Shakespeare’s First Folio

Playing Parolles

It is good to have friends who care about your work. William Shakespeare had those colleagues in John Heminges and Henry Condell, who in 1621 decided to immortalize their friend by compiling his work into what we know today as the “First Folio.” Heminges and Condell acted alongside Shakespeare for The King’s Men, the company for which the Bard spent the majority of his life working. This close working relationship gave Heminges and Condell unique access to Shakespeare’s manuscripts. The compilation they created would have been lost to time had they not worked to preserve it.

According to J. M. Pressley at the Shakespeare Resource Center there are only 233 original copies of the “First Folio” in existence, and of those only 40 are complete. “First Folio! The Book That Gave Us Shakespeare” will make it’s way to the North Carolina Museum of History as an exhibit on loan from Washington D.C.’s Folger Shakespeare Library on May 7 and remain until May 30.

The pomp and circumstance surrounding this traveling valuable tome is all to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. Leading up to the arrival the museum partnered with Raleigh’s Burning Coal Theatre Company to present and produce staged readings of all 38 of his plays, back-to-back for five days straight. The presenting groups ranged from high school and college theater groups to professional companies.

We wanted to join in the celebration and figured since a Shakespeare assignment in high school or college is a foregone conclusion (after all he gave us that phrase in “Othello”) we’d go to the sources of those assignments. We called on teachers, professors, and authors from across the state and asked them if they could only read or assign three of Shakespeare’s plays which three would they go with and why. Their answers may just make you revisit William Shakespeare.