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'The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare' on Display

A treasured 17th-century edition of Shakespeare’s plays visits San Diego


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If all the world’s a stage, then we have this book—or rather, its author—to thank. Touted as “the book that gave us Shakespeare,” the First Folio will be on display at the San Diego Central Library June 4 through July 7—one of only 233 copies known in the world. The book was originally published in 1623, seven years after Shakespeare’s death. Compiled by two fellow actors who hoped to preserve his plays for future generations, the collection comprises 36 works, 18 of which—including Macbeth, Twelfth Night, and As You Like It—had not been previously published and might otherwise have been lost forever. “The plays in the First Folio changed our language, our culture, and our sense of selves,” says Old Globe Artistic Director Barry Edelstein, who was a driving force behind getting the volume to San Diego. “The chance to see it up close is rare, inspiring, and powerful.”

The plays in the First Folio changed our language, our culture, and our sense of selves. The chance to see it up close is rare, inspiring, and powerful.

The Globe is co-hosting the exhibit, which will explore the significance of Shakespeare then and now, and feature original props, costumes, photos, and more from the theater’s archives. The book’s visit is timed to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death and is its only stop in California. It will also coincide with dozens of free Shakespeare-themed events around town. Cooler still, the folio itself will be propped open to Shakespeare’s most famous and quoted line, Hamlet’s “To be or not to be.” The exhibit is free, but reservations are recommended. See it before it’s gone; parting is such sweet sorrow.

Shakespeare: In Three Words

“My favorite line of Shakespeare’s is from The Winter’s Tale, one of the plays that would have been lost if not for the Folio. It comes when a king, who thinks his wife has been dead for 16 years, sees a marble statue of her, which miraculously comes to life and touches him. 'O, she’s warm!' he says. I tear up every time I see that scene in the theater, or read the line in the play. There’s such a tsunami of love in those three tiny, simple words. That’s Shakespeare to me.”
—Barry Edelstein, Old Globe Artistic Director and Shakespearean scholar

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