How do we know Shakespeare's plays? For many of them, the answer is one book: the 1623 First Folio. Without it, 18 plays, including Macbeth and The Tempest, could have been lost. In 2016, First Folio! The Book That Gave Us Shakespeare brought the First Folio to 50 states, Washington, DC, and Puerto Rico. 

Read a full digital version of one of the Folger’s First Folios

Part of The Wonder of Will: 400 Years of Shakespeare

What Scholars Are Saying

Insights from the national scholarly community exploring Shakespeare

Some of Shakespeare’s most famous plays are medieval because he understood how the past shapes the present. He made history matter to his audience, as he made it matter to me four hundred years later.

- Kenneth Hodges, Professor of English at the University of Oklahoma. He works primarily on late medieval and early modern chivalry, especially Malory and Spenser.

When I read and teach Macbeth the language transforms into a glorious machine—gears turning, maneuvering the audience to discoveries and understanding at precisely the right moments.

- Lindsay Cummings, Assistant Professor of Dramatic Arts at the University of Connecticut. Her scholarly interests include affect theory, feminist performance, and community-based performance.

For all the claims over four centuries that his influence would soon wane because his language is too challenging, Shakespeare may always be understood so long as people have the capacity, or desire, to feel, to lose themselves, to understand, and to be understood.

- Robert B. Hornback, Associate Professor of English, Comparative Literatures, and Theater and Chair of the Department of English at Oglethorpe University. He created Oglethorpe’s one-of-a-kind, interdisciplinary “Minor in Shakespeare and Renaissance Studies.”

Folger Education and the First Folio

At the Folger Shakespeare Library, we create experiences, transform education, and drive discovery. Join us on an exploration through Shakespeare’s most famous book, the First Folio.

Are you a Teacher?

The Folger is revolutionizing the way Shakespeare is taught in classrooms. Discover the extra dimensions that the First Folio can bring to Shakespeare – for you and your students.

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Are you a Family – Parents and Kids Together?
The First Folio starts you on an exciting exploration—families can move, play, speak, engage, and above all, have fun with Shakespeare.

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Gravedigger's Tale

Travelling in conjunction with the First Folio Tour, the story of Hamlet is told by the Gravedigger using Shakespeare's moving words and with help from the audience in Gravedigger's Tale.

Conceived and directed by Robert Richmond.

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First Folio! The Book That Gave Us Shakespeare



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