Ask a Librarian: Summertime in Elizabethan England

Q: I know about Queen Elizabeth I’s summer progresses, but how did ordinary people spend their summers in Shakespeare’s time? A: For most Elizabethans, summer presented little opportunity for a vacation from regular work routines. There were still farms to tend, boots to cobble, and chickens to pluck. But all was not drudgery. Hearthside amusements such… Continue Reading »


“An elegant collection of enigmas”

“You have not the Book of Riddles about you, have you?” So Slender asks Simple in Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor. Riddles have been around since ancient times, and are present in many cultures: from Babylonian and Sanksrit texts, to Norse and Anglo-Saxon kennings, to Yoruba and Bantu oral traditions. As early as the sixteenth century, riddles… Continue Reading »


The Elizabethan Garden: 11 plants Shakespeare would have known well

The text for this blog post is adapted from an article in the Summer 2009 issue of Folger Magazine. Shakespeare, who grew up in a riverside country town and was the grandchild of prosperous farmers, refers with familiarity to an extraordinary number of plants (including many weeds), often using their folkloric names and alluding to their popular uses. What might be… Continue Reading »


The perfect Shakespeare-inspired cocktails for summer: Juliet’s Emoji-to and Caliban’s Wrong Island Iced Tea from ‘Shakespeare, Not Stirred’

Mix your own drinks with recipes inspired by Shakespeare characters! Two professors combined their love of cocktails with their love of Shakespeare to create Shakespeare, Not Stirred: Cocktails for Your Everyday Dramas, a collection of recipes with names like “Kate’s Shrew-driver” and “Othello’s Green-eyed Monster”. And they playfully illustrated it with images from the Folger… Continue Reading »


War and America’s Shakespeare

“Extremity is the trier of spirits/ Common chances common men will bear.” Quoting from Shakespeare’s Coriolanus, Abigail Adams praised the courage of the militiamen at the Battle of Bunker Hill in a letter to her husband, John Adams, in 1775. From the Revolutionary War to the Iraq War, Americans have engaged with William Shakespeare and his plays… Continue Reading »


How Queen Elizabeth I spent her summer vacation

You thought you had packing woes—imagine trying to cram a whole palace-full of goods into carts for a summer-long jaunt through the English countryside! Yet this is just what Queen Elizabeth I’s staff did almost two dozen times during her 44-year reign, as she and her court took to the highways for her seasonal progresses…. Continue Reading »


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