FIU welcomes Shakespeare’s First Folio

Sophie Herbut / Staff Writer

The University has been selected as the only university in Florida to host Shakespeare’s First Folio as it tours the U.S. in celebration of the 400th anniversary of the Bard’s death.

As part of a competition held by The Folger Shakespeare Library, the English department, Frost Art Museum and libraries worked together to develop a bid to host the exhibit, which beat out other universities’ bids from the state.

The winning bid included several events, all Shakespeare inspired, to occur throughout February while the exhibit is present.

“We knew this would be a blockbuster exhibit whose appeal would go far beyond just English professors and majors, and reach far and wide into [the] FIU community and South Florida.” said James Sutton, English department head and Shakespeare professor.

The Folio was printed in 1623, seven years after the Bard’s death, and is the first reliable printed compilation of Shakespeare’s complete works.

“To have the First Folio here is to have a book that, not only saved a lot of the plays,” Sutton said. “It means that these plays without the First Folio wouldn’t be available more widely to an audience of all religions and sciences and backgrounds. The plays are, though this has become a hackneyed phrase, Shakespeare does seem to be universal in ways that are constantly surprising me.”

The English department did not experience any resistance within the department in bidding on the First Folio. There were other sites in Florida that were expected to bid but FIU is the only location in Florida chosen to host it.

“We just had to convince Folger Shakespeare Library that we could take care of their book,” said Sutton, “And build a program around it, for one month.”

The English department is offering a range of lectures, movies, concerts and plays throughout the month. The topics extend from celebration to criticism of the Elizabethan era and their traditions and the hosts are not just the English.

Ryan Schlussler, a senior English major, is also excited about the First Folio and the events that circulate it.

“It’s definitely a pride point,” Schlussler said. “I hope the school gets the recognition it deserves.”

The First Folio contains 36 plays, 18 of which were never published during Shakespeare’s day because of the lack of money in print at his time. Some unpublished plays are widely known and studied today, like “Julius Caesar” and “Macbeth.”

“I’ve been sharing stuff on Facebook, especially to friends who used to go [to FIU],” said senior Alex Petras.

Petras, an English major, also hopes the First Folio educates the public over the importance of older literature.

The events are not just restricted to FIU. There are numerous associated events throughout South Florida.

“The best thing that could happen is that it puts FIU on the map and more old pieces of literature come to FIU,” said Fernando Fernandez, an English major who felt that the Folio was a piece of history.

The First Folio is opened to Hamlet’s “To Be or Not to Be” speech in the Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum.

There are only 222 surviving copies of the estimated original 750. Folger owns 82 of them.

The First Folio of Shakespeare is planned to remain at FIU until Feb. 28.

[image from Flickr]

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