Shakespeare 400

As a final collaborative project for our graduate seminar in the spring of 2016, my students and I created this curated list of resources pertaining to the 400th Shakespeare “deathiversary.” The items we selected include articles from the popular press, celebrations, exhibits, performances, conferences, digital media, and other projects inspired by this occasion. As such we hope it can be a useful guide for those looking for a comprehensive listing of these resources. A secondary goal of the project was to create an archive for these materials that will offer a snapshot of how “Shakespeare 400” was observed in 2016. We have therefore also included items in the list from recent years that we believe represent something significant about how Shakespeare is studied, performed, and enjoyed today.

Do you see something that we missed? Please offer suggestions for additions in the comments below!

Cyrus Mulready, Joseph Curra, Meghan Gallucci, Kristina Ginnick, Sunny Hoang, Holly Lattimer, Michael Marks, Kathleen O’Malley, William Perry, Shannon Plackis, Shelby Seipp, Colleen Stewart, Brendan Tanner, and Kasey Tveit


Print Resources and Media Coverage


“Shakespeare. Dead?” by Jennifer Schuessler for The New York Times

Journalist Jennifer Schuessler carefully traces the past several centennial anniversaries and their respective celebrations regarding Shakespeare, all while noting that his works have become more prevalent in society today. As the title of the article implies, Schuessler argues that Shakespeare has become a significant part of culture around the world. The article ends with a variety of sources that indicate fairly accessible and interesting events happening throughout the year to celebrate Shakespeare’s 400th death-day, perhaps the most entertaining being “Drunk Shakespeare.”

“As You Dislike It: The Anti-Bard Club,” by Amanda Foreman for The Wall Street Journal

In this article from the Weekend Edition of The Wall Street Journal,  Amanda Foreman reflects upon Shakespeare’s work in the 400 years after his death, and, more specifically, not who has filled those years with praise, but with various levels of disdain. Falling under the latter category are those suffering from what Foreman deems WAMS—What-About-Me Syndrome. Foreman focuses on authors and artists in various forms; the earliest, Ben Jonson, the latest, Ian McKellen. Foreman concludes with the suggestion that there are many silent WAMS sufferers, and poses the question as to how, if Shakespeare were alive, he would react to such criticism. Ultimately, what Foreman’s article contributes is to show the range of thought on Shakespeare in 400 years, and use even the negative criticism he garnered to celebrate his work.

“In Pursuit of Shakespeare,” by Michael Pennington, for The Times Literary Supplement

This edition of The Times Literary Supplement, with a cover made up of 400 individual images of Shakespeare from the First Folio, is nearly wholly dedicated to Shakespeare articles, and most of those involve very interesting reviews of works that contribute to the 400 anniversary. Performer Michael Pennington adds a unique view to this collection, however, with his reflection on his form of intimacy with Shakespearean performance and Shakespeare’s work. On the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth, Pennington began his Shakespearean career as “a supernumerary in The Wars of the Roses” and for the 2016 anniversary he will play King Lear. Pennington notes the oddity of desiring to be close to Shakespeare, but that it is something that “many of us do, all the time—trying to take a selfie with Shakespeare…We badly want to be in touch with him, or at least learn something—anything—more; the anxiety is palpable and the hope is rather forlorn.” Here, Pennington goes on to distinguish the events happening in our time from each other; he argues that numerous pieces of scholarship or commentary arising at the 400th anniversary, in their attempt to come closer to Shakespeare, fail. He finds the work of James Shapiro and Charles Nicholl sufficient in that they have created a “Shakespeare-shaped hole in the middle for the reader to fill.”

The New Yorker Shakespeare Articles, collected by Joshua Rothman

This is a master list of articles and essays in which the New Yorker has featured Shakespeare. Rothman has compiled the list, (not comprehensive as my research shows), of “[New Yorker] pieces about actors, scholars, filmmakers, set designers, and, of course, about the plays themselves…in honor of the four-hundredth anniversary of [Shakespeare’s] death.” All of the “pieces” Rothman lists touch on Shakespeare and use him as the subject or source material in some way. The list includes 18 articles that date from October 1994 to March 2016 and serves to show the literary community’s dedication to Shakespeare has not faded over the years. Some of the articles listed are more literary than others, some are lighthearted and comedic, and some show interesting and unexpected ways that Shakespeare is still utilized, adapted, and reincarnated in the 21st century for various audiences.

