Better than laughing: Renaissance melancholy

The most famous book about Renaissance melancholy, Robert Burton’s The Anatomy of Melancholy (1621), celebrates its four hundredth anniversary this year. Though it was published five years after Shakespeare’s death, it gathers together ideas about melancholy from antiquity right through to the seventeenth century.


Order It: Sonnet 98

It’s springtime, and Sonnet 98 is a wonderful seasonal selection from Shakespeare. Take this quiz to see if you can put the sonnet’s 14 lines into their correct order.


Excerpt: ‘Shakespeare and Lost Plays’ by David McInnis

When it comes to the theatrical landscape of Shakespeare’s London, there are the plays whose names we are familiar with — plays like Hamlet and Henry V — and then there are the plays that were being performed around the same time and that Shakespeare’s audiences would have known well, but that are lost to us today. Read an excerpt from a new book about these plays.


‘In the spiced Indian air’: Trading coin and cloth in the empire of the Great Mughal

The spiced air of India was the stuff of legend in Shakespeare’s England, and is brought to vivid life in this famous passage from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” These were images which Shakespeare knew his audiences would understand, during a period in which England had begun its sea voyages to Asia in earnest, and the fabulous possibilities of directly accessing the merchandise of India were being realized for the first time.



Recipe: A 17th-century potato pie with marrow and dates

Sweet potato pies, a beloved staple of North American fall and winter cooking, are baked out of mashed or blended sweet potatoes mixed with condensed milk, eggs, and spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, mace, and allspice. Few Americans and Canadians would think of such a dish as traditionally English, yet many cookery books written in England during the seventeenth century show that English people made and enjoyed pies like this. We decided to try one of these recipes, found in the Folger collection, during our recent Pi Day celebration.


Why the Folger has two sculptures of Puck

Erin Blake tells the story of how there came to be two Puck sculptures at the Folger, after the original marble sculpture was damaged.



The Master of the Revels: Edmund Tilney

Author Nicole Galland gives Edmund Tilney, the Master of the Revels for Queen Elizabeth I, his proper due. She writes: “Because of Tilney, playwrights became more revered among the reading classes; because of Tilney, only certain playwrights’ works were greatly revered; because of Tilney, Shakespeare was chief among those playwrights. That he remains chief among playwrights is a testament to his genius, of course. But the fact that he was positioned to be recognized as such is largely due to Edmund Tilney.”


Where to find Shakespeare in March

There are lots of places to watch and listen to Shakespeare online this March, especially for fans of “Julius Caesar” and “Hamlet.”