William Shakespeare is the most famous and most written about literary figure of all time, but interestingly, little is actually know about him. What we do know about him is that he was born in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1564, married at 18, moved to London sometime between 1585-1592, published 3 books of poetry, was an actor and part owner of his theatre company, The Lord Chamberlain’s Men (later the King’s Men), and died in 1616. Shakespeare never published his own plays in his lifetime. It wasn’t until 1623 that two of his closest companions published the First Folio, containing 36 of his 37 plays.
The First Folio is the only reason we know of William Shakespeare as a playwright. One hundred years after the publication of the First Folio began the war of the editors, involving famous literary figures such as Alexander Pope and Benjamin Johnson all trying to outdo the other in their pursuit to correct Shakespeare’s First Folio. Throughout the last 400 years, Shakespeare’s plays haven’t just gone through major edits, they have also experienced major adaptations, such as changing King Lear from a tragedy to a tale with a happy ending and giving the Taming of the Shrew a sequel.
Shakespearean scholars are constantly looking for “new material” to write about. Unfortunately, some scholars are so desperate for new material that they make it themselves. Two of the most famous Shakespearean forgers are William Henry Ireland and John Payne Collier. Both claimed discoveries and made fortunes writing about it. Unluckily for both they were busted by their peers and have gone down in infamy for their deceptions.
Visit the Special Collections Department today to learn more about Shakespeare’s 400 year history.
Also, join the Special Collections Department as we enjoy a lecture given Associate Professor of English and local Shakespearen expert Dr. James Marino of Cleveland State University on the history and evolution of Shakespeare’s writing throughout the last 400 year.
Saturday, April 28 @ 1pm
Special Collections Department