at museums, colleges, and universities across the U.S., and at the Museo y Centro de Estudios Humanisticos in Turabo, Puerto Rico, from March 7 to April 3. The tour ends with copies of the First Folio in Kentucky and Tennessee. The tour is in conjunction with the American Library Association and the Cincinnati Museum Center.

The First Folio appeared in 1623, seven years after Shakespeare died, and contained 36 of his plays. The publication of this collection was important because although many of Shakespeare’s plays had been performed regularly during his lifetime, not many of those plays existed in published form when he died. Among the plays to first appear in published form in the First Folio were some of the most famous, including Antony and Cleopatra, As You Like It, Macbeth, and Twelfth Night. Without the First Folio, these plays might have been lost, according to the Folger Shakespeare Library, located in Washington, D.C. The Folger Library has 82 copies of the First Folio. Of the estimated 750 copies that once existed, 233 exist today.

Shakespeare is thought to have been born on April 23, 1564. He died on April 23, 1616. In between, he wrote dozens of plays, 154 sonnets, a couple of long narrative poems, enjoyed a career onstage in addition to writing, and even served as owner of an acting company (the Lord Chamberlain’s Men) for a time. His plays have been translated into every living language, and performances of these plays far outnumber those of any other playwright.

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