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Located in Chatham, Illinois
Chatham Area Public Library
Thursday: 9:00 am - 8:00 pm
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Library Lines 11/16/23

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Article Date
November 16, 2023

This month marks the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's First Folio, published in 1623. According to the reference book Chase’s Calendar of Events 2023, Mr. William Shakespeare’s Comedies & Tragedies was the first gathering and printing of 36 of Shakespeare’s plays in a folio (a format usually reserved for royal or religious texts). 19 of Shakespeare’s plays had been previously printed more inexpensively, but were often misattributed or had considerable errors. However, two of Shakespeare’s friends and fellow actors collected his plays from diverse publishers; then worked from memory to expand stage directions, divide them into five acts, and categorize them as comedies, tragedies, and histories– as we know them today. The folio was a luxury item, with around 750 copies printed and sold. There are 235 confirmed folios that exist today (and 82 of them are at the Folger Shakespeare Library in D.C.). Surprisingly, no two first folios look alike, as the text was altered as it was proofed during printing.

While the Chatham Area Public Library does not hold a First Folio, it does have Shakespeare in spades! We have individual volumes of plays by Shakespeare, including all of your favorites: MacBeth, Julius Caesar, Romeo and Juliet, All’s Well that Ends Well, King Lear, Othello, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Hamlet, MacBeth, The Merchant of Venice, As You Like It, Much Ado About Nothing, King Lear, King Richard 2 and 3, King Henry 4 and 5… and more! Many of these are presented side-by-side with a modern version of the text; many are also available as an audio version on CD. There are also many DVDs of Shakespeare’s work including Romeo and Juliet, the Tempest, and the BBC series The Hollow Crown, an adaptation of the History plays. We have two great quote books of Shakespeare if you are looking for some “good bits”: Shakespeare On Love: quotations from the plays, sonnets, and poems, and Something Rich and Strange: a treasury of Shakespeare’s verse. And if one book is not enough, a patron can always check out The Complete Works of Shakespeare

Another great thing about Shakespeare is how his plays have been adapted to our modern age. The Library holds many of these retellings, as well. In New Boy, by Tracy Chevalier, “the tragedy of Othello is transposed to a 1970s suburban Washington schoolyard, where kids fall in and out of love with each other before lunchtime, and practice a casual racism picked up from their parents and teachers.” Anne Tyler’s Vinegar Girl is a modern retelling of The Taming of the Shrew that “follows the experiences of a preschool teacher who alienates others by speaking her mind and who is expected by her eccentric father to marry his assistant to prevent the young man's deportation.” A Thousand Acres, by Jane Smiley, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1992. This powerful reimagining of King Lear “centers on a wealthy Iowa farmer who decides to divide his farm among his three daughters..” Christopher Moore’s Fool is a very different re-telling of the same tale. “In this comical retelling of Shakespeare's great drama, King Lear banishes his daughter Cordelia after she refuses to pledge her loyalty to him. The court's loveable bard and jester, Pocket, risks life, limb, and a possible war in an attempt to push Cordelia back into the king's good graces.” Christopher Moore also recently published Shakespeare for Squirrels. There are many more retellings available, such as Macbeth (Jo Nesbo); The Last True Poets of the Sea (Julia Drake); The Story of Edgar Sawtelle (David Wroblewski); and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead (Tom Stoppard). 

Also, if you are interested in learning more about Shakespeare (the man, the myth, and the legend), be sure to ask one of our librarians to show you to the Shakespeare shelf! We look forward to seeing you at the Chatham Area Public Library.