I will heare that play

Published  by us  in time for the longest day, we’re delighted to be announcing the publication of A Midsummer Night’s Dream from the Bodleian First Folio on 24 June, the traditional quarter day midsummer. However you celebrate the longest days of the year, we wish you happy revels. May none of you wake with a donkey’s head!

MIDSOMMER Nights Dreame

(AS THE FIRST FOLIO TITLES IT)

One of the most enduringly popular of Shakespeare’s plays, A Midsummer Night’s Dream is taught in many schools and  on one website at least  makes it into fourth place on a list of Shakespeare’s “top ten greatest” plays.

Colman's mustard advertisement from: http://johnjohnson.chadwyck.co.uk/

A Midsummer Night’s Dream wide reach, in a Colman’s mustard advertisement from 1900: http://johnjohnson.chadwyck.co.uk/

The charm of its fairies, its quarelling lovers who pair up in the final act, and the enduring comedy of its rude “Mcehanicals”* make it a particular favourite for school and outdoor productions. Yet this is not a play of caprice and harmless make-believe: there is deliberate cruelty, manipulation, a custody battle, and a forced marriage. As Emma Smith points out in a podcast, the cross lovers explore sex and sexuality rather than celebrate marriage, sometimes to the shock of an audience expecting woodland wit and whimsy.

Theatre programme for A Midsummer Night's Dream, 1900, from: http://johnjohnson.chadwyck.co.uk/

A whimsical theatre programme for A Midsummer Night’s Dream, 1900, from: http://johnjohnson.chadwyck.co.uk/

First performed in the mid 1590s, this play was published in quarto versions in 1600 and 1619. You can read and compare them on the British Library’s excellent Shakespeare in Quarto website.

The version in the Bodleian First Folio has been well read. One page (folio O2) has a damaged corner. Two tears have been patched with heavy paper, probably in the early eighteenth century, in an attempt to repair the damage. Actually, though a careful repair by someone who cared for the book (possibly a member of the Turbutt family), the heavy paper risked causing further damage by putting a greater strain on the paper supporting it. This repair, and others like it, were stabilized by colleagues in Conservation and Collection Care.

Find out more

Emma Smith’s podcast on the play from her Approaching Shakespeare series uses modern and early modern understandings of dreams to uncover less expected themes of the play.

Dorothea Kehler’s 2012 book, A Midsummer Night’s DreamCritical Essays, looks at the play’s critical and performance history, and is available online through Google Books.

Our colleagues at the Folger Shakespeare Library have created excellent teaching resources on the play.

Notable film adaptations of A Midsummer Night’s Dream include those directed by:

Musical works inspired by the play include:

Wikipedia has a list of ballet and works of fine art inspired by the play.

If you are in Oxford this July, you can watch Tomahawk Theatre‘s production of the play at Oxford Castle.

* A typographic error in the First Folio renders “Mechanicals” like this (Comedies, p. 153).

The brightest Heauen of Inuention

To celebrate the end of the week that saw the launch of the updated Bodleian First Folio website with the introduction of digital text, its talented designer, Monica Messaggi Kaya, got creative with the Prologue of Henry V and the famous engraved portrait of Shakespeare.

Shakespeare - Henry V prologue

All the images and text, which are downloadable from the website, are released under a Creative Commons Attribution licence.

Make your own creative use of them, and email us the results!

For Harry, England, and…

Read the First FolioThanks to the generous donations of our supporters, last year we published a digital facsimile of the Bodleian First Folio of Shakespeare’s plays, where you can experience the first collection of his works in your own home, or download its images to your own device.

This year, to mark Shakespeare’s 450th birthday, we’re delighted to announce a new phase of the project, to publish digital editions of each of the plays. This has been made possible by a lead donation from Dr Geoffrey Eibl-Kaye, with generous support from Dallas Shakespeare Club, James Barber, and another private individual.

Thank you to you all.

We’re excited to be launching our serial publication of Shakespeare’s plays with Henry V: not just for Harry, England, and St. George, but for everyone.

As the digital editions of the plays are published, you will be able to read and reformat them more easily, search across them, and produce play-scripts and cue-scripts.

Henry V

Or

The Life of Henry The Fift.

(as the First Folio titles it)

Henry V is a play of paradoxes.

