If I Had a Bucket List…Shakespeare’s First Folio

As the title of this post indicates, I don’t have a bucket list. I have nothing against them, but a bucket list is not for me. Instead, I prefer to focus on each day, on my various projects, on nature, on family and friends.

However, if I did have a bucket list, then seeing Shakespeare’s First Folio—a book published in 1623 that contains thirty-six of Shakespeare’s plays—would be at the top of my list. It might even be number one. (I fell in love with Shakespeare when I was in seventh grade, and it has been an enduring love.)

Well, lucky me, lucky me—the First Folio is now in Portland, Maine. The Folger Shakespeare Library, which has eighty-two copies of the First Folio—has sponsored a First Folio Tour, where in 2016 this great book will be displayed in all fifty states as well as in Washington, DC, and Puerto Rico. In Maine, the Portland Public Library was chosen as the host site, and as Portland is only a little over an hour from where we live, getting to the First Folio is pretty easy. (How glad I am that I don’t live in northern Maine. I guess I still would have made the pilgrimage.)

Our friends Alice and Joel, who are also fans of Shakespeare, were over last weekend, and as we discussed the First Folio, I wondered if I would cry when I saw it.

Rather than look at me as though I were crazy, they just nodded, and Joel compared the First Folio to the Holy Grail. Or something like that. And how right he was. For those of us who love literature and plays, Shakespeare is at the top, reigning supreme.

Readers, I did not cry when I saw the First Folio on Tuesday. I was in too much awe. An attendant led us into a small darkened room, which, when the doors opened, came the blast of Handel’s Messiah. Just kidding about that last bit. The room was as quiet as an empty church.

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The First Folio, of course, was in a case, and the book was opened to Hamlet’s “To be or not to be” speech. I stayed for some time gazing at this beautiful old book with its gold-edged pages. The First Folio is very modern in its layout and very Elizabethan in its spelling. It looked pretty much the way I thought it would except for the large size and thickness. This was not a book for everyday folks. According to the Portland Public Library’s website, the First Folio “originally sold for one British pound (20 shillings)—about $200 today.” And in The First Folio, Peter Blayney writes that “nothing quite like it had ever been published in folio before….The folio format was usually reserved for works of reference…and for the collected writings of important authors…”

In Elizabethan times, plays were not considered “important” but instead trivial, the mass entertainment of the time “unworthy of serious consideration as literature.” But somehow, two of Shakespeare’s fellow actors thought it worthwhile to publish the First Folio, and to them we must be forever grateful. Without that First Folio, many, if not most, of Shakespeare’s plays might very well have been forgotten and lost.

What to do after such an experience? Why, on to Lewiston to Fuel, my favorite restaurant in Maine.

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I had a cocktail.  In fact, I had two cocktails—after all!—and Clif had two beers. (He was the designated driver that night.)

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We both had burgers, which come with delectable fries at no extra cost. On Tuesday, everything on the bar menu is $9 or less, which means the food is quite the bargain. Especially if you can limit yourself to one cocktail or a glass of wine or beer.

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Home we went in a happy haze, full of good food and good drinks. What a way to end First Folio day.

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