Stage set for rare show of Shake­speare’s clas­sic plays

China Daily (USA) - - WORLD - By AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS in Boston, Mas­sachusetts

The public is get­ting a rare peak at first and early edi­tions of some of Wil­liam Shake­speare’s most beloved plays.

The Boston Public Li­brary is com­mem­o­rat­ing the 400th an­niver­sary of the Bard’s death with Shake­speare Unau­tho­rized, a free ex­hi­bi­tion that opens on Friday. The li­brary fa­mously holds a copy of the so-called First Fo­lio, the ear­li­est pub­lished col­lec­tion of Shake­speare’s works.

Early “quar­tos,” or book­lets for in­di­vid­ual works like A Mid­sum­mer Night’s Dream, Ham­let and The Mer­chant of Venice, are also among the high­lights of the ex­hi­bi­tion.

“These are the books that all mod­ern Shake­speare texts are based on,” says Jay Moschella, the li­brary’s cu­ra­tor for rare books. “They’re ex­tremely valu­able and we’re one of the few places that has them. They’re one of the great cul­tural trea­sures of Boston.”

Shake­speare Unau­tho­rized fea­tures roughly 60 items, a rel­a­tively mod­est se­lec­tion from the li­brary’s size­able hold­ings of orig­i­nal works by Shake­speare, which are con­sid­ered among the largest and most com­pre­hen­sive among public in­sti­tu­tions in the United States.

The last time the li­brary show­cased these ma­te­ri­als was 100 years ago, on the 300th an­niver­sary of the Bard’s death, ac­cord­ing toMoschella. Most of the year, they’re se­curely kept and made avail­able to re­searchers by re­quest.

The li­brary pur­chased much of its col­lec­tion of Shake­speare ma­te­ri­als —along with thou­sands of other early works of English lit­er­a­ture— for $34,000 from the fam­ily of a prom­i­nent col­lec­tor in 1873.

Tucked in grand, Beaux down­town, Unau­tho­rized the li­brary’s Arts build­ing Shake­speare opens with a dis­cus­sion of Ham­let and howearly ver­sions of the sem­i­nal work dif­fered.

The fa­mous line “To be or not to be, that is the ques­tion”, for ex­am­ple, is writ­ten “To be or not to be, ay, there’s the point” in the ear­li­est ver­sion.

“It’s not only sig­nif­i­cantly less po­etic, but it’s also one of the cen­tral ques­tions ofShake­spearean schol­ar­ship,” Moschella ex­plains. “Why is that text dif­fer­ent and how does that af­fect what we’re read­ing?”

STEVEN SENNE / AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

A book con­ser­va­tor pol­ishes a case con­tain­ing 17th cen­tury edi­tions of plays of Wil­liam Shake­speare at the Boston Public Li­brary on Tues­day.

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