Sometimes performances interpret the text as jingoistic, highlighting its calls to arms from an impassioned Henry, who understands how to inspire and rouse his troops. Yet a close reading of the text also reveals a petulant and calculating king, who uses his insight to manipulate the people around him, and is capable of denying former friends.

The audience is taken from London to northern France, via Southampton, and in this wide sweep, the Chorus keeps reminding us that we are in the physical space of a theatre.

As the play’s title in its first printed edition (the 1600 quarto) describes, and its most memorable speeches support, this is a play about war: The Cronicle History of King Henry the fift, With his battell fought at Agin Court in France. Together with Auntient Pistoll. But it includes two affecting accounts of deaths (Sir John Falstaff’s, and the Duke of York’s), and a touching (and politically unnecessary) courting scene between Henry and the French princess Katharine (whom he is promised in marriage as the first article in the peace treaty).

Henry shows courteous respect to the Herald who delivers messages from the French camp, yet orders the French prisoners to be killed when he believes the battle is going against him: notably, this happens before he discovers the French have killed the boys behind the English lines.

Henry V and the Bodleian First Folio

In keeping with the many voices of the Bodleian First Folio, Henry V has a particular and poignant place in the life of one of the major figures in the book’s history.

Gladwyn Turbutt was the undergraduate at Magdalen College, University of Oxford who, by chance, brought the book back to the Library for advice on its binding in 1905. He subsequently worked with Falconer Madan and Strickland Gibson on a scholarly description of the book for publication.

When the First World War broke out, Gladwyn Turbutt (by then an architect specializing in ecclesiastical work) signed up. He later died at the First Battle of Ypres, leading an advance.*

Through a trying march from Le Havre towards the front line, Lieutenant Turbutt is reported as having used his knowledge of Shakespeare to entertain and encourage his men:

Mr. Gladwyn had been sent from Aldershot in command of a draft of 100 men to fill up the gaps in the 2nd Battalion. On landing at Havre, in France, these 100 men set out for the fighting line, having to march a large part of the way. […] To them during their halt he told them of how Henry V of England invaded France, and won the great battle of Agincourt.**

 

We hope you enjoy the play. Let us know what you think. Join the conversation here at our blog, or write a guest blog post and email us.

Find out more

James Mardock’s introduction to his edition of Henry V at Internet Shakespeare Editions is an excellent overview of the play and its textual history.

If you prefer your literary criticism in podcast form, Emma Smith’s
podcast
on the play from her Approaching Shakespeare series is brilliantly engaging.

Notable film versions of Henry V include:

* I am very grateful to Emeritus Professor Richard Sheppard, for sending me details of Gladwyn Turbutt’s war.

** The quotation above is taken from Turbutt’s anonymous obituary in his local parish magazine, of Shirland, Derbyshire (Bodleian Library Records, c. 1262).

Evolving Engagement

Colleagues in the Bodleian have worked with IT Services to produce a term-long series of talks, classes and workshops, Engage: Social Media Michaelmas, run by Kate Lindsay with help from Stephen Eyre.

I was delighted to be invited to talk today to a lively audience about the Bodleian First Folio and its two public funding campaigns, 1905/6 and 2012.

Talk description

Evolving Engagement: the many lives of the Bodleian First Folio

In the winter of 1623, a copy of Shakespeare’s newly printed First Folio arrived at the Bodleian Library from London. In the 1660s it left the Library and was lost from view until 1905, when an undergraduate from Magdalen College brought a tattered copy of an early Shakespeare Folio into the Library for advice on its binding.

Inspired by the research of Emma Smith (Hertford College) into the book’s history, Sprint for Shakespeare was a public engagement and funding campaign. Through print, broadcast, and social media, it promoted engagement with Shakespeare, the First Folio, and current research. It raised £20,000 to conserve, photograph, and publish a high quality digital facsimile online, freely available to anyone with internet access. It continues to promote use and understanding of the First Folio and its place in Shakespeare studies, amongst other activities running workshops for teachers and actors.

Pip Willcox (a digital editor at BDLSS, Bodleian Libraries) conceived and managed the project, working closely with Emma Smith, and with colleagues across the Library and the University. In this talk Pip outlines the cultural significance of this first edition of Shakespeare’s plays, relating the winding history of the Bodleian’s copy, and focusing on the two public campaigns the book sparked, in 1905 and 2012.

