Words, Words, Words: Circe

by Madeline Miller

Thursday, May 06, 2021, 6:30 pm
Virtual Event on Zoom | 6:30pm Eastern Time
Free, Registration required

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"What do you read, my lord?"
"Words, words, words."
Hamlet, II.ii.209-10

About the Book Club

Join the Folger as we search the stacks for our favorite novels inspired by Shakespeare and the early modern era.

Held on the first Thursday of the month, this informal Book Club is free and open to all. Our picks range from historical fiction to adaptations of Shakespeare's plays and will be sourced from a different indie bookstore each month.

To spark the discussion, Folger staff will be on hand to provide historical context, throw in trivia, and speak to relevant items from the library collection.

Participation is free but registration is required. Sessions will be conducted through Zoom, so keep an eye on your inbox the day before for an access link, along with recommendations for quick bites and beverages to enjoy while we chat.

Our May Pick

Circe by Madeline Miller

Content transparency: This book contains depictions of sexual violence. We have provided additional context below.

In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child—not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power—the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves.

Threatened, Zeus banishes her to a deserted island, where she hones her occult craft, tames wild beasts and crosses paths with many of the most famous figures in all of mythology, including the Minotaur, Daedalus and his doomed son Icarus, the murderous Medea, and, of course, wily Odysseus.

With unforgettably vivid characters, mesmerizing language and page-turning suspense, Circe is a triumph of storytelling, an intoxicating epic of family rivalry, palace intrigue, love and loss, as well as a celebration of indomitable female strength in a man's world.

“A bold and subversive retelling of the goddess’s story that manages to be both epic and intimate in its scope, recasting the most infamous female figure from the Odyssey as a hero in her own right.”―The New York Times

Why did we choose this?

The Folger Shakespeare Library's collection explores not only Shakespeare's life and works, but also the plays' historical context, source material, and critical and performance histories.

Shakespeare often referenced Greek mythology within his plays and was known to adapt the classics for narrative purposes, updating ancient stories for his own modern time. Similarly, author Madeline Miller drew heavily on classical literature, namely Homer's Odyssey, for this retelling. Our collection holds a variety of Early Modern copies of the same sources that influenced both Shakespeare's plays and this novel.

Order Your Book

Purchase Your Copy

This month, we are thrilled to once again partner with East City Bookshop, an independently run, woman-owned, community-minded bookstore on Capitol Hill. Check them out at eastcitybookshop.com.

Order online, by phone (202.290.1636) or email orders@eastcitybookshop.com. Pickup is available at the shop, or they ship (almost) anywhere!

You can also order this title as an e-book or download an audiobook version of this title from Libro.fm.



We would like to thank the Capitol Hill Community Foundation for its generous support of this program.


Content Transparency

This book contains a depiction of rape. Swipe right or click the arrow for further information (includes spoilers).

At the end of Chapter Fourteen (pgs. 186-189 in the hardcover edition), there is a brief scene of rape perpetrated by a sailor who lands on Circe's island. The scene is narrated in the first-person by Circe, who is the victim. While it doesn’t include any sexually explicit language, it does include a description of violence and psychological impact.

If you have further questions, please email folgerboxoffice@folger.edu.