Podcasts and Recordings

The Folger produces a range of podcasts and recordings that can help you explore Shakespeare and the Renaissance. Below is more information about our current series; click through for information about individual recordings.

Shakespeare Unlimited | Folger Audio Editions | Shakespeare in American Life | More recordings

Shakespeare Unlimited 

When British radio listeners voted William Shakespeare their "British Person of the Millennium," the honor was entirely understandable. Shakespeare and his works are woven throughout not only English-speaking culture, but global culture. As you'll hear in this series of podcasts, Shakespeare turns up in the most interesting places--not just literature and the stage, but science and social history as well. Join us for this "no limits" podcast tour of the fascinating and varied connections between Shakespeare, his works, and the world around us.

Folger Audio Editions

Enjoy the ultimate Shakespeare audio experience with these dynamic studio recordings, expertly produced by Folger Theatre from the complete, unabridged texts of the Folger Editions and performed by leading Shakespearean actors.

These popular plays in the Shakespeare canon are available from Simon & Schuster Audio on CD and for download. Click through the links below for more information about each recording and to listen to excerpts.

These audio editions can be used in tandem with Folger Digital Texts, a free online resource for all 38 Shakespeare plays that presents the gold standard text of the Folger Editions in an elegant digital format. They are also included in full in our Folger Luminary Shakespeare Apps.

Shakespeare in American Life

The Shakespeare in American Life radio documentary commemorated the 75th anniversary of the Folger Shakespeare Library in 2007. Each hour-long episode, narrated by Sam Waterston and created by Richard Paul, deepens our understanding of Shakespeare and the American identity. Descriptions of the episodes are below; please go to the Shakespeare in American Life website to listen to or download this series.

Shakespeare Becomes American: Shakespeare in Performance

Shakespeare is everywhere in America, including musicals, festivals, television, and the movies.  The documentary explores how American Shakespeare has been shaped by the American experience.  From the young nation’s earliest days, when an “American” acting style first took shape, to the influence of African-Americans on Shakespeare on stage, to method acting, to Hollywood, America and Americans—actors, directors, and audiences—have made Shakespeare our own.

Shakespeare in Education and Civic Life

After the American revolution, there were real questions about whether America should adopt British culture and literature—including Shakespeare’s plays—or create its own.  The documentary follows Shakespeare’s path in the years that followed, including his surprisingly late arrival in the classroom and his role in major movements like the push west, the establishment of cities, the Civil War, and the immigrant experience.  It also explores America’s fascination with Shakespeare outdoors.

Shakespeare in American Politics

John Adams was a Shakespeare enthusiast who filled his diaries with mentions of the plays.  Janet Reno assembled her staff to read King Lear.  In 1849, disputes over British and American acting styles touched off a deadly riot. The most famous black Shakespearean of the 19th century was an American who went to Europe after he saw black actors arrested for performing Shakespeare in the US. In the 1980s, Shakespeare was drawn into battles over race and gender on college campuses.  This program explores how Shakespeare’s work has intertwined itself with American electoral politics, geopolitics, and racial, class, and academic politics. It also explores how Shakespeare has been used for political purposes throughout American history.

More recordings

Shakespeare's Birthday Lectures

The Folger has been offering lectures and other programs to celebrate Shakespeare’s birth since 1932, when Joseph Quincy Adams delivered “Shakespeare and American Culture.” In recent years, these lectures have been recorded and are freely available through this Folgerpedia article.

Arms and Armor in Shakespeare

A Folger exhibition in 2008 inspired this look at the changing military and its weapons, and how Shakespeare’s plays dramatize a military culture in change as the knight on horseback in Richard II gives way to the career army men of Othello. Featuring Jeffrey Forgeng of the Higgins Armory Museum and Barbara Mowat, Co-Editor of the Folger Editions.

Men of Letters: Shakespeare’s Influence on Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln was known for many things: freeing the slaves, winning the Civil War, holding the Union together. But he was also one of our most literary presidents. Of the three books that sat on his White House desk, one of them was the works of Shakespeare—a writer Lincoln cherished throughout his life. This recording discusses Shakespeare's enduring influence on Lincoln and on Lincoln's assassin, John Wilkes Booth, as well as why Shakespeare continues to occupy such a special place in the hearts of political leaders today.