Shakespeare’s First Folio Coming to Campus

O for a Muse of fire, that would ascend
The brightest heaven of invention,
A kingdom for a stage, princes to act
And monarchs to behold the swelling scene!
Henry V, by William Shakespeare

(Photo: Folger Shakespeare Library)

To mark the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death, the Folger Shakespeare Library has arranged for a nationwide tour of the Bard of Avon’s First Folio in 2016—and the University of Oregon has been selected as one of only fifty-two locations nationwide where the folio will be displayed.

The First Folio will reside at the University of Oregon for four weeks, and will be open to the famous “To be or not to be” soliloquy from Hamlet. To earn the right to host the folio, the UO had to propose a series of Shakespeare-related programs for the public, and prove that it could provide suitable security for the rare work. When copies have come up for sale in the past, they have sold for approximately $5 million.

The exact dates the UO will host the First Folio will be announced later this year.

Published in 1623 by two performers in Shakespeare’s acting company “The King’s Men,” the collection contains more than thirty of his plays, including Hamlet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Many of the plays—including Macbeth, Twelfth Night, and As You Like It—were published for the very first time in the folio. Of the 750 copies originally published, fewer than 240 survive worldwide today.

Washington DC’s Folger Shakespeare Library has partnered with the Cincinnati Museum Center and the American Library Association to bring the folio to every state in the US, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.