All The World’s A Stage: Shakespeare and His World on Display

Scene from As You Like It, Tate Gallery, London. Frances Hayman, artist
Scene from As You Like It, Tate Gallery, London. Frances Hayman, artist

As you enter Alden Library on the 4th floor, follow Orlando’s love letters to Rosalind and you will find our Exhibit “All The World’s A Stage” with a look at Shakespeare’s world in 1599 England, when he penned “As You Like It.”   In Shakespeare’s world under the 45-year reign of Queen Elizabeth I, we see the proliferation of more theaters, including the move of the famous Globe across the Thames to the Southwark district (a little seedier, but more affordable for Londoners).  This was the time of the Black Plague, which killed over 30,000 Londoners in 1603 (one of many plagues that ran through Europe).  Life was hard during these times, but due to Gutenberg and the invention of the printing press in the 1400’s, literacy was slowing becoming the norm; educating all classes of people.  Even in Shakespeare’s day, people wanted live entertainment and William wrote his plays to be performed.  Archives and Special Collections contributed numerous texts to the exhibit, with specific material from the Blunden Collection (Edmund Blunden, English poet, author and critic) including a facsimile of the First Folio.  The First Folio was published in 1623, very different than the originally published quartos – a printing format not meant for the reader! The First Folio was a labor of love as two of Shakespeare’s close friends, John Heminge and Henri Condell, came together to gather Shakespeare’s work in one place. Here is the digitized version from the Bodlein Library at the University of Oxford.

As You Like it follows the love stories of Orlando and Rosalind, Ganymede (Rosalind dressed as a male) and Orlando, Celia and Oliver, banished Dukes, Touchstone (the jester), and a variety of other characters who, owning to a variety of circumstances, meet in the Forest of Arden.  As usual with Shakespeare, there are many characters and multiple plots, so find yourself a good plot summary (Shakespeare Online) from the internet, or search the library database Literary Reference Center for access to the Masterplots series.  By all means celebrate Shakespeare, love and courtship in the Forest of Arden at Alden’s 4th floor “All The World’s A Stage” exhibit and go see the play this week.  As You Like It is currently being presented at the Forum Theater and performed by the students and faculty of the Division of Theater, College of Fine Arts, under the direction of Shelley Delaney.

The exhibit is made possible with the cooperation and collaboration of many people and places:  Division of Theater Production Team for As You Like It; lorraine wochna, instruction coordinator and librarian for theater and English; Miriam Intrator, rare books and special collections librarian; and Cathy Sitko, administrative coordinator.