Located a block from the US Capitol, the Folger Shakespeare Library is an Elizabethan monument with a neoclassical exterior. On the outside, its white marble harmonizes with such nearby buildings as the Library of Congress, the Capitol, and the Supreme Court. Inside, the design evokes Tudor England with elements such as oak paneling, ornamental floor tile, and high plaster ceilings. The Folger building is best known for the Shakespeare bas-reliefs along its north façade, which are set off by a broad terrace and lawn.
The building is extensively ornamented with inscriptions of quotations by and about Shakespeare. Quotations were often used to adorn English great houses of Shakespeare's day, and are an essential part of the Folger's architecture. Henry Folger personally selected the inscriptions that may be found throughout the interior, the exterior, and the grounds. It was his wish that any texts taken from the 1623 First Folio of Shakespeare should be spelled as they appear there, rather than in the modern style. Each inscription includes the name of its author or the play from which it was taken.
The chief architect for the Folger Shakespeare Library was Paul Philippe Cret (1876–1945), a well-known Philadelphia architect and French emigré who had trained in the Beaux Arts tradition in Paris. Some of his previous projects included the Pan American Union in Washington and the Detroit Institute of Arts. Washington architect Alexander Trowbridge was the consulting architect for the project.
The Folger Shakespeare Library was dedicated in 1932 and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.