By Aliyah Kiesler
In 1623, the first folio of Shakespeare’s work was put together. At the time, most of his plays were shown and it was the premiere of 18 of them. Earlier last year, Drew was chosen to be the only place in New Jersey where one could view the book and be a part of the celebration of Shakespeare’s fantastic works and furthermore, to celebrate his life and the anniversary of his death.
This book of plays was and still is considered by scholars, professors and students alike to be the one of the most valuable books ever created, especially since only 233 copies survived out of 800. The fact that Drew was chosen is an incredible opportunity. Some may have had no idea that this event was even going to happen while others have been working towards their dreams and goals for a long time to get to this event in October.
These dreams have been successfully fulfilled by all three people. Professor Louis Hamilton feels as though, with the help of Dean Chris Taylor, Professor Chris Ceraso, and Professor Kim Rhodes, his part in this process has been only a small yet vital piece of making this First Folio happen.
“It has provided the opportunity to connect areas of great scholarly interest to me – the Reformation, the beliefs and religious practices or ordinary people, and urban life – to the work of one of the great creative minds the world has produced, whose plays and poetry have been part of my life since childhood,” Hamilton said when asked what the folio meant to him personally.
He stated that while theatre is not his forte, he is very excited for the theatre department and seeing all their hard work come together in the end. As for his contribution to the Shakespeare Folio, he learned a lot from teaching a class on Shakespearean England last semester as well as traveling to Washington D.C. with other professors in order to work in “one of the great archives in North America.”
Dan LaPenta, the director of “Hamlet,” expressed his appreciation for the occurrence of the Folio in a slightly different tone. He said that if the Folio wasn’t coming to Drew, he would not have had the bravery to direct Hamlet for this has been one of his favorite plays since high school, which was over 45 years ago. Now that he is finally on this journey, he is incredibly excited, humbled and honored to take on such a brilliant piece of literature.
Nathan Schwartz, who is an English major and is taking on the part of Hamlet, said that “when you truly delve into a Shakespeare play, it’s hard not to grow reverence for his mastery of language.” The character of Hamlet really resonates with Schwartz in many different ways and that is how he knows that this experience is a good one. He thinks that the combination of the Folio being here, “Hamlet” showing, and the overall energy both things bring to this campus will be fantastic to be apart of. Schwartz added that even his friend is flying from Australia to be a part of the celebration, which in his words, is “warranted enthusiasm!”
All three professors stated how important the First Folio is for our society, Drew’s community and for them personally. They all agreed that if we did not have the book, we probably would not even have many of Shakespeare’s plays. Without the First Folio, it is very likely that Shakespeare wouldn’t be as culturally important. The whole literary world as we know it would be different which is “an alternative reality that is impossible to imagine” as Hamilton put it.
Shakespeare’s First Folio is, arguably, the most exciting thing that will happen to Drew all year. Please come and celebrate Shakespeare by going to see the Folio in Mead Hall and the production of Hamlet from Oct. 19 – 22 and from Oct. 26 – 29 in the Dorothy Young Center for the Arts. If you want to be apart of this magical celebration, you could be a Docent for the Folio itself. For more information, please contact Kim Rhodes at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo Courtesy of Drew.edu
Sept. 16, 2016