Shakespeare's First Folio: A Look at an NYPL Treasure on the 400th Anniversary of the Bard's Death

Wed. Sep 28, 2016 at 5:30pm EDT
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This event is sold out, but patrons can sign up for a standby list as early as 5:00 PM at the box office, located by the venue. If seats are available, we will open up the standby line on a first come, first served basis.

One of the most treasured writers of the English language is none other than William Shakespeare, and the First Folios of his collected plays are some of the most coveted items. The Library proudly houses and preserves not one but six First Folios, a true asset to our collections. To mark the 400th anniversary of the Bard's death, the Library, in partnership with Theatre for a New Audience, invites you to join in the thrill of seeing the First Folio in person, followed by a conversation between Folger Shakespeare Library Director emerita Gail Kern Paster and Shakespeare scholar Tanya Pollard. With an introduction by Richard McCoy, Chair of TFANA’s Council of Scholars, the two will discuss the Folio’s innovative origins, its history as a wildly coveted and carefully conserved artifact, and its continued role in the robust afterlife of Shakespeare. 

The event will convene in Gottesman Hall, where a First Folio and other rare items from the Library’s Shakespeare collections will be on special display. Guests will then make their way to Celeste Auditorium, where the conversation will take place.

Gail Kern Paster took office as Director of the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C. in 2002 and retired from that position as Director emerita in July 2011. She now serves as Editor of Shakespeare Quarterly, published by the Folger Shakespeare Library. She was a Professor of English at George Washington University from 1974 to 2002. She earned a B.A., magna cum laude, at Smith College, where she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, and a Ph.D. at Yale University. She is the author of numerous scholarly articles and three books—The Idea of the City in the Age of Shakespeare (1986), The Body Embarrassed: Drama and the Disciplines of Shame in Early Modern England (1993), andHumoring the Body: Emotions and the Shakespearean Stage (2004). She is the co-editor of the Bedford Books "A Midsummer Night’s Dream”: Texts and Contexts (1998), editor of Thomas Middleton’s 1607 comedy, Michaelmas Term(2000), and co-editor (with Mary Floyd-Wilson and Katherine A. Rowe) of Reading the Early Modern Passions: Essays on Emotion (2004). She continues to pursue her scholarly interests in the cultural history of the body and the emotions. Dr. Paster has been a trustee of the Shakespeare Association of America and served as President of that organization in 2003. She was recently elected to the Board of Governors of the Folger Shakespeare Library and to the Board of Trustees of the Newberry Library, Chicago.

Tanya Pollard is Professor of English at Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center, and a member of the Council of Scholars for Theater for a New Audience.  Her books include Shakespeare’s Theater: A Sourcebook (Blackwell, 2003);Drugs and Theater in Early Modern England (Oxford, 2005); and Shakespearean Sensations: Experiencing Literature in Early Modern England, co-edited with Katharine Craik (Cambridge, 2013). With Tania Demetriou, she has co-editedMilton, Drama, and Greek Texts, a special issue of The Seventeenth Century Journal (2016), and Greek Texts on Early Modern England’s Commercial Stages, a special issue of Classical Receptions Journal coming out in January; wth Marcus Nevitt, she has co-edited Tragedy: A Reader in Theory and Criticism, coming out with Bloomsbury next year.  She is currently completing a book titled Greek Tragic Women on Shakespearean Stages, coming out with Oxford next year, and is editing Ben Jonson’s play The Alchemist for Arden Early Modern Drama.

Richard McCoy is Distinguished Professor of English at Queens College and the Graduate Center, CUNY. He earned his B.A. at Stanford University and Ph.D. at the University of California, Berkeley. He has written four books – Sir Philip Sidney: Rebellion in Arcadia (Rutgers, 1979), The Rites of Knighthood: The Literature and Politics of Elizabethan Chivalry (California, 1989), Alterations of State: Sacred Kingship in the English Reformation (Columbia, 2002), and Faith in Shakespeare (Oxford, 2013; pbk. 2015). He has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, American Council for Learned Societies, National Endowment for the Humanities, Folger Shakespeare Library, and Huntington Library. He is chair of the Council of Scholars at Theatre for a New Audience, Resident Scholar for the Shakespeare Society, and guest lecturer at the 92nd St. Y. He has also served as a speaker for Shakespeare performances for the Royal Shakespeare Company, Canada’s Stratford Shakespeare Festival, Classic Stage Company, Target Margin, Soho Rep, The Pearl, and the Public Theater.

This is the first in a series of free events co-presented by the Library and Theatre for a New Audience: public dialogues between the Library’s Shakespeare collections and TFANA’s family of artists and scholars. For more information on TFANA’s year-long celebration, 400 Years of Shakespeare, visit


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Celeste Auditorium at South Court (1st Floor) The New York Public Library, Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, 42nd Street & 5th Avenue
New York, NY 10016