Shakespeare's the Thing exhibition material

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This article offers a comprehensive and descriptive list of each piece included in the Shakespeare's the Thing, one of the Exhibitions at the Folger.

For this exhibition, we asked members of the Folger staff to propose some of their favorite Shakespeare things in the collection, which we then arranged in four sections: Fixating on Shakespeare; Printing Shakespeare; Performing Shakespeare; and Depicting Shakespeare.

Discover how we are still celebrating Shakespeare 450 years after his birth.

Fixating on Shakespeare

The female seven ages, 1797. Folger Digital Image 29590.

"Bardolatry," or the craze for all thing Shakespeare, began in the eighteenth century and has never ceased. Perhaps its most startling expression was by actor David Garrick who, gesturing towards a statue of the Bard at the end of his 1769 Shakespeare Jubilee, cried, "Tis he! 'tis he! The god of our idolatry!'" Though we may no longer view him as a "god," Shakespeare is still so recognizable that a couple of telephone companies have used modernized clips of Romeo and Juliet in commercials to sell their products.

In the nineteenth century, one of the most popular Shakespearean references was to the Seven Ages of Man from a speech by Jacques in As You Like It, (2.7.139–136) . The theme was used in books, paintings, games, accessories, and advertising. At the same time, a passion developed for collecting Shakespeare relics; a few people even went so far as to create fake ones.

Today Shakespeare's presence is ubiquitous, not only on the web (28,600,000 Google hits and counting), but also in the novels we read, the movies we watch, and the games we play. As our culture evolves at ever greater speeds, Shakespeare is still present as a kind of grounding force, creating new communities of fans.

Items included

The Great Shakespeare Forger (case 1)

  • William Henry Ireland. Letter from William Shakespeare to Anne Hathaway. Forgery, ca. 1797. in The Confessions of William-Henry Ireland Containing the Particulars of his Fabrication of the Shakespeare Manuscripts. London: Ellerton and Byworth, 1805. Call number: W.b. 496; displayed p. 93.

The Seven Ages of Man (and Woman) (case 2)

  • Thomas Onwhyn. As You Like It, Seven Ages of Man. Lithograph. London, mid-19th century. Call number: ART File S528a4 no.112 (size XS); displayed unfolded LUNA Digital Image.
  • George Wilson. The Female Seven Ages. Stipple engraving. London: Ashton & Co., 1797. Call number: ART File S497.5 no.1 (size L); displayed unfolded and LUNA Digital Image.
  • Dobbins' Electric Soap. Seven Ages of Man. Chromolithograph. New York: Chas. Shields Sons, ca. 1880. Call number: Scrapbook E.5.1; displayed flat and LUNA Digital Image.
  • Maryline Poole Adams. Presenting the Seven Ages of Man. Pop-up book in a box made to resemble the Globe Theater. Berkeley, CA: Poole Press, 1994. Call number: ART Vol. e101.
  • George James De Wilde. The Seven Ages of Man. Oil on Canvas, 1823. Call number: FPa19 and LUNA Digital Image.

Bardolatry (case 3)

  • William Shakespeare. The Dramatic Works of William Shakespeare. London: Sherwin and Co., 1821. Call number: PR2752 1821c copy 1 Sh.Col.; displayed cover.
  • Tea caddy surmounted with carving of mulberry leaves and berries with portrait of Shakespeare. Mulberry tree wood and silver. English, 18th or 19th century. Call number: Wood no. 11 and LUNA Digital Image.
  • "Betrothal" ring. Silver, 17th century? Call number: H.P. relics drawer B8 part 1 (ring).
  • Puttick & Simpson. Catalogue of a Highly Valuable And Important Collection of Antiquities. London, December, 1854. Call number: H.P. relics drawer B8 part 2 (auction catalog); displayed pp. 22–23.
  • George Cruikshank. The First Appearance of William Shakespeare on the stage of "The Globe," surrounded by part of his Dramatic Company, the other members coming over the hills. London: Autotype Fine Art Company, ca. 1865. Call number: ART File S527.4 no.3 part 2 (size M); displayed flat and LUNA Digital Image.