Other Shakespeare-related materials published in the New Yorker that are not included in Rothman’s list:

“Donald Trump Performs Shakespeare’s Soliloquoys” by Aryeh Cohen-Wade.

In this brief article, writer Aryeh Cohen-Wade brings Shakespeare into this exact cultural moment by hilariously combining the two people the world cannot stop talking about this year: the Bard and the Donald. Cohen-Wade does the unthinkable by rewriting some of Shakespeare’s most famous sonnets in Donald Trump’s weird, vague, anti-language, including “What light from yonder window breaks” from Romeo and Juliet and “To be or not to be” from Hamlet.

“Why We (Mostly) Stopped Messing with Shakespeare’s Language” by Daniel Pollack-Pelzner

Though not on Rothman’s list for some reason, this article is more typical of what Shakespeareans enjoy reading and discussing. The debate this article enters is an ongoing one: Is it acceptable to translate Shakespeare’s language into modern English? The article was written in response to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s commissioning of “thirty-six playwrights to translate all of Shakespeare’s plays into modern English.”  Though he ultimately lands on the pro-modernizing side of the discussion, Pollack-Pelzner does a good job of acknowledging both sides of the debate while informing the reader of the history of the debate itself.

“60 Words and Phrases Invented by Shakespeare,” by Jess Denham for The Independent

In celebration of the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death, Jess Denham at The Independent compiled a list of sixty everyday phrases that came from the great playwright. The article begins by describing the immense impact that Shakespeare’s writing has had on the world: the great actors who have portrayed his characters, the wide fame his plays have acclaimed and even the Shakespeare-themed stamps that England released in celebration. As Denham says, his “impact on our culture is impossible to ignore.” In this spirit, she continues to claim that whether you love or hate the impossible language of his plays, you cannot avoid the bard. In order to prove this point, Denham points out sixty phrases coined by Shakespeare that we still continue to hear today: “Good riddance” from The Merchant of Venice and “What’s done is done” from Macbeth.


The Hogarth Shakespeare Series

In honor of the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death, The Crown Publishing Group (a subsidiary of Penguin Random House) is releasing a collection of novels that will reimagine some of the Bard’s most famous plays. Titled the “Hogarth Shakespeare Series,” the first novel of the series to be released is Jeanette Winterson’s The Gap of Time, based upon The Winter’s Tale. Though many are not yet available, several works within The series have already been released and the rest of them will be become available within the next several years. Some of the upcoming novels include: Shylock Is My Name by Howard Jacobson, an adaptation of The Merchant of Venice; Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood, an adaptation of The Tempest; and Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler, an adaptation of Taming of the Shrew. Several other acclaimed writers (Gillian Flynn, Tracy Chevalier, Jo Nesbo, and Edward St. Aubyn) have joined the series, but their novels are yet to be named.

Shakespeare and the Stuff of Life: Treasures from the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

Tagged as, “An accessible and lavishly illustrated object-based exploration of the role and significance of notable paintings, furniture, ceramics, textiles and metal wares in the everyday experience of people living in Shakespearean England,” this book is an interesting study in the materiality of Shakespeare’s life and legacy. Published specifically for the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death by Bloomsbury in Oxford, this book argues that he means more to the world than just his plays. With its focus on “stuff,” this book grounds Shakespeare in real life and makes him more tangible and palpable for fans of his work. Perhaps to combat the idea of Shakespeare as some ethereal deity or urban legend, this book and the objects in it show that the man behind the curtain was a real man who lived a real life. This last idea is important to keep in mind when looking at Shakespeare from the other end of the telescope in 2016. Shakespeare and the Stuff of Life tells us that our focus should be much closer to home when looking for evidence of Shakespeare’s life.

