"Who is Silvia? what is she?" asks the song in Shakespeare's Two Gentlemen of Verona. For at least 300 years, people have been asking the same set of questions about Shakespeare. The desire to understand this poet and playwright, born in 1564, began with the first scholarly edition of his works, published in 1709. New editions, performances, adaptations, and memorabilia appear every year.
During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Shakespeare's plays enjoyed a revival on stage that has not ceased. At the same time, antiquarians scoured the archives to find any new bits of information about Shakespeare. Others were not shy about forging documents, so eager was the public for anything "new."
General admiration for Shakespeare spilled over into popular culture then and now: artists have depicted his characters and Shakespeare himself; composers have interpreted his writings in music; actors have defined and redefined his roles; and the rage for Shakespeare has led to a multitude of celebratory objects from tea caddies and dolls to statues and artists' books.
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.
Next: Fixating on Shakespeare