Posted on: June 20th 2023

Celebrating 400 years of William Shakespeare's plays

Year 12 English students visited Eton College last week to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the publication of Shakespeare’s plays.

Hosted by the English department at Eton, students were given a tour of the school and its grounds, as well as of its magnificent library, where a folio – or book containing the plays – was on display. Shakespeare wrote for the stage, rather than for a readership, and had his scripts not been compiled into books shortly after his death, the plays could easily have been lost or changed substantially over time. The significance of printing these folios cannot therefore be overestimated.

Folio with students

There are only a small number of original folios of Shakespeare's plays in the world and Eton is fortunate in owning a first folio. It was wonderful for us to see this original and precious artefact and to hear the history behind its compilation. The wisdom and anecdotes of the librarian added greatly to our experience.

Lunch with various Eton masters followed our tour, complete with the legendary Eton Mess for dessert.  After lunch we attEtons libraryended a lecture on the folios by Professor Emma Smith of Hertford College, Oxford.  LAE received excellent feedback about the engagement of our students and how pertinent their questions were about Eton’s folio and Shakespeare’s works.

It was a highly enriching and enjoyable trip and we hope to visit again in the future.