Slides

This is a reduced size version of the slides from my talk, with images removed where we don’t have permissions to reproduce them.

 

 

How many First Folios do we need?

Emma Smith, Hertford College, University of Oxford, writes…

First Folios are in the news again. Senate House Library at the University of London is consulting on whether to sell a collection of the four Shakespeare Folios.

There has been a general outcry from scholars, alumni and library staff – and one of the points of contention has been Senate House’s description of these books as “essentially duplicates”.

Now it is true that there are over two hundred extant copies of the First Folio (we don’t know what the initial print run was, but estimates vary between around 700 and 1200). But, as many bibliographers have been keen to point out, none of these can be called a duplicate, in part because of variations deriving from the printing press, and also because of the way that the individual history, the life experiences of each volume, are recorded in its copy-specific features.

The Bodleian has two copies of the First Folio, and one has been digitized, following a public appeal. We can use this copy to identify some of its unique features – and imagine their equivalents in Senate House’s Stirling copies.

1. Binding

One of the important things about the Bodleian First Folio is that it is in its original binding. Look at the first four images which show the calfskin binding – done by the Oxford binder William Wildgoose early in 1624. You can see the damage on it, including the rip that marks where the chain which kept it secure in the library was removed (when it left the library, perhaps because it was considered a “duplicate”). You can also see the use of scrap paper to stiffen the paste-down.

2. Manuscript additions

Different readers annotate their books in different ways, and Shakespeare’s First Folio is no exception. Meisei University owns a heavily annotated copy which shows an early reader summarizing plot and speeches as he worked through the volume; many copies of the Folio carry doodles, signatures, corrections, annotations, underlinings, etc., which are all clues to readers’ engagement with the text. On image 4 of the Bodleian’s First Folio you can see a manuscript version of a missing leaf (the poem ‘To the Reader’ by Ben Jonson that is opposite the titlepage, which you can see in one of the Folger’s copies). Someone has also added another poem we haven’t been able to trace beyond this copy, so it may be that it represents an amateur addition to the work.

3. Wear and tear

Book conservators and librarians often seem as if they would really like books to be pristine, unsullied by readers. But what’s so fascinating about our copy is that it shows a good deal of wear and tear. You’ll see as you turn the digital pages that corners are often knocked off, that there are tears in the pages, and sometimes that passages are missing or obscured. These may give us some insight into which plays have been most eagerly read during the life of the book.

4. Stop-press corrections

Like most printed books of this period, the First Folio was corrected, if at all, while the sheets were being printed, and thus bound copies of a work often contain different combinations of corrected and uncorrected states. Our Folio, for instance, has an error in the stage direction when Lear dies at the very end of King Lear. You can see that it has been corrected in the Folger copy.

So, how many First Folios do we need? As many as possible, because we’ve only just begun to give this most influential of books this kind of copy-specific attention, and to think about printed books from this period as unique transmitters – not so much from author to reader, but from reader to reader, through the centuries.

Emma Smith
Hertford College, University of Oxford

Let vs from point to point this storie know

All’s Well that Ends Well, V, iii

The Digital Humanities at Oxford Summer School starts today. As well as bringing an exciting group of digital humanists to Oxford, it includes an evening poster reception at St Luke’s Chapel tomorrow evening, where many delegates and organizers will present projects and research.

We are delighted to be presenting the First Folio project there. You can sneak a preview of (a very reduced version, to make it easily downloadable of) our poster [PDF].

“furnish and instruct great Teachers”

(Henry VIII, I, ii)

Emma SmithAfter a successful public fund-raising campaign to digitise the Bodleian’s copy of Shakespeare’s First Folio, the next stage of the project is to involve different groups of readers and help them to enjoy this great free resource.

On 22 June a workshop for teachers at KS5 on ‘Teaching with the First Folio’ took place at Hertford College. After introductions to the project and to the book from Pip Willcox and Emma Smith, colleagues worked on lesson plans showing how they might use the digitised folio in different teaching contexts.

