Expired: First Folio: The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare

First edition of Shakespeare's plays displayed in Missoula May 9-31


“As good luck would have it” – words penned by William Shakespeare – a rare opportunity to see the actual book that contains the first collected edition of Shakespeare’s plays lands in Missoula this month.

The Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library and Montana Museum of Art and Culture present “First Folio! The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare, on National Tour from the Folger Shakespeare Library” May 9-31.

The Folger Shakespeare Library, in association with the Cincinnati Museum Center and the American Library Association, is touring the exhibition to all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico in 2016. UM is the only location in Montana to feature the exhibit. The “First Folio!” will be displayed at MMAC, which offers free admission and extended hours for the exhibit.

The First Folio is the first complete collected edition of William Shakespeare’s plays, published in 1623, seven years after his death. Compiled by two of Shakespeare’s fellow actors, it preserves 36 of the Bard’s plays, including 18 previously unpublished masterpieces – “Macbeth,” “Julius Caesar,” “Twelfth Night,” “The Tempest” and “Antony and Cleopatra,” among them.

Why go see it? “It isn’t every day we get to see a 400-year-old book,” Missoula resident and world-renowned English Renaissance literature expert Linda Woodbridge said. The exhibit also offers a great opportunity to see what print technology looked like in the first century after print was invented.

“In an age when printing methods were labor-intensive, and printing and binding were very expensive, to publish a big book of plays, by one author, made a real statement,” she said. “This elaborately printed collection shows respect.”

In conjunction with the exhibit, UM and the Missoula community will host a slate of events to celebrate all things Shakespeare. The schedule includes:

  • “First Folio” reception: 5-7 p.m. May 9 at the Montana Museum of Art and Culture; Dolce Canto performs Elizabethan-era music while visitors get a first look at the display.
  • Shakespeare at the Movies: 7:30 p.m. Mondays, May 9-23, at the Roxy Theater; a trio of films based on Shakespeare’s work includes Kenneth Branagh’s “Hamlet,” May 9; Baz Lurman’s “Romeo and Juliet,” May 16; and Joss Whedon’s “Much Ado About Nothing,” May 23. Tickets are $5-$7; order online at theroxytheater.org.
  • “The First Folio: What it Meant, What it Means”: 7-8:30 p.m. May 19 at the UM Montana Theatre, PARTV Center; Woodbridge explores the importance of the Folio for the preservation of Shakespeare’s works and discusses what printed plays meant to the Bard’s fans in his own time.
  • “Shakespeare’s Sky”: May 1-31 at the SpectrUM Discovery Area: journey back in time to view the features of the night sky that inspired Shakespeare’s works, and compare the tools we use today to Galileo’s first use of the telescope through hands-on, science-based activities.
  • “Shakespeare, Jonson, and Literary Immortality”: 7-8:30 p.m. May 26 in the UM Montana Theatre; John Hunt uses the Folio to illustrate the status and practices of writers in early modern England, and attitudes toward literary immortality found in works by Shakespeare and 17th century playwright and literary critic Ben Jonson.

Student activities also abound, including free events at the Children’s Museum Missoula, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. May 12; student actors from across Montana performing Shakespeare, May 20 on campus; and writing workshops for youth and teens, hosted by the Missoula Writing Collaborative, May 21 (email [email protected] to register). Seventh graders see a fight scene from “Romeo and Juliet” and learn more about Shakespeare’s legacy May 10-12.

For teachers, a workshop explores Best Practices for Teaching Shakespeare, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. May 21 (email [email protected]).

The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at UM hosts a special session for people 50 or older on the Folio at 3 p.m. May 25 (call 243-2905); and Fact and Fiction offers a discussion of The Millionaire and the Bard: Henry Folger’s Obsessive Hunt for Shakespeare’s First Folio by Andrea Mays, 7 p.m. May 25.

For more information, call 243-2019 or visit www.lib.umt.edu/folio.