David Garrick, Shakespeare Promoter (case 4)

Shakespearean Adaptations and Spin-offs (case 5)

  • Edward Bond. Bingo: Scenes of money and death. London: Eyre Methuen, 1974. Call number: PR2935.B8 B4; displayed p. xvi.
  • LOAN. Marina Warner. Indigo. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992.
  • Graham Clarke. W. Shakespeare Gent.: his actual nottebooke . . . discovered & authentikated by Graham Clarke. Maidstone: Ebenezer Press, 1992. Call number: Sh.Misc. 2204; displayed pp. 34–35.
  • Kathryn Johnson. The Gentleman Poet. New York: Avon, 2010. Call number: Sh.Misc. 2104; displayed cover.
  • O. Video recording. Trimark Home Video: Lions Gate Home Entertainment, 2002. Call number: DVD 9; displayed cover.
  • 10 Things I Hate About You. Video recording. Burbank, CA: Touchstone Home Video, 1999. Call number: VCR 205; displayed cover.
  • Eve Adamson. Shakespeare Select Poetry of Love: Compliments, Come-Ons, and Insights into the Art of Love. Novelty gift resembling a box of chocolates. Cider Mill Press, 2007. Call number: Sh.Misc. 2092; displayed box.
  • A dramatic introduction to Shakespeare: "The Play's the Thing". Board Game. Dexter, MI: Aristoplay, 2003. Call number: ART Flat c3.
  • Collector's Edition Barbie as Titania from the ballet A Midsummer Night's Dream. El Segundo, CA: Mattel, 2004. Call number: ART 268461 (realia).

Printing Shakespeare

Pages from a 1993 Czech translation of A Midsummer Night's Dream. Folger Digital Image 56807.

Shakespeare's plays have been distributed in various forms of print over the centuries, including their most recent iterations as digital texts. The first plays to be printed were Titus Andronicus and a rather unreliable version of Henry VI, pt. 2 as cheap quarto-sized paperbacks in 1594. Four folio-sized editions of the collected plays were printed between 1623 and 1685. But the first edition in a modern sense did not appear until 1709 when dramatist Nicholas Rowe, basing his text on a corrected Fourth Folio (printed in 1685), added scene divisions and a list of characters for each play. From that time on, the editing of Shakespeare has never stopped. Simultaneously, however, Shakespeare's plays have been printed in many other ways. They have been translated, illustrated, shaped into acting editions, retold, adapted into children's books, comic books, paperbacks, and now digital editions.

This section on Printing Shakespeare explores early editions, illustrated editions, and translations.

Items included

Editing Shakespeare (case 6)

Mr. Furness and Mr. Folger (case 7)

Hanmer & Hayman: An Illustrated Edition (case 8)

  • Francis Hayman. Illustrations to Shakespeare. Pen and wash, 1740. in William Shakespeare. The Works of Shakespear: in Six Volumes. Oxford: Printed at the Theatre, 1743–1744. Call number: ART Vol. d72 v.6; displayed p. 316 and LUNA Digital Image.
  • Francis Hayman. The Play Scene from Hamlet. Oil on canvas, ca. 1745. Call number: FPa36 and LUNA Digital Image.

Translating Shakespeare (case 9)

  • William Shakespeare. Sonetti [Sonnets in Italian and English] Translated into Italian by Alessandro Serpieri. Milan: Rizzoli, 1991. Call number: PR2796.I8 Y5 1991 Sh.Col..
  • William Shakespeare. Romeo and Julia [Romeo and Juliet]. Translated into German by August Wilhelm von Schlegel. Berlin: G. Grotesche Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1890. Call number: PR2796.G3 R1 1890 Sh.Col.; displayed cover.
  • William Shakespeare. El Mercader de Venecia; Como gustéis. Translated into Spanish by Ángel-Luis Pujante. Madrid: Espasa-Calpe, 1990. Call number: PR2796 .S5 1990 Sh.Col.; displayed cover.
  • William Shakespeare. Mahākaviśrīsekṣapīvaraviracitaṃ Dīnārkarājakumārahemalekham: A Sanskrit version of . . . Hamlet. Translated by Sukhamoy Mukhopadhyay. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1971. Call number: PR2796.S2 H1 1971 Sh.Col.; displayed "to be or not to be" soliloquy.
  • William Shakespeare. Macbeth. Translated into Estonian by Ants Oras. Tartus: Eesti Kirjanduse Seltsi Kirjastus, 1929. Call number: PR2796.E8 M1 1929 Sh.Col.; displayed p. 14–15.
  • Cymbelin. William Shakespeare. Stavovske Divadlo Cinohra Narodniho Divadla. Poster. Prague, 1995. Call number: ART 244927.