Cambridge University Press: Shakespeare’s 400th Anniversary

New excerpts from books and articles about Shakespeare will be made available each month online through Cambridge University Press. A few noteworthy titles:

  • “Shakespeare and 9/11” by Graham Holderness. Holderness examines the use of Shakespeare after the September 11 terror attacks as a way to explain violence and tragedy. (From the book Tales from Shakespeare)
  • “Shakespeare’s Talking Animals” by Terence Hawkes. Hawkes discusses the influence that spoken English had on literature during Shakespeare’s time.  (From the journal Shakespeare Survey Volume 24)
  • “Brand Shakespeare?” by Kate Rumbold. Rumbold explores how Shakespeare has been used commercially. (From the journal Shakespeare Survey Volume 64)

Digital Resources

Websites and Digital Exhibitions

There are a number of “hubs” that provide centralized repositories of events, web links, and other resources relating to Shakespeare 400. This webpage compiled at Washington and Lee University, for instance, includes several links to worldwide Shakespeare 400 happenings. The most robust of these sites is Coordinated by King’s College in London, assembles a group of partners that are working together to celebrate the 400 year legacy of Shakespeare. You can sign up for event alerts via twitter, and there is a sample of the most recent #Shakespeare400 tweets on the right hand side of the home page. Scrolling down from there will give you a calendar of upcoming events, which can be filtered by using the search function or by clicking tabs that relate to the different kinds of events. Events are sorted by Exhibition, Screening, Performance, Conference, Talk, and Publications. This website is a great research for both Shakespeare scholars and aficionados that are looking for a comprehensive calendar of all things Shakespeare happening in the UK this year.

Shakespeare Documented, the digital domain for an exhibition hosted by the Folger Shakespeare Library, provides Shakespeareans with a multitude of documents detailing the Bard’s various roles in history. The largest selection of documents includes his plays as well as documented evidence of his role as both an actor and shareholder of the theater. The next largest section includes documents relating to his family, legal and property records. Within this section, scholars can examine letters to Shakespeare and about his worth, documentation of his purchases and even records of his family. Next, scholars can browse the section regarding Shakespeare’s poetry, which includes his printed poetry that readers study today as well as critical responses from seventeenth century scholars. The final section of documents details the “legacies” Shakespeare left behind such as his last will and testament, record of his burial and monument as well as his influence on fellow writers. For example in a document from 1616, the year of Shakespeare’s death, his name appears in the cast list for one of Ben Jonson’s plays. The great bard’s name also appears on a possible draft found the same year for Bolton’s “Hypercritica.” While all of these documents emphasize the monumental impact of William Shakespeare, the inclusion of his legacy proves his importance in both his own time and four hundred years later.

Shakespeare 400 Years After is a Facebook page that was created for the event of the same name. It represents and international conference and series of events related to the 400th deathiversary, and is hosted in Norfolk, VA. The page has evolved past this, however, and now posts a variety of interesting articles, events, and short informational discussion posts. This page, much like, serves as an easy way to incorporate Shakespeare into our social media, and proves that Shakespeare important enough to warrant having him in our news feeds. If you want a healthy dose of the Bard to break up the monotony of pictures of your friend’s tropical vacation, Buzzfeed articles, and your dad posting pictures of your dog, this might be the page for you.

400 Years of Shakespeare in Fiction offers users access to about 100 works of fiction in which Shakespeare appears as a character. The selected annotated works span from 1623 to 2016 and focus on numerous portrayals of Shakespeare as “Gentle Shakespeare,” as a “Rare Talent,” and as “Shakespeare’s Spirit,” all among many other representations within fiction. These representations are not necessarily biographical, focusing instead on using only particular traits of Shakespeare’s life or work, interpreting them to fit the needs of their fictional caricatures of the poet.

The selected works were compiled by librarians and faculty from Shakespeare’s Globe Library Archive, Durhman University, The Rare book and Manuscript Library at the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign), and the Elizabethan Club at Yale University.
A very interactive website, the 400 Years of Shakespeare in Fiction is easy to use, informative, and by simply clicking any of the site’s “Character Type” pictures of Shakespeare (or through the “by Century” drop-box), users have to books, poems, stories, and transcripts that imagine Shakespeare.


