Celebrating 400 Years of Shakespeare
A wonderful variety of digital resources—including some that are tied to the anniversary and others that are permanent resources, years in the making—have debuted, helping to mark this special time and to expand our intellectual and creative horizons. Ongoing Folger projects like the Shakespeare Unlimited podcast and Folger blogs like Shakespeare & Beyond chronicled the Folger anniversary events and programs and added related content as well.
For more details on each project, explore the following descriptions of new Folger online projects below, and then select the heading for each entry to see the project for yourself. You can also use these links to go to the projects directly:
Shakespeare Documented | Share Your Shakespeare Story: #MySHX400 | The Wonder of Will LIVE | Shakespeare’s World | Shakespeare in American Life | Shakespeare Unlimited | Shakespeare & Beyond | Shakespeare Anniversary Lecture Series
Partnering with the Bodleian Libraries at the University of Oxford, the British Library, the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, and The National Archives UK, the Folger launched the online resource Shakespeare Documented, the largest and most authoritative collection of primary-source materials documenting Shakespeare’s life. Nearly 500 references, found in roughly 400 print and manuscript documents, provide a rich portrait of Shakespeare in his personal and professional spheres.
Throughout The Wonder of Will: 400 Years of Shakespeare, the Folger collected Shakespeare stories—videos that shared personal experiences and connections with Shakespeare and his works. These stories, submitted by actors, teachers, and ordinary Shakespeare fans, were shared on social media using #MySHX400.
On April 23, 2016, the Folger commemorated the day of Shakespeare’s death with a special event, The Wonder of Will Live, broadcast on C-SPAN2’s Book TV. Forty-four co-host organizations directed their audiences to watch and thousands tuned in to hear Shakespeare stories from actor Kal Penn, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, National Endowment for the Humanities Chairman William D. Adams, Chancellor of DC Public Schools Kaya Henderson, and others. Afterwards, Peter Slen of Book TV hosted a national call-in show with Folger Director Michael Witmore and scholar Ellen MacKay. The show has aired 14 times, and the archived version is available to watch on the C-SPAN website.
The iTunes store, which partnered with the Folger for the event, featured a special Shakespeare page that highlighted Folger e-books, the Shakespeare Unlimited podcast, and audio recordings of the plays.
In collaboration with Zooniverse and the Oxford English Dictionary, the Folger launched a crowd-sourcing website for transcribing manuscripts from Shakespeare’s lifetime. In its first year alone, more than 2,500 registered contributors transcribed 91,000 lines of text on more than 3,000 pages. These transcriptions will be contributed to Early Modern Manuscripts Online, a free, searchable database of transcriptions and images of early modern manuscripts.
The Folger radio documentary Shakespeare in American Life, first recorded in 2007 for the Folger’s 75th anniversary, was re-broadcast in 2016 as part of The Wonder of Will. Each of the three hour-long episodes, narrated by Sam Waterston and created by Richard Paul, deepens our understanding of Shakespeare and the American identity. An estimated 200,000 people heard the documentary on NPR Worldwide and 50 public radio stations in 2016. The episodes are also available online.
Podcasts of the Shakespeare Anniversary Lecture Series, sponsored by the Folger Institute, feature leading scholars talking about Shakespeare in diverse ways. The anniversary series began with the annual Shakespeare's Birthday Lecture in 2014, given by Brian Cummings, Shakespeare, Biography, and Anti-Biography, to celebrate Shakespeare's 450th birthday. Lynne Magnusson delivered the lecture in 2015 on Shakespeare and the Language of Possibility. In 2016, the series expanded to four talks: Tiffany Stern, From Script to Stage to Script; Stephen Greenblatt, Shakespeare's Life Stories; Kim Hall, Othello was my Grandfather: Shakespeare in the African Diaspora; and Joseph Roach, Stars Down to Earth: Materializing Celebrity. The series concluded in 2017 with Michael Witmore, The Wisdom of Will, which was also the final event in the Folger's commemoration of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death.
The Folger’s Shakespeare Unlimited podcast and Shakespeare & Beyond blog shared digital complements to events at the Folger—such as a podcast episode with the Reduced Shakespeare Company, a series of blog posts from the Will & Jane curators, and a Q&A with Roomful of Teeth’s Caroline Shaw about her Tempest-inspired vocal piece—as well as events on the road. Those who could not go to Los Angeles to see the America’s Shakespeare: The Bard Goes West exhibition could still read about it on Shakespeare & Beyond or hear an interview with the curator on Shakespeare Unlimited.
Shakespeare Unlimited produced several episodes related to the First Folio tour: an interview with the curator of a companion exhibition at Gallaudet University about Shakespeare in sign language, a conversation with the Oxford professor who authenticated a recent First Folio discovery, a behind-the-scenes look at the Folger conservation lab where the books were prepped for travel, and the history of how the First Folio became a cultural icon with a dizzying price tag.
Blog posts on Shakespeare & Beyond tracked the progress of the First Folio tour and shared social media highlights from the tour stops. Other Folger blogs captured additional aspects of the anniversary, including The Collation, The Folger Spotlight, and Teaching Shakespeare.