We had contributions on a wonderful range of topics, from using stage directions to understand the power relations of a scene in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, to the toggling between ‘thee’ and ‘you’ in speeches in The Tempest. We discussed ways that the marriage of Rosalind and Orlando at the end of As You Like It isn’t as straight as we might assume if we look at the Folio texts, and the ways that editors make decisions to clarify, but also to disambiguate, possible readings.

Post-its
 26 colleagues attended: all said that they could see ways of using the resource in their teaching, and were excited and motivated to do so.

You can see some of their reactions in the post-it notes pictured (we especially liked “Inspirational: can’t wait to get started doing it!”).

Their lesson resources will be added to the First Folio site, under the same Creative Commons license as the images (CC-BY), over the summer.

post-its 5a

 

Thanks to all who made the workshop such a success. Funding permitting, we have plans for another teachers’ day, and a day working with actors to understand the Folio’s performance possibilities.


Henry Bew, Pip Willcox, James Methven

Emma Smith

The Darkness Lurking Beneath: Romeo and Juliet

 

Guest blogger, Laura Marriott, writes…

One of the most thumbed plays in the Bodleian’s copy of the first folio, which can now be found online, is Romeo and Juliet. But what is it about this tragedy that continues to resonate so powerfully across the centuries? Typically seen as an all consuming romance, the play concludes with the deaths of two star crossed lovers, who could see no future that involved themselves without the other by their side. It has undoubtedly cast a shadow over popular ides of romance since its first showing, with many of its key themes surviving in popular romantic culture today. From Jane Austen’s tales of confusion being righted in marriage to the appropriate person to nearly every Hollywood rom-com with it’s happily ever after.

However surely this is missing the key part, the tragedy that made this one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays. The multiple deaths and suicides from Romeo and Juliet seem to have fallen by the wayside with most romances now ending with the wedding itself, cutting off the flow of blood before it has even begun. If you puncture the surface of Romeo and Juliet you can see the darkness lurking beneath. Even before you get to the high mortality rate of its characters the play throws up troubling questions about the difference between Elizabethan society and our own.

Starting with the question of age. It is repeated throughout the play that Juliet will shortly be 14 when her parents think she is ready to marry, but no age is ever given for either of Juliet’s potential suitors, Paris and Romeo. It is perfectly conceivable that they were older than her, possible even in their twenties or thirties, which shines a slightly different light on our star-crossed lovers. This is rounded off by the fact that Romeo and Juliet do not actually see each other properly until they are married. When they first meet they are wearing masks, then it is by moonlight for the infamous balcony scene, and then Juliet is hidden behind a veil as they marry. However when you then consider how little time they spend with each other during the play, this is perhaps less surprising.

The only modern production that I have seen that brought the darkness to light and juxtaposed it beautifully with the central love theme was Romeo and Juliet in Baghdad, performed by the Iraqi Theatre Company at the RSC last year. This version had an aging Paris as would-be suitor and although this Romeo knew his Juliet (and had certainly seen her before) the innocence is retained. They are not physically intimate, and rely on the language of passion and elevating of objects – a silken scarf that passes between them – to illustrate their feelings for each other.

Set in a background of a family feud in war-torn Baghdad, Romeo and Juliet’s delicate love story is heightened by the sharp contrast of the insecure, dangerous setting. This is further emphasized by the use of real gun shots which shook the audience out of their preconceptions and made one really aware of the danger lurking beneath if these two were to pursue their love affair. There is no elopement and suicide for this pair of star-crossed lovers, but instead a deadly bomb blast. They die together having been unable to live together, and this ending, perhaps more than most, highlights that their fate is out of their hands, that there could be no happy ever after for Romeo and Juliet.

Laura Marriott

Lefties or Righties? The handwriting of Shakespeare’s publishers

Guest blogger, Ben Higgins, writes…

Graphology – the scientific-sounding name for guessing a person’s character traits from their handwriting – is rubbish. This from an official forensic handwriting analyst during a fascinating talk at the CEMS conference on Describing Early Modern Handwriting last week. For me, this was something of a relief. My crabby little scrawl is far, far worse than the reasonably neat italic of Edward Blount who probably lead the group that published the First Folio. Blount’s writing is pictured below on a short receipt in the State Papers archive – the scrap survives because Blount was a key trade contact for several leading diplomats, dealing not just in books and manuscripts, but an eclectic assortment of artworks, seeds, and treacle.