Russian and Czech Translations (case 10)

  • William Shakespeare. Richard III. Translated by Anya Radiovoi; Illustrated by V. Volovicha. Moscow: Iskusstvo Pub. House, 1972. Call number: PR2796 .R8 K8 1972 Sh.Col.; displayed p. 22 and image opposite.
  • William Shakespeare. Sen Noci Svatojanske [A Midsummer Night's Dream]. Translated by Martin Hilsky; Lithographs by Adolf Born. Prague: Nadace Lyra Pragensis, Tiskarny Vimperk, 1993. Call number: PR2796.C9 M5 1993 Sh.Col.; displayed p. 72–73.

Performing Shakespeare

Down By the Avon's Flowing Stream, written for the tercentenary of Shakespeare's birth. 19th century. Folger Digital Image 56797.

Shakespeare, of course, wrote his plays mainly for performance, and we miss much of their richness if we do not consider their three-dimensional quality on stage. Actors and directors have always needed to take the text from the book back to the stage, where ephemeral gestures and sounds have been difficult to capture, especially in the pre-film era. Promptbooks, or play scripts marked for production, are one means of capturing performance. Drawings or paintings of stage sets or of actors in their roles are another. When recorded sound was developed in the 1880s and 90s, it was possible to "fix" the voices of actors, giving some sense of their style. Music has been one of the most accessible aspects of performance over the ages. We can pick up a piece of sheet music from the nineteenth century and sing it today. Shakespeare included music in many of his plays, and as styles have changed over the centuries, more music has been added.

The items included in this section of the exhibition span from the eighteenth century to the present, capturing changes in the ways Shakespeare has been performed that mirror the style of each period.

Items included

Charles Kean's The Tempest (case 11)

Turn of the Century Performance and Recorded Voices (case 12)

  • Ralph Cleaver. Special matinee by amateurs of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern by W.S. Gilbert. Pen and opaque drawing. London, 1904. Call number: ART Box C623 no.2 (size L); displayed flat and LUNA Digital Image.
  • Ralph Cleaver. Sketches at the production of The Tempest at His Majesty's Theatre. Pen and opaque drawing. London, 1904. Call number: ART Box C623 no.8 (size L); displayed flat and LUNA Digital Image.
  • Great Shakespearean Actors. Sound recording. Gryphon Records, 1963. Call number: Unaccessioned LP; displayed cover.
  • Paul Robeson in Shakespeare's Othello. Columbia Masterworks, 1951. Call number: Unaccessioned LP; displayed cover.

Jean Cocteau Stages Roméo and Juliet (case 13)

Overtures for Shakespeare (case 14)

  • Charles Dibdin. The Overture, Songs, Airs, and Chorusses [sic], in the Jubilee, or, Shakespeare's Garland. London: John Johnson, 1769. Call number: Black Box Music VIII folder 6; displayed flat and LUNA Digital Image.
  • Shakespears-Jubilee, the 6th and 7th of September, at Stratford-upon-Avon. Ticket signed by George Garrick. Copper-plate engraving, 6 September 1769. Call number: Y.d.283 and LUNA Digital Image.
  • Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy. Overture to Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream arranged as a duet for two performers. Manuscript, 10 July 1829. Call number V.a.372 and LUNA Digital Image.
  • Joseph Edwards Carpenter and Stephen Glover. Down By The Avon's Flowing Stream. London: Brewer& Co., 1864. Call number: Black Box Music VIII; and LUNA Digital Image.
  • FACSIMILIE of John Caulfield and John Harroway. Ye Songe of Macbethe in Sam Cowell's Comic Songs. London: The Music-Publishing Company, 19th century. Call number: Black Box Music VIII; displayed p. 2–3.

Modern Musical Shakespeare (case 15)

  • John Guare. Two Gentlemen of Verona. New York: Holt, Rinehart, & Winston, ca. 1973. Call number: PR2838.A71 G8 Sh.Col.; displayed p. 36–37.
  • Fiasco Theatre Company. Fear No More. Traditional, 19th century shape-note hymnal tune from production of Cymbeline. Vocal arrangement by The Wailin' Jennys. Adaptation with Shakespeare lyrics by Ben Steinfeld. New York: Fiasco Theater / Crazy Scot Records, 2011.

