How do we know Shakespeare's plays? For many of them, the answer is one book: the 1623 First Folio. Without it, 18 plays, including Macbeth, Julius Caesar, Twelfth Night and The Tempest, could have been lost forever. 

In 2016, the Folger Shakespeare Library presents First Folio! The Book That Gave Us Shakespeare, a national traveling exhibition bringing the First Folio to 50 states, Washington and Puerto Rico. Amherst College will be the only Massachusetts stop for the traveling exhibition.  

See our Campus Map for directions and parking information.


"First Folio! The Book That Gave Us Shakespeare"
On view Monday, May 9Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Opening Reception: Monday, May 9, 6 p.m.
Mead Art Museum

Visitors will be able to see the book itself, open to Hamlet’s famous “To Be or Not To Be” monologue. Accompanying the 1623 book will be a six-panel display exploring Shakespeare’s impact, then and now, with additional digital content and activities. The exhibition and opening reception are free and open to the public.


"Shakespeare, Folger and Amherst"
An exhibition drawn from the Amherst College Archives and Special Collections
On view through May 31, 2016
Frost Library

Henry Clay Folger (1857–1930) graduated from Amherst in 1879 and spent much of his adult life successfully building the greatest Shakespeare collection in the world. In conjunction with the First Folio on view at the Mead Art Museum, May 9–31, Archives and Special Collections presents a small exhibition about Henry Clay Folger’s time at Amherst, including selections from the College's rare book collection and Amherst’s copy of the Second Folio (1632). Free and open to the public.

"Indigenous Shakespeares: Ambiguity and Interpretation"
Tuesday, April 5, 5–6:30 p.m.
Converse Hall, Cole Assembly Room

What is it about the work of a playwright who penned his last drama in 1611 that appeals so widely to Native Peoples in America today? Is it the colonial connection? The flexibility of the language? The need for a voice in the western world? Or something more? Director Madeline Sayet – having recently launched Amerinda (American Indian Artists) Inc.'s new Shakespeare Ensemble – interrogates the recent surge in Native Shakespeare productions and adaptations, asking why these stories keep calling to us. Four hundred years after Shakespeare's death, his plays may be more relevant than ever. 

Faculty Salon: "A New Play about Shakespeare and Marlowe"
Wednesday, April 6, 4:30 p.m.
Frost Library, Center for Humanistic Inquiry (2nd floor)

Professor Constance Congdon reads from her new play about Shakespeare and Marlowe, Hair of the Dog, and talks about its creation. Followed by wine, tapas and music.

Shakespeare and Dance Workshop with Nona Monahin
Tuesday, April 12, 4:30–6 p.m.
Frost Library, Friendly Reading Room

Shakespeare’s plays contain numerous references to dance, some of which are used to create puns, others to illuminate a particular character or dramatic situation. Dancing also occurs as part of the action of many plays. In this interactive workshop led by Nona Monahin, participants will become acquainted with a number of dances mentioned in Shakespeare's plays and learn about reconstructing a dance from historical sources.

Nona Monahin teaches Renaissance and Baroque dance in the Five College Early Music Program at Mount Holyoke College and works in the Robert Frost Library at Amherst College. She has taught historical dance in Australia, Europe and North America. A specialist on dance in Shakespeare, she has choreographed for numerous theater productions and has directed workshops for the Shakespeare Association of America and the International Shakespeare Association.

Dance Opera: "I Capuleti e i Montecchi (The Capulets and the Montagues)"
Thursday, April 21, and Saturday, April 23, 8 p.m.
Kirby Memorial Theater

Amherst College Theater and Dance Department, in collaboration with the Idan Cohen Dance Company of Israel, presents I Capuleti e i Montecchi (The Capulets and the Montagues), a dance opera that will premiere at Amherst College, April 21 & 23. I Capuleti e i Montecchi is based on the same Italian sources as Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. In this version, the Capuleti and Montecchi are rival political factions, and not as described by Shakespeare, "two households, both alike in dignity."

This international production presents a unique collaboration between members of the Amherst Symphony Orchestra conducted by Mark Lane Swanson, costume and set design by Suzanne P. Dougan and the internationally renowned Idan Cohen Dance Company. Tickets are free, no reservations required. For more information, visit:

From Page to Stage: A Family Workshop
Saturday, May 14, Noon–2 p.m.
Mead Art Museum

Families with children ages 8–12 take the spotlight for a dramatic afternoon of crafts, storytelling and performance featuring the exhibition First Folio! The Book That Gave Us Shakespeare. Free and open to the public. Early registration encouraged: call (413) 542-2295.

