Posts By: Esther French

Balancing the body and consulting the heavens: Medicine in Shakespeare’s time

Few Elizabethans were wealthy enough to afford a licensed physician. Instead, they would rely on the knowledge of a local “wise woman,” with her home collection of remedy recipes and medicines. Or, they would send a description of their symptoms (along with a urine sample) to an “empiric,” who might cast an astrological horoscope. Broken bone? Call the barber-surgeon!… Continue Reading »


Comic book casts Shakespeare’s First Folio in a horror story

Cue the scary music! A new comic book injects a little horror and occult magic into the story of the First Folio, in an effort to make Shakespeare more accessible to a younger generation. 13th Night was written to accompany the First Folio’s visit to the University of Colorado Boulder as part of the Folger’s… Continue Reading »


Shakespeare’s ‘Merchant of Venice’: Perpetuating stereotypes or sparking much-needed conversations?

Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice ends badly for Shylock, with the court ruling against him and his claim on Antonio’s “pound of flesh.” He loses half his property to Antonio and agrees to convert to Christianity to avoid losing the other half to the state. The play may be a comedy, but there’s nothing funny about Shylock’s… Continue Reading »


Folger curator shares new Shakespeare discoveries

Folger Curator of Manuscripts Heather Wolfe dropped a bombshell in The New York Times this past week: Newly discovered depictions of Shakespeare’s coat of arms from the seventeenth century provide documentary evidence that while the heralds made the grant of arms to his father, William Shakespeare himself was intimately involved in the application and the ensuing controversy over… Continue Reading »


Follow the First Folio tour! Updates from Missouri, Arkansas, New York, and California

Sword-fighting workshops for kids! Selfies with Shakespeare! The First Folio continues on its tour of the United States during this special 400th anniversary year for Shakespeare. Here’s a quick cheat sheet of all the places where you can find our traveling exhibition, First Folio! The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare, this month: San Diego Public Library with The Old Globe, San Diego,… Continue Reading »


Quiz: Shakespeare’s fathers (and their children)

Shakespeare’s Fathers   Which Shakespeare characters (fathers or their children) speak these lines? A daughter’s love   “Good my lord, You have begot me, bred me, loved me. I return those duties back as are right fit: Obey you, love you, and most honor you.” A father’s farewell   “There, my blessing with thee. And… Continue Reading »


50 episodes and counting: Shakespeare Unlimited podcast explores race, imperialism, magic, music, Star Wars, and more

The Shakespeare Unlimited podcast connects Shakespeare and his plays with our world today through interviews with actors, directors, and scholars—but also with astronomers, a conservator, and a professional magician, among others. The 50th episode, which deals with race, Othello, and how the Elizabethans portrayed blackness onstage, offers a startling, new interpretation of Desdemona’s handkerchief that is… 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 »