“Lend me your ears” writes William Shakespeare (1564-1616) in his play Julius Caesar. This is just one of many catchy phrases penned by the great writer and playwright. Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon, England to a father who was involved in politics and local business. His mother was a descendant from a prominent family who had land holdings. Shakespeare likely received his formal education at a local public primary school. Although University educations were available, Shakespeare did not receive this type of education. On November 28, 1582 William Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway and the two had a daughter the next spring. About 2 years later, Anne and William had twins, a boy and a girl. It is not known how Shakespeare earned a living for the first decade of his married life. One theory is that he worked as a schoolmaster. Scholars believe Shakespeare moved to London and began working in the theatre by the latter part of the 1580s, and William Shakespeare’s name began to appear in the record as a playwright by the early 1590s.
The two gentlemen of Verona is a comedy written between 1589 and 1594. Some believe this to be Shakespeare’s first play. Scholars attribute the main source of the plot to the Spanish writer Jorge de Montemayor. Special Collections & Archives holds a 1734 edition with an attractive frontispiece depicting a distraught young lady being protected from a sword-wielding young man. Titus Andronicus is believed to be Shakespeare’s first full length Roman Tragedy written between 1589 and 1592. The story takes place in Rome with rape, murder, and mayhem leading to much bloodshed.
After Shakespeare’s passing, there was an attempt to collect all of his writings into one volume. Subject to much scholarly study, the first published collection of Shakespeare’s writings became known as the First Folio. It was released in 1623 with the title Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories & Tragedies. Special Collections & Archives has a very nice 1866 facsimile of the First Folio. In later years, second, third, and fourth editions were published of Shakespeare’s collected works. Special Collections & Archives has a fragment that was preserved from the Second Folio, as well as a copy of the 1685 Shakespeare Fourth Folio with the original boards.
Also related, Special Collections & Archives holds the Emanuel Haldeman-Julius Little Blue Books Collection. Haldeman-Julius, a newspaper publisher, opened a publishing house in Girard, Kansas, in 1919 where he published small, inexpensive paperback books, including classic works of literature and essays on myriad topics for the working and middle classes. There are thirty-four Shakespeare titles in that collection.
Lastly, the Reginald Smith Brindle Collection includes an unusual Shakespeare adaptation. Brindle was a British composer who lived in Italy for a time, and composed works for the guitar, percussion, orchestras, and electronic instruments. Written in 1950, we have "Five Songs for Bass Voice." This work is written for the bass voice with a piano accompaniment. The libretto is taken from Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, Macbeth, Othello, Henry IV pt 2, and Much Ado About Nothing. These are just a few of the many times Special Collections & Archives hold that relate to Shakespeare.