Of Family and Folios

William Shakespeare’s Hamlet (original Middle English text from the First Folio of 1623) with stamp – selective focus

I saw the Book of Will tonight at the Denver Performing Arts Center. I have to admit that when my friend Jo invited me I wasn’t certain I needed a deep dive into how Shakespeare’s First Folio was published. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

The play is set a few years after Shakespeare’s death, when his friends and actors are confronting their mortality and the realization that the words they’ve loved and lived by, his words, are fading from their collective memory. The fire at the original Globe destroyed the original manuscripts, and the copywriting method Shakespeare employed, only giving each actor his written part, threatens to erase the plays from the world. To publish his plays they have to side with foes, make deals with those they consider devils, and collect bits of text from closets and privies. The lost words hurt even as the cast sees their time on earth running out. They’re racing against time and death.

Book of Will brings the importance of Shakespeare to the front and holds it there, right where the audience can see it. It unabashedly pleads with you to see the value of art, theater, and continuing to feel with an open heart in a world where children can die before their parents and pain is a constant. The performances were stellar. I cried more than once and left wanting more than anything to write, to strive to put something into the world to ease the pain.

See it if you can. Read it if you can’t. Or if you have to settle, read some Shakespeare.

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