Nicholas Rowe, early Shakespeare biographer

Nicholas Rowe is often referred to as William Shakespeare’s first biographer because his 1709 edition of Shakespeare’s works included an introduction with details about Shakespeare’s life. However, some of those details don’t appear to have much basis in the historical record, explains Brian Cummings, Anniversary Professor of English at the University of York.



Nathan the Wise: An 18th-century German counterpoint to Shakespeare’s Shylock

“Nathan the Wise” and “The Merchant of Venice” are very different works, though religious tension is a subject in each, as is the potential for love and loss, wealth and poverty, bloodshed and peace. But it is the character of the Jew featured in each text that most causes scholars to focus on the plays’ differences.


Excerpt: ‘Index, A History of the’ by Dennis Duncan

While doing research in the Folger collection, Dennis Duncan encountered hundreds of indexes created by early modern readers. In this excerpt from his newly published book, “Index, A History of the,” Duncan describes the fascinating variety of reader indexes he discovered, including one from an early 17th-century tract against alcohol.


What’s onstage at Shakespeare theaters in March

Take a look at what the Folger’s theater partners have on stage this March, including a long-awaited ‘Hamlet’ in Cincinnati, ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ in Atlanta, and ‘The Merchant of Venice,’ with John Douglas Thompson, coming to Washington, DC.


Actors taking on tyrants: Ernst Lubitsch’s ‘To Be or Not to Be’

A Polish acting troupe outwits the Nazis using Shakespeare codes and theatrical smarts in Ernst Lubitsch’s 1942 film “To Be or Not to Be,” an audacious comedy filmed as Hitler was devastating Europe. Almost the definition of a joke told too soon, the movie succeeds — and is still vital, 80 years later — by finding the tonal sweet spot between fanciful comedy and grim reality, and by presenting Shakespeare as the ultimate plea for humanity.