Depicting Shakespeare

Sommernachtstraum, a 1961 German print of Puck and Titania in A Midsummer Night's Dream. Folger Digital Image 56792.

Shakespeare's plays and poems still capture our imagination because of their ability to create wonderful word-images. Even if we don't hear the words spoken or see the plays performed, we see images of Bottom with an ass's head, or Banquo's ghost, or Cleopatra's barge in our minds as we read. Over the centuries, artists have attempted to express visually what Shakespeare expresses in words, by illustrating his plays and poems or by decorating the books themselves. At the same time, people have wondered what Shakespeare the man looked like, and they have depicted him in many guises, ranging from a bohemian playwright with open collar and gold earring to a courtier with lace ruff. Displayed here is a selection of creative works that interpret "Shakespeare"—the man and his writings—through artistic imagination.

Items included

Art Books (case 16)

Dali Designs As You Like It (case 17)

Artists' Interpretations (case 18)

Droeshout Portrait (case 19)

  • State 1, from a First Folio (1623). Martin Droeshout. Portrait of Shakespeare in Mr. William Shakespeares comedies, histories, & tragedies. Also known as the Halliwell-Phillipps unique proof. Also know as the Lilly proof. Call number: ART Box D783 no.1 (size S) and LUNA Digital Image.
  • State 2, in a First Folio (1623). Martin Droeshout. Portrait of Shakespeare in William Shakespeare, Mr. William Shakespeares comedies, histories, & tragedies. London: Isaac Iaggard, and Ed. Blount, 1623. Call number: STC 22273 Fo.1 no.13; displayed title page portrait.
  • State 3, from a Second Folio (1623). Martin Droeshout. Portrait of Shakespeare in Mr. William Shakespeares comedies, histories, & tragedies.Removed from Halliwell-Phillips volume labeled "The Proof Engraving of Droeshout’s Portrait of Shakespeare, 1623." Call number: ART Box D783 no.2 and LUNA Digital Image.
  • State 4, in a Fourth Folio (1685). Martin Droeshout. Portrait of Shakespeare in William Shakespeare, Mr. William Shakespeares comedies, histories, & tragedies. London: for H. Herringman, E. Brewster, and R. Bentley, 1685. Call number: S2915 Fo.4 no.01; displayed title page portrait.

Shakespeare Portraits (case 20)

  • Thomas Sully. Portrait of Shakespeare. Oil on canvas, 1864. Call number: FPa79 and LUNA Digital Image.
  • Edouard Jean Conrad Hamman. Shakespeare with his Family, at Stratford, reciting the tragedy of Hamlet. Color lithograph. Berlin: F. Sala & Co., [mid to late 19th century]. Call number: ART File S527.4 no.31 pt.2 (size XL) and LUNA Digital Image.
  • C.B. Currie. Five Miniatures of Shakespeare, 1928, inset into Cosway binding by Riviera & Son of James Boaden, An inquiry into the authenticity of various pictures and prints which, from the decease of the poet to our own times, have been offered to the public as portraits of Shakspeare. London: for Robert Triphook, 1824. Call number: Bd.w. ART Vol. f111 copy 2 and LUNA Digital Image.
  • William Shakespeare. The works of William Shakspere. London: Charles Knight and Co., 1845. Call number: PR2752 1845b copy 2 Sh.Col.; displayed title page portraits.
  • William Shakespeare. Parian ware figure. England, ca. 1820. Call number: ART 260035 (realia).

Shakespeare's Characters

Characters Graphic Gallery

  • The Graphic Gallery of Shakespeare's Heroines. London: Sampson Low, Marston & Co., 1896. Prospectus. Call number: ART Flat a24; displayed prospectus and LUNA Digital Gallery.
  • Marcus Stone. Ophelia. Color photogravure. London: Sampson Low, Marston & Co., 1896. Call number: ART Flat a24; displayed plate 3.
  • Edmund Blair Leighton. Olivia. Color photogravure. London: Sampson Low, Marston & Co., 1896. Call number: ART Flat a24; displayed plate 14.
  • John William Waterhouse. Cleopatra. Color photogravure. London: Sampson Low, Marston & Co., 1896. Call number: ART Flat a24; displayed plate 21.