The year 2023 marks the 400th anniversary of the publication of Shakespeare’s First Folio, the collection his completed works. His plays have been part of our lives—quoted in the taverns of 16th-century London, sparking the theatre riots of 19th-century New York City, performed in the American Wild West, and filling stages and screens across the globe today.
Shakespeare created worlds out of words that inform and shape our language and our culture. His histories, tragedies, and comedies capture the human condition, explore what it means to love and to hate, and display the humorous and absurd sides of life.
Tudor and Shakespeare scholar Carol Ann Lloyd-Stanger goes “inside Shakespeare” to examine the playwright and his plays through a series of illustrated lectures, an analysis of his use of language, and clips of Shakespearian productions. The daylong program is equally suited for those who seek an introduction to Shakespeare and his works and for fans who wish to deepen their appreciation and enjoyment of the Bard.
Lloyd-Stanger is the former manager of visitor education at the Folger Shakespeare Library.
9:30–10:45 a.m. What Makes Shakespeare “Shakespeare”?
What is it about Shakespeare that grabs our attention and won’t let it go? How did Shakespeare, a glove-maker’s son living hundreds of years ago, create plays that still engage us today? Why do his plays stand out from those of his contemporaries and other playwrights through the centuries? The actor, playwright, and shareholder in the Globe Theater was a product of his time, but he created characters and plays that are timeless. Thanks to the publication of the First Folio, we still have his plays to enjoy.
11 a.m.–12:15 p.m. The Histories: “All is true”?
Shakespeare was not a historian. Instead, he used history to ask questions that reflect the concerns of his time (and our own): What is power? Who will gain power, and what will they do with it? Shakespeare creates portraits of great leaders such as Henry V, and poor ones like Richard II, with such resonance that his works are included in modern military training. His plays color the way we see such figures as Richard III, raising questions about the place of story in history.
12:15–1:15 p.m. Break
1:15–2:30 p.m. The Tragedies: “For in that sleep of death what dreams may come?”
Writing during a time of ongoing religious upheaval, Shakespeare explored life and death through his tragedies. His characters take center stage to examine the meaning, implications, and permanence of death. Told with chills and thrills, witches and ghosts, and blood and gore, Shakespeare’s tragedies are some of the most popular plays of all time.
2:45–4 p.m. The Comedies: What “might have well made our sport a comedy?”
Shakespeare uses and challenges conventions of theatrical comedy to create magical worlds. His comedies celebrate life and love in ways that still resonate with us today. Plots often involve mistaken identities, disguises, and cross-dressing, and center on impossible relationships that somehow lead to a happy ending. But these comic works are also complicated and question the promised happy endings in ways modern audiences understand.