Scope and Approach

Is Shakespeare American? How do his works speak to us? And how have we made him our own? Set in Washington, our nation’s capital, and at the Folger, a world capital of Shakespeare, Teaching Shakespeare 2016 is uniquely situated to pursue these questions. Working with the theme of "America's Shakespeare," participants and faculty in the Institute will study Othello, The Tempest, and The Merchant of Venice. Topics for investigation include cultural and artistic understandings of race, religion, age, and gender; the concept of a melting pot and the limits of assimilation; the self-made man; colonialism and its discontents; "brave new worlds" and their dystopian undersides; and relationships across social classes.

Participants will have the opportunity to explore these and other ideas through the Folger’s unparalleled collections of material on the early modern period in Europe (1500-1750) and on Shakespeare's literary and theatrical celebrity in England, America, and beyond (1700 to present).

Who Are We?

Teaching Shakespeare 2016 participants will work with the following faculty and staff during their month of discovery at the Folger:

Resident Faculty and Staff:

  • Institute Director Dr. Peggy O’Brien, Folger Education
  • Head Scholar Dr. Ellen MacKay, Indiana University
  • Sue Biondo-Hench, Carlisle (PA) High School
  • Greta Brasgalla, El Dorado High School and El Paso (TX) Community College
  • Dr. Christy Desmet, University of Georgia
  • Dr. Stephen Dickey, UCLA
  • Michael Ellis-Tolaydo, St. Mary’s College of Maryland emeritus and real-life actor
  • Caleen Sinnette Jennings, American University and real-life playwright
  • Stefanie Jochman, Notre Dame de la Baie Academy, Green Bay, WI
  • Heather Lester, International High School at LaGuardia Community College, New York
  • Michael LoMonico, Folger Education
  • Betsy Walsh and Folger Reading Room staff

Visiting Faculty:

  • Dr. Michael Witmore, director, Folger Shakespeare Library
  • Dr. Ronald Bosco, University of Albany
  • Dr. Russ McDonald, Goldsmiths, University of London
  • Dr. Barbara Mowat, editor, Folger Editions
  • Dr. Gail Kern Paster, director emerita, Folger Shakespeare Library and editor, Shakespeare Quarterly
  • Dr. James Shapiro, Columbia University
  • Dr. Ayanna Thompson, George Washington University
  • Taffety Punk Theater Company

Read a letter from institute director Dr. Peggy O'Brien.

The Collection

Folger Shakespeare Library is home to the world’s largest Shakespeare collection, and is the ultimate resource for exploring Shakespeare and his world. Participants of Teaching Shakespeare 2016 will take advantage of all that the Folger has to offer.

Owing gratitude to our founders, Henry and Emily Folger, the Folger Shakespeare Library is home to a vast collection of materials relating to both the early modern era in Europe and to William Shakespeare and the theater, including present-day drama. The Folger collection counts over 160,000 printed books; 60,000 manuscripts; 90,000 prints, drawings, photographs, paintings, and other works of art; and a wealth of performance history, from a quarter of a million playbills to films, recordings, and stage costumes.

As an international center for Shakespeare scholarship and the study of the early modern period, the Library welcomes each year hundreds of scholars who use our collection to advance knowledge across dozens of fields. We collaborate with other research institutions to expand access, foster exploration, and share knowledge. During their time here, institute participants will be active members of the Folger’s research community.

Folger Education

The Folger is revolutionizing the way Shakespeare is taught in classrooms, showing how the study of his work deepens knowledge and hones skills across key academic areas. More than two million teachers and students each year benefit from in-person workshops, lesson plans, online classes and field trips, and the best-selling Folger Editions of Shakespeare’s plays. The Folger is a leader in language-based education, which helps to build deep reading skills critical to student success. As members of our flagship education program, Institute participants will join the heart of this exciting, rigorous work.

America’s Shakespeare Exhibition

The 2016 institute will make special use of America's Shakespeare, a Folger exhibition that will take audiences on a journey through four centuries of American history, revealing Shakespeare—a man who never set foot on American soil—as our single most influential writer.  With titles like "Forging a New Nation," "Shakespeare in School," "Shakespeare and Race," and "Shakespeare and War" as headings for its material on display, the exhibit is bound to prompt strong research questions keyed to topics that teachers and students care deeply about.