Celebrating 400 years of Shakespeare’s first folio

November 8th, 2023 marks the 400 year publishing anniversary of William Shakespeare’s first folio. When William Shakespeare died in 1616, only about half of his plays had been published. It wasn’t until 1623 that a number of his colleagues, supporters, and friends raised money to print a folio edition of some of his collected works. Without the first folio, plays like Macbeth, Julius Caesar, As You Like It, and many more would have been lost to the passing of time. To celebrate that 400th anniversary, this month the Ashland branch of the Jackson County Library Services is hosting Shakespeare themed events, geared towards sharing the beauty and influence of the Bard’s works.  

Shakespeare not only had a heavy influence on the world of theater, but also on the shaping of the English language as a whole. 

“I read that they think he introduced -or maybe he was the first person to write  down- 1,700 words, and some of them are words we still use, some of them are words nobody uses anymore.” Ellie Anderson is the head of adult services at the Ashland branch of the Jackson County Library Services, and played a big part in organizing this month’s events in celebration of Shakespeare’s legacy

“He had a strong influence on standardizing spelling, because before the dictionary was written there wasn’t a lot of standardization in language and spelling.”  

Anderson explained these events are designed not only to honor the impact of Shakespeare’s work, but also to make that work more accessible. 

“A lot of people are scared of Shakespeare, you know? And I think that getting a chance to play with it, getting a chance to know a little  bit more about it from different angles is really wonderful, because Shakespeare shouldn’t be scary. Shakespeare’s silly, Shakespeare is crude, Shakespeare is funny, Shakespeare is profound and very, very human.”

For the entire month of November, patrons can stop by the Ashland branch to pick up a free sonnet or an insult. Then on November 14th, local actor and dramaturg Barry Kraft, will lead an exploration of the first folio. Things get creative on November 16th, with the “Make your own Commedia Dell’Arte Mask” event, where patrons will learn to make masks inspired by the characters of the Renaissance era Italian theater style known as Commedia Dell’Arte. 

On November 19th the “Speak the Speech” event invites folks to share their favorite sonnet, monologue, or soliloquy with fellow Shakespeare lovers.Cultural and Community Liaison for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF), Tara A. Houston, will speak about the staging and design approach to Shakespeare’s work on November 28th. Finally the month’s events wrap up with music from Shakespeare’s time, featuring Renaissance and Medieval music from local nonprofit Musica Matrix. 

While these events are geared towards adults, everyone is welcome to come, learn and enjoy the legacy of William Shakespeare. 

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