Edward Blount hand

Samples of handwriting for all four (or five, if you count both Jaggards) publishers of Shakespeare’s folio do survive, scattered around. And, though we can’t tell how organised, religious or in love they were in 1623 from these samples, Tom Davis, the forensic expert I mentioned earlier (his website gives an insight into a truly remarkable career), did mention you can usually tell if someone is right- or left-handed, by the direction of their short, horizontal strokes. The cross of a lower-case t, for instance, or the bar in an upper-case A. If you’re a leftie, you probably cross these letters with a stroke moving from right to left; the reverse is also true.

Blount Crossed tees

Edward Blount, then, was probably right-handed, like me. See the way his stroke fades out to the right of those two ts? A bit of a shame that; he also published first editions of Montaigne, Marlowe, Charron and Cervantes, and I’d quite like him to have been a creative-genius leftie type.

And the other publishers? I don’t have a proper sample of Isaac Jaggard‘s handwriting to hand, I’m afraid, but a closer look at the ts and As of the other two (John Smethwick and William Aspley), confirms they were also probably right-handed chaps.

John Smethwick's italic handwriting and signature, from his original will

John Smethwick’s italic handwriting and signature, from his original will

William Aspley's hand and signature, also from his original will

William Aspley’s hand and signature, also from his original will

Three quick final points about this handwriting: the first a disclaimer. Pip Willcox, digital editor of the Sprint for Shakespeare project, reminds me that in the nineteenth century, students were discouraged from writing left-handed. I don’t know whether this disapproval was already entrenched in the Elizabethan grammar schools Shakespeare’s publishers attended, but would love to hear from anyone who does.

Secondly – the reason handwriting samples survive for each of the folio publishers is because they were an elite bunch. Their signatures appear on official documents, in diplomatic correspondence, and most of them accrued a large enough estate to warrant writing a will.

The majority of stationers from this time left little or no traces in the documentary archive, and this is one index to the significance of the folio syndicate within their peer group.

Secondly, in his will, dated 1640 and pictured above, William Aspley specifically named his most valuable copyrights in bequests to relatives. Several authors and works are mentioned: the theologian John Boys (the dean of Canterbury, not the Cambridge Greek professor), the French philosopher Pierre Charron, and the popular preacher Roger Fenton. Shakespeare, however, did not make this list. Meaning that by 1640, Aspley thought it was not worth specifically naming Shakespeare’s plays in his bequests. Which in hindsight, given the bidding wars over Shakespeare’s rights in the time of Jacob Tonson, his relatives may not have thanked him for.

Ben Higgins

 

Teaching with Shakespeare’s First Folio

A Workshop for Teachers at KS5

We are delighted to announce a free workshop for teachers, led by Dr Emma Smith, whose research inspired our First Folio project.

You can download a flyer [PDF] for this event. Please help spread the word!

This workshop is focused around the publically funded digitized copy of the Bodleian Library’s First Folio of Shakespeare’s plays. The aim is to help teachers devise teaching resources using the digitized First Folio, by sharing ideas with colleagues, and drawing upon the expertise of the University.

Where: Hertford College, Oxford OX1 3BW

When: 11.00—15.30, Saturday, 22 June 2013

The workshop is open to any teacher, and is particularly aimed at English or Drama teachers at KS5. Please note that places are limited, and will be offered to the first applicants. We will provide refreshments, lunch, and a contribution to travel expenses.

We ask participants to bring their ideas and expertise to the workshop to collaborate in creating teaching resources based on the First Folio, and give us permission to publish them online (fully credited to their authors) to help other teachers. It would be helpful if participants could bring a wifi-enabled laptop with them: please let us know if this is a problem.

Programme:

  • 11.00—11.30 Arrival and coffee
  • 11.30—13.00 Shakespeare in Print (a talk by Dr Emma Smith, Hertford College, University of Oxford)
  • 13.00—14.00 Lunch
  • 14.00—15.30 Resource planning session

To book a place, or if you would like further information, please email us: shakespeare@bodleian.ox.ac.uk.

If you have particular plays you’d like to hear about, as well as if you have any particular requirements (for example of access or diet), let us know when you write!