Shakespeare & Company’s 2016 Northeast Regional Tour of Shakespeare presents Twelfth Night
Saturday, May 14, 3 p.m.
The Powerhouse

Directed by Jonathan Croy
Cast: Greg Boover, Colin Gold, Kaileela Hobby, Marcus Kearns, Zoe Laiz, Conor Seamus Moroney

Fresh and fast-paced, Shakespeare’s rebellious comedy catapults audiences into a world of illusion, debauchery and mayhem. Audiences are transported to the mythical land of Illyria—alongside the recently shipwrecked and lovelorn Viola. This 90-minute frolic unravels a madcap mix-up of characters and offers a reunion of epic proportions. Performance will be followed by a 45 minute hands-on workshop that gives audience members the opportunity to be directors.

Gallery Tour
Thursday, May 19, 11–11:45 a.m.
Mead Art Museum

Join Mead educators for a tour of the exhibition First Folio! The Book That Gave Us Shakespeare.

Julius Caesar: 1949
Thursday, May 26, 2:30 p.m.
Converse Hall, Cole Assembly Room

Michael Kelly, head of Archives and Special Collections, tells the story of the first nationally broadcast production of Julius Caesar, staged at the Folger, sharing some of the College's archival materials from the production and discussing Amherst’s connection to Shakespeare. His talk will be followed by a short break, and a 3 p.m. screening of the 1949 production of Julius Caesar for those interested in seeing it. The talk and screening are free and open to the public.

Emily Dickinson’s Shakespeare
Thursday, May 26, 7 p.m.
Converse Hall, Cole Assembly Room

Dr. Páraic Finnerty, professor of English and American Literature at University of Portsmouth in the United Kingdom, clarifies the essential role that Shakespeare had in Emily Dickinson’s life by locating her allusions to his writings within a nineteenth-century American context. In the process, he throws new light on Shakespeare’s multifaceted presence in Dickinson’s world: in education, theater, newspapers, public lectures, reading clubs, and literary periodicals.

Gravediggers Tale: An Interactive Retelling of Shakespeare's Hamlet
Friday, May 27, 1 p.m. 
Kirby Memorial Theater

Conceived and directed by Robert Richmond and performed by Louis Butelli, this forty minute interactive audience experience combines the text from Hamlet with some original and traditional music. In Shakespeare's play, the Gravedigger appears briefly in Act V to perform a comic exchange with a fellow gravedigger before speaking to Hamlet and presenting him with the jester Yorick’s skull. Our Gravedigger arrives with a trunk and a book and answers “questions” from the audience with pieces of text from Hamlet.  

Gallery Tour
Friday, May 27, 2–2:45 p.m.
Mead Art Museum

Join Mead educators for a tour of the exhibition First Folio! The Book That Gave Us Shakespeare.

Dickinson Meets Shakespeare in the Garden
Saturday, May 28, 1:30 p.m.
Emily Dickinson Museum, 280 Main Street

Enjoy an afternoon performance in the garden at the Emily Dickinson Museum, where actors bring to life scenes from Dickinson’s most beloved plays by William Shakespeare, interspersed with works by the poet inspired by Shakespeare.


Community Class Series: Shakespeare with Tony Burton
Tuesdays, April 12–May 3, 7–9 p.m.
UMass Renaissance Center

Join Renaissance Center Fellow Tony Burton for a 4-week course on Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice. The issues are not what you think! It is advised to read the play beforehand. FREE and open to the public. Pre-registration required by April 11; call (413) 577-3600 or email

14th Annual Community Renaissance Festival
Sunday, May 1, 11 a.m.–4 p.m.
UMass Renaissance Center

Bigger and better than ever! Enjoy theater, music, falconry, juggling, sword demonstrations from Phoenix Swords, Renaissance games, artisans, dancing and so much more. Costumes encouraged! Fun for the whole family. Rain or shine. Food for sale from UMass concessions. Free and open to the public, with free on-site parking

The Poet and the Bard: A Themed Tour of the Emily Dickinson Museum
Every Sunday in May
Emily Dickinson Museum

In this hour-long, special-interest tour of the Emily Dickinson Museum, discover Dickinson's life-long fascination with William Shakespeare. For more information, visit

Free film screening: Chimes at Midnight
Directed by Orson Welles, 1965, NR 115 min.
Thursday, May 12, 7 p.m.
Amherst Cinema 

A brilliant new restoration of one of Orson Welle’s crowning achievements, this Shakespearean adaptation was the culmination of Welle’s lifelong obsession with the recurring Falstaff. Integrating elements from both Henry IV plays as well as Richard II, Henry V, and The Merry Wives of Windsor, Welles created an unorthodox Shakespeare film that is also a gritty period masterpiece.

