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Shakespeare's first folio opens at Tweed

UMD students Hannah Cornish, Jessica Backlund, Summer Harris and Kahla Statema crowd together to examine and take photos, with the flash off to protect the book, of the Shakespeare First Folio display. (Photo by Teri Cadeau)1 / 2
Dr. Krista Sue-Lo Twu, First Folio organizer and associate professor of Medieval and Renaissance literature presents information about the First Folio. (Photo by Teri Cadeau)2 / 2

After nearly two years of anticipation, Shakespeare's First Folio opened at the Tweed Museum at the University of Minnesota Duluth this week.

"We've been planning this for a long time and it's finally here," said Krista Sue-Lo Twu, head of the English department and organizer of the exhibition.

The rare book was placed in the middle of a room, under a temperature and humidity-controlled 1/4-inch-thick case. Its pages are opened to the most quoted line from Shakespeare and one of the most quoted lines in the world: "To be or not to be" from Hamlet.

"I love this page because it shows the speech as we know it: 'To be or not to be, that is the question.' In the 1603 quarto edition, the line reads 'To be or not to be. Aye, there's the point,'" Twu said. "It's a different line and it goes on in a very different way where you hear snatches of what we've come to know as this most famous speech in the English language."

The Folio is called such because it's a broadsheet-size paper folded in half. The word 'folio' in Latin means leaf. If you fold it over twice, to make four leaves, it's known as a quarto. Several quartos containing Shakespeare's plays were written during his lifetime, but the editions vary greatly.

The exhibit was open to the public starting on Tuesday, but a grand opening was held on Thursday. The exhibit will remain until Oct. 26.

Tuesday morning, half a dozen UMD students were being trained in to act as docents for the exhibit. Some of the students saw the opportunity as a chance to spread knowledge of Shakespeare.

"I've always loved Shakespeare, so I'm excited to show this book off to people. Especially those who are learning about it for the first time," said Laura Hauschildt, a UMD junior English major.

For guide Olivia Templeton, being around Shakespeare is like going home. The UMD junior grew up in Winona, Minn., host to the Great River Shakespeare Festival every summer. She also shares her name with a character in "Twelfth Night."

"When I was four, one of my mother's friends gave me a children's copy of "Twelfth Night" because of my name. It's the first thing I really remember reading," Templeton said. "So when I saw they were looking for docents, I thought 'My time has come!'"

The exhibit also contains a display of Elizabethan-inspired costumes loaned from the Guthrie Theater and the UMD costume shop. This is the aspect of Shakespeare theater major Sara Karpik is excited to teach others about.

"I'm kind of an outsider to the English department. I don't know quite as much about the language. But I know the theater related things like costumes and staging," Karpik said.

The exhibit is only one of several Shakespeare-related events happening throughout the month of October. Community partners are planning corresponding programs to bolster the Duluth exhibition of one of the world's most treasured books. The calendar runs the gamut from an intimate, theatre-in-the-round performance at the Kathryn A. Martin Library to a remix of Shakespeare with original music by the indie rock group Low at the Karpeles Manuscript Library. For more information, visit here.

First Folio fast facts

  • The Folger Shakespeare library holds 82 copies of the First Folio.
  • Of the 750 copies originally printed, 235 known copies exist today.
  • It was first published in 1623, seven years after Shakespeare's death.
  • The collection contains 36 plays, including 18 plays which had never been printed before
  • It originally sold for 1 pound or 20 shillings.
  • A folio is a large book, created by sheets folded in half only once.
  • The folio was created by John Heminge and Henry Condell, Shakespeare's friends and colleagues in the King's Men company.
  • Each folio is slightly different because proofing took place at the same time as printing.

Related: Shakespeare inspires local artists

Duluth gets a fardel of The Bard

Teri Cadeau

Teri Cadeau is a reporter for the Budgeteer.

(218) 720-4176
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