Churchill's Shakespeare

Press Contacts:
Garland Scott,, 202.675.0342

Ben Lauer,, 202.675.3246
Curator-Led Press Tour:
Friday, October 5, 10am
Reservations requested: 202.675.0342

Curator tours available upon request.

Exhibition Images for Press Use

On Exhibit

October 6, 2018—January 6, 2019

Washington, DC—Vividly recalled for his leadership and stirring speeches as Britain's prime minister for almost all of World War II, Winston Churchill drew on his lifelong interest in Shakespeare as his words kept up the courage of many around the world.

Churchill's Shakespeare is curated by Georgianna Ziegler, Associate Librarian and Head of Reference Emerita at the Folger Shakespeare Library, with generous curatorial and collections support from the Churchill Archives Centre, Cambridge.  The exhibition tells the story of Shakespeare's influence on Churchill's oratory by bringing together for the first time almost 50 rare and sometimes unique materials from the Churchill Archives Centre, Churchill College, Cambridge; Churchill’s home, Chartwell courtesy of the National Trust; and the Folger Shakespeare Library. The exhibition is produced in partnership with the International Churchill Society.

Among the many items on view are a bow tie, bowler hat, and walking stick, parts of Churchill's familiar apparel; German, French, and British illustrated editions of Hamlet from just before and after World War I; letters between Churchill and his wife, Clementine; manuscripts and marked-up proofs of several of Churchill's World War II speeches and his numerous books; and copies of Shakespeare presented to him by friends early and late in his career. Together, these and other materials suggest some of Shakespeare's ubiquitous presence in Churchill's life and thoughts.

In the exhibition, the rich connection between Churchill's words and ideas and Shakespeare's plays is further explored by audio and video clips of Churchill and others, including actors Laurence Olivier and Richard Burton, as well as several original videos created for Churchill's Shakespeare. The new videos include curator Georgianna Ziegler, Allen Packwood, director of the Churchill Archives Centre, Andrew Roberts, author of Churchill: Walking with Destiny (2018), Folger Director Michael Witmore, and Michael Bishop, executive director of the International Churchill Society and director of the National Churchill Library and Center at the George Washington University.

Exhibition Highlights

  • An October 1888 letter to his mother from 13-year-old Winston Churchill, on his efforts  to win his school's Shakespeare Prize
  • A letter from Clementine Churchill to her husband in 1922 saying she is reading Shakespeare to the children "& they love it."
  • A souvenir album of the spectacular 1911 costumed Shakespeare Ball, organized by Churchill's mother to raise money for a new National Theatre
  • One of the most famous German editions of Hamlet, published by the Cranach Press between the two world wars with woodcuts by English artist Edward Gordon Craig
  • Typed notes, with handwritten corrections, for Churchill's speech to the British House of Commons on June 18, 1940, after the retreat from Dunkirk: "This was their finest hour."
  • Churchill's manuscript, typed in short lines, as though it was Shakespearean verse, for his December 30, 1941, address to the Canadian Parliament
  • A promotional booklet for Laurence Olivier's wartime film Henry V (1944), which opened months after the Allies' D-Day landing
  • In a fascinating echo of Hamlet's meeting with his father's ghost, a manuscript of Churchill's 1947 essay "The Dream," in which he recalls seeing the ghost of his father

Churchill's Shakespeare also includes family and visitor activities, including opportunities to deliver and share passages by Churchill and Shakespeare or to write and pin up favorite lines by them. Visitors can also photograph themselves with full-length images of Churchill and Shakespeare, with props that include a bowler hat, bow tie, and Elizabethan ruff.


Georgianna Ziegler

As the Folger’s Associate Librarian and Head of Reference Emerita, Georgianna Ziegler returned to the Folger to curate Churchill's Shakespeare because of her in-depth knowledge of the library's Shakespeare holdings and her extensive experience with Folger exhibitions. Ziegler is the author of numerous journal and reference articles and has served as president of the Shakespeare Association of America. She enjoyed exploring Churchill's history and working with the staff of the Churchill Archives in Cambridge for this exhibition. Her previous Folger exhibitions included America's ShakespeareShakespeare’s the ThingShakespeare's Sisters, Elizabeth I: Then and Now, and many others. Before coming to the Folger in 1992, she taught Shakespeare and was curator of the University of Pennsylvania’s Furness Library. 


Folger website and social media

The exhibition, including the new video interviews, is featured on the Folger's website at, as well as on social media using the hashtag #WinstonandWill.


Folger Theatre |  King John

October 23–December 2, 2018

A rarely staged but timely history set in the time of Magna Carta, King John is among the Shakespeare history plays that shaped Churchill's ideas. A prolific author, Churchill put a line from King John above the preface of his first book, The Story of the Malakand Field Force (1898): "According to the fair play of the world, / Let me have an audience."

Folger Consort  |  A Christmas Messe: A Banquet of Seasonal English Music

December 14–23, 2018

Celebrate the holidays with a repast of English music, ranging from the earliest carols to later arrangements of favorites like Greensleeves by Vaughan Williams. The Folger’s 1619 manuscript A Christmas Messe—recounting a tussle between King Beef and King Brawn—offers lively accompaniment to a main course of beloved Yuletide music.


Folger Shakespeare Library is located at 201 East Capitol Street, Washington, DC 20003, one block east of the US Capitol. 

Hours and Admission

Monday through Saturday, 10am–5pm

Sunday, noon–5pm

Admission is free.


Monday–Saturday at 11am, 1pm, and 3pm; Sunday at 12pm and 3pm

Folger docents offer guided tours of the exhibition, as well as the Folger’s national landmark building, free of charge. No advance reservations required.

Group Tours

Docent-led tours of the exhibition, as well as the Folger's national landmark building, are offered for groups of 10 or more. To arrange, please call (202) 675–0395.


First Chefs: Fame and Foodways from Britain to America
January 19–March 31, 2019
Amanda Herbert and Heather Wolfe, curators

Just like today, getting food from farm to table in the early modern British world was hard work. And just like today, most of that hard work went unrecognized. This exhibition tells the stories of the named and unnamed heroes of early modern food culture, and juxtaposes the extravagance of an increasingly cosmopolitan and wealthy upper class against the human cost of its pleasures: the millions of slaves, servants, gardeners, street criers, and laborers who toiled to feed themselves, their families, and their communities. The exhibition combines the Folger's unparalleled collection of food-related manuscripts and books with objects and archaeological finds from Mount Vernon, Historic Jamestowne, Winterthur Museum, Garden, and Library, the Library of Congress, and the Frontier Culture Museum. Touchscreen interactives and a recreated model of a welcoming kitchen hearth brings these British American foodways to life.


Folger Shakespeare Library is the world’s largest Shakespeare collection, the ultimate resource for exploring Shakespeare and his world. The Folger welcomes millions of visitors online and in person. We provide unparalleled access to a huge array of resources, from original sources to modern interpretations. With the Folger, you can experience the power of performance, the wonder of exhibitions, and the excitement of pathbreaking research. We offer the opportunity to see and even work with early modern sources, driving discovery and transforming education for students of all ages. Join us online, on the road, or in Washington, DC. 


Press Contacts:
Garland Scott,, 202.675.0342

Ben Lauer,, 202.675.3246
Curator-Led Press Tour:
Friday, October 5, 10am
Reservations requested: 202.675.0342

Curator tours available upon request.

Exhibition Images for Press Use