Last weekend we made a charming visit to the Folger Shakespeare Library, just a stone’s throw from the U.S. Capitol. The library is renowned for having more than 70 First Folios of Shakespeare’s plays (and depending on how you count, as many as 82), including one on view under glass with a neat interactive display.
Founders Henry Clay Folger and his wife Emily Jordan Folger were obsessed with collecting the folios in the early 1900s, and today the library focuses its collection on all materials related to Shakespeare, as well as materials from 1450 to the early 1700s.
We signed up for a tour of the Reading Room, which includes the marvelous stained glass window depicting scenes from the “seven ages of man” speech in As You Like It:
All the world ’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His Acts being seven ages. …
See Morgan Freeman deliver the full speech here (3 minutes). My photo of the library window doesn’t really do it justice.
I was also fond of the statue of Puck; the base of the statue has an inscription from the character in A Midsummer-Night’s Dream, “Lord, what fools these mortals be!” Here’s its context from the play:
Captain of our fairy band,
Helena is here at hand,
And the youth, mistook by me,
Pleading for a lover’s fee.
Shall we their fond pageant see?
Lord, what fools these mortals be!
Finally, I include this marvelous bust of the Bard himself. I know there’s raging debate over which likenesses of Shakespeare are historically accurate. This one, I think, captures his artistic spirit.