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