Archaeologists at Staffordshire University made a splash in March 2016 when they announced that their investigation of Shakespeare’s gravesite using ground-penetrating radar (GPR) strongly suggested that the tomb had been disturbed or opened in the past. The documentary, originally produced for Channel 4 in the UK, can be viewed through the PBS website.

Heuristic Shakespeare App

In May 2016, Heuristic Media launched its Heuristic Shakespeare project with a tablet edition of The Tempest. “A tool for demystifying a play and making it more enjoyable for a modern audience,” the app includes performances by Ian McKellen, the text of the play from the Arden Edition, and video lectures by Jonathan Bate. The Tempest is the first of a planned 37 play series.

Shakespeare 2016 Lives

This BBC website offers a rich array of video clips and podcasts pertaining to Shakespeare’s works, including performances of some of the most popular monologues presented by famous actors.

The University of Notre Dame’s “We are Shakespeare” Digital Film Festival

In honor of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s Death, The University of Notre dame has put together the “We are Shakespeare” digital film festival. The aim of the project is simple, any user anywhere can upload a personal film, performance, or testimonial to the festival website where it will be presented alongside amateur films from all over the world. Various public figures including actors, athletes, and political dignitaries have all provided submissions. The aim of the project is to highlight the ways in which “We,” the people of the 21st century, are still engaging with and regarding Shakespeare 400 years after his death. As the website reads: “This innovative, crowd-sourced assembly of celebrants, confirms that Shakespeare is alive, current, and universally relevant!” The submissions range from professional Shakespeare companies to preschoolers adapting A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Shakespeare Lives

Shakespeare Lives advertises itself as “an unprecedented global programme of events and activities celebrating William Shakespeare’s work on the occasion of the 400th anniversary of his death in 2016.” Presented by a team of partners, spearheaded by The British Council and The GREAT Britain Campaign, the Shakespeare lives project exists as an avenue for performers and Shakespeare enthusiasts from around the world to celebrate the life and works of Shakespeare. The website boasts a number of resources including, but not limited to, sections on Shakespeare in film, literature, music, as well as photography and even science. One resource worth mentioning is the free MOOC, or Massive Open Online Course that began on April 18th. Through the use of a virtual tutor, students can take a course that covers the life and times of Shakespeare, as well as some of his more famous works.This resource is vast in its scope, attempting to compile daily examples of Shakespeare’s influence. Inside, users can find many helpful and interesting articles, videos, and sound clips. Whether researching Shakespeare for an academic pursuit, or simply looking for a greater appreciation of the Bard’s works, this resource will provide many useful materials.



Photograph by Elliott Brown

Festivals and Events

The Wonder of Will: 400 Years of Shakespeare

Organized by the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC, “The Wonder of Will” is a year-long series of initiatives and projects for the celebration of Shakespeare 400. Notable projects include:

First Folio Tour

Assembled seven years after Shakespeare’s death, the 1623 First Folio of Shakespeare is the book that has exposed hundreds of years of Shakespeare affectionados to not only the plays that were popular during his lifetime but also eighteen plays that had never been published before. Without this folio, plays such as Julius Caesar, Macbeth, As You Like It, The Tempest, and others could have been lost.

In 2016, in partnership with Cincinnati Museum Center and the American Library Association, First Folio! The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare will bring the First Folio to all 50 states, Washington, DC, and Puerto Rico. The exhibition, which also includes panels and digital content, exclusively features First Folios from the Folger, whose collection of 82 First Folios is by far the largest in the world.

Visitors to First Folio! will come face to face with the original 1623 book, displayed open to Hamlet’s speech in which he debates whether “to be or not to be”. Each First Folio! host location has also planned public events and activities, often including additional exhibitions, in joyful celebration of the book that saved so many of Shakespeare’s dramas and the amazing plays it holds.

First Folio U.S. Tour Locations and Dates

Shakespeare Anniversary Lecture Series

The Folger Institute’s Center for Shakespeare Studies is celebrating the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death with a series of public lectures for 2016. This series also marks the Center’s 30th anniversary of scholarly programming.

