Libraries celebrating Shakespeare

Big plans in the works for observation of 400th anniversary of writer’s death

MILFORD – Four hundred years after he died, William Shakespeare is alive everywhere – "Star Trek," "The Simpsons," "Harry Potter," "The Lion King" – they all owe debts to the Bard’s plays or poetry.

And so many of our catch­phrases – "It’s Greek to me," "The world is my oyster," "Love is blind" – started with Shake­speare, the man considered the greatest writer in the English language.

To honor his legacy, public li­braries will be celebrating his quatercentenary year, beginning in Milford on Wednesday, March 9.

That’s when University of New Hampshire professor Douglas Lanier will lead a program titled "Shakespeare and Modern Popu­lar Culture."

Shakespeare started in theater – "the lowest of the low culture," Lanier said in a phone interview. Then in the 18th and 19th centu­ries, his works were part of the common culture – nearly every­one could quote him, because they had seen his plays and chil­dren memorized his works in school.

In the 20th century, Shakespeare became more of a high cul­ture figure until the 1990s, when movies by Kenneth Branagh made his plays into popular entertainment.

Lanier will also talk about the com­ing of theFirst Fo­lio, the first edition of Shakespeare’s collected plays, to New Hampshire.

One of the few remain­ing copies will be on dis­play at the Currier Muse­um of Art in Manchester from April 9-May 1 in an exhibit called "First Fo­lio! The Book That Gave Us Shakespeare." The book comes from the Folg­er Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., which will allow a tour of some of its 82 editions.

New Hampshire is one of the only states that will have the First Folio on April 23, the anniversary of the playwright’s death – "a very big deal," Lanier said. He called 2016 a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to celebrate Shake­speare’s achievement, "since the next big com­memoration – the 500th anniversary of Shake­speare’s birth – won’t come around until 2064."

Other quatercentenary events will be held at li­braries in Amherst, Bed­ford, Derry, Goffstown, Hooksett, Manchester and Windham.

There will be a sec­ond program in Milford on Wednesday, April 13, with a Shakespeare acting workshop. Amanda Paw­lik , educational director at the Hamstead Stage Company, and Wadleigh children’s librarian Letty Goerner will show how to deliver a monologue and portray a scene from a Shakespeare play.

At the Amherst Town Li­brary on Tuesday, April 19, writer Doug Stewart will talk about theories that question the authorship of Shakespeare’s works.

The programs are coor­dinated by GMILCS, a non­profit consortium of pub­lic and academic libraries in New Hampshire.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100