Free tickets are available at the Amherst Cinema box office on a first come, first served basis.

Norman Berlin Tree Dedication and Shakespeare Lecture
Thursday, May 12, 4 p.m.
UMass Renaissance Center

The UMass Renaissance Center dedicates a new oak tree in memory of Normand Berlin, who taught community classes on Shakespeare at the Renaissance Center. The dedication will be followed by a lecture on Shakespeare delivered by Adam Zucker, an associate professor in the UMass English department. A reception will follow the lecture.

Young Shakespeare Players East presents Romeo and Juliet
Saturday, May 14 & Sunday, May 15, 6–9 p.m.
The Shea Theater in Turners Falls, MA

Are there more beautiful words? A more timelessly meaningful, moving, and transporting story? The dedicated actors of Young Shakespeare Players East  (ages 8-19) perform William Shakespeare's incomparable Romeo and Juliet as their spring 2016 Shakespeare production. Don’t miss this timeless tale of the star-crossed lovers of fair Verona.

Tickets are free. No reservations. Doors open 20 minutes before showtime. Delicious concessions for sale, all proceeds go directly to support YSP East’s scholarship fund. For more information, visit

Shakespeare Movie Marathon
Saturday, May 14, 10 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 3 p.m.
Jones Library

Join us for these screenings of Shakespeare’s works, ranging from animation to contemporary interpretations.

  • 10 a.m. – Gnomeo and Juliet (2011, rated G) Animated garden gnomes Gnomeo and Juliet have as many obstacles to overcome as their quasi namesakes when they are caught up in a feud between neighbors.
  • 12:30 p.m. – The Tempest (2010, rated PG-13) In this version of Shakespeare's fantastical thriller, the magician Prospero takes female form as Prospera, in an entrancing volcanic landscape.
  • 3 p.m. – Much Ado About Nothing (2012, rated PG-13) Director Joss Whedon puts a contemporary spin on Shakespeare as he uses his own home as the setting.

Making Sense of Nonsense in Shakespeare's First Folio
Thursday, May 19, 7 p.m.
Jones Library

UMass Amherst professor Adam Zucker presents an exploration of the quirks and nonsense found in this great work. Sixteen of the thirty-six plays included in the First Folio do not survive in other editions from Shakespeare's day: without the First Folio, Twelfth Night, Macbeth, and Cymbeline, among many others, might have vanished altogether. But for all the answers the First Folio has given Shakespeare scholars and performers, there are many moments in these early printings of our favorite plays that simply do not make sense. This talk explores the sometimes clever, sometimes less-than-clever, but always intriguing strategies scholars have used over the last 300 years to make sense out of the First Folio's Shakespearean nonsense.

The Young Shakespeare Players' East Presents Romeo and Juliet
aturday, May 21, & Sunday, May 22, 1 p.m.
UMass Renaissance Center

The Massachusetts Center for Interdisciplinary Renaissance Studies welcomes to the Great Meadow stage The Young Shakespeare Players East and their production of Romeo and Juliet. Both performances are free and open to the public. Reservations are not required. For more information, visit

Swords Through the Ages
Saturday, May 21, 2:30 p.m.
Jones Library

This presentation is a combination of lecture/discussion and demonstration, and will have a special focus on Shakespeare’s time.  It  will cover over half a millennia of the history of the sword in Western Europe and its use.  The presentation will include a chronological presentation of several different eras of sword use, a question and answer/"myth busters" segment to discuss the common misconceptions about swords, images from historical works, and an introduction to historical interpretation, which includes some audience participation.


First Folio! Teacher Workshop
Tuesday, May 10, 45:30 p.m.
Mead Art Museum

Join Mead staff for an interactive, hands-on workshop that will give you the tools to incorporate the First Folio into your curriculum: whether you’re a Shakespeare scholar or starting from scratch! K–12 educators from all disciplines are invited to discover new ways of bringing Shakespeare’s world and words to life in the classroom. Followed by hearty refreshments and friendly networking. Limited enrollment; advance registration by May 3 preferred. Contact Keely Sarr at for more information or to register.

First Folio logo

The First Folio national tour is part of the Folger Shakespeare Library’s 2016 Wonder of Will celebration of 400 years of Shakespeare. "First Folio! The Book That Gave Us Shakespeare" is produced in association with the American Library Association and the Cincinnati Museum Centers. The tour has been made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor, and by the support of, Vinton and Sigrid Cerf, the British Council, and other generous donors.