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Amanda Whiteley ’19 takes a turn reading from Hamlet at the Middlebury First Folio Festival on Feb. 18.

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To Be, or Not To Be [video]

February 23, 2016

MIDDLEBURY, Vt. -- For most of the month of February, a copy of Shakespeare's First Folio from the Folger Library has been on display at the Middlebury College Museum of Art. The Folio, displayed securely under glass, has been open to a page from Hamlet that shows the famous "To be, or not to be" soliloquy.

During the First Folio Festival on February 18, when hundreds of Vermonters gathered at Middlebury to celebrate all things Shakespeare, we asked several Middlebury students, faculty, and staff members to read for us from the famous speech. In a patchwork of different voices and ages, the volunteers offered their best on-the-spot renditions of Hamlet.

For the past month, the First Folio has provided the impetus for a larger community celebration of Shakespeare involving the campus community, area school groups, and interested visitors from around the state. The First Folio includes 36 Shakespeare plays. Eighteen of them, including Julius CaesarMacbeth, andTwelfth Night, would likely have been lost without the creation of the First Folio. Compiled by two of Shakespeare’s friends and theater colleagues, it was published in 1623–seven years after his death in 1616. Just 233 copies of the First Folio survive today, 82 of which are in the Folger collection in Washington, D.C.

This year, in honor of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death, the Folger is sending out a total of 18 First Folios across the country. Some of them will make multiple stops so that every U.S. state will host a First Folio at some point during the tour. Middlebury College is the host site for Vermont, and is among the first 10 sites where the First Folio is on display. The exhibit locations include 23 museums, 20 universities, five public libraries, three historical societies, and a theater.

The First Folio exhibition at the museum runs through February 28.


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