This series culminates a three-year initiative — beginning in 2014 with the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth — that took stock of work in major areas of Shakespeare scholarship. One of the Center’s goals is to broaden Shakespearean scholarship by bringing different approaches in to the conversation. Keynote lectures delivered by Brian Cummings in 2014 and Lynne Magnusson in 2015 are also available on the website’s archive.

The public lectures are held at the Folger Theater in Washington, D.C. They are available for $15 a ticket to the general public. The target audience for these lectures is likely scholars who are already familiar with the plots and themes of Shakespeare’s work.

Lecture Schedule and Archived Lectures

This site for the Folger Shakespeare Library also contains a variety of educational resources. Lesson plans for Macbeth, Julius Caesar, Romeo and Juliet, Twelfth Night, and several sonnets suggest pre-reading and close-reading activities, using primary documents from the time period, and introducing Socratic questioning for analysis of the text. There are also teacher blogs, professional development programs, and workshops for students. Some fun projects incorporate a modern twist on the plays, such as using the paparazzi to comment Ophelia’s madness and recreating a crime scene from Macbeth using dialogue.

The World Shakespeare Congress

Organized by the International Shakespeare Association, the World Shakespeare Congress of 2016 is dedicated to celebrating “Shakespeare’s memory and the global cultural legacy of his works.” The actual congress events take place in Stratford and London England (during the summer of 2016). The Congress dates (starting July 31st until August 6th) will offer seminars and workshops throughout many locations within both Stratford and London. The Congress also seeks to connect with Shakespeareans from across the globe. Delegates for the Congress are “leading writers, theatre practitioners, and critics,” showing a spanning interest in Shakespearean influence from creative writing to theatre and to scholarship. The “News” section of the Congress’ website offers up to date announcements about the program. Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival

Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival

Honoring the 400th year anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival will stage a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Millbrook High School. A Q& A with the actors and actresses will take place. A portion of all proceeds will support the Millbrook High School Drama Club.Tickets: Students FREE, Adults $12, Seniors $10. To honor Shakespeare’s 400th anniversary, as well as the company’s 30 years in the Hudson Valley, during the summer of 2016 the company will also stage productions of As You Like It, an all female production of Macbeth, and Measure for Measure at Bascobel House and Gardens in Garrison, NY.

Shakespeare’s Star Turn in America

In celebration of the enduring inspiration of William Shakespeare’s plays, The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts will present an exhibition in its Astor Gallery. We love Shakespeare. We read his plays, use his stories for films and even attend his shows in Central Park. But how did colonial Americans feel about the Bard? What did those that lived during the Great Depression think? Using artifacts from the Library’s own collections, the exhibition will document the on-going popularity and influence of Shakespeare’s plays in North America from Colonial times to present day. Specifically, the exhibit will contain scripts, artifacts, and materials related to the pageant version of The Tempest, specifically created for the 1916 Tercentary.

The artifacts include broadsides and programs, engravings and photographs, original set and costume designs, set models and costumes, letters detailing tour conditions, and prompt scripts used by Edwin Booth, Orson Welles, Katharine Hepburn, and actors in recent Shakespeare Festival productions.  Discover which plays were performed when and where, and how they served American social history. The exhibition highlights well-known classics, such as HamletRomeo and Juliet and Macbeth, and also directs attention to plays with particular historic relationships, such as King John, which was popular just before and after the Revolution, the Roman history plays, frequently performed in the 1930s for their emphasis on political responsibility, Artifacts and media for Much Ado about Nothing and other comedies are also displayed, revealing the non-traditional casting and period switches typical of contemporary American Shakespeare festivals. Avid Shakespeare fans will benefit from this exhibit, which provides several contextual and background information to productions of Shakespeare’s iconic works in America.

Through May 27th, 2016.

Shakespeare 400 Daily Reading

For an entire year (April 23, 2016 to April 23, 2017) the creators of the the Shakespeare 400 Daily Reading Facebook page will post an archived selection of Shakespeare to be read as they say: “wherever you are, on any device, whether at home, at work, at school/college, or on your travels.” Each post has specific relevance to the date in which it is posted and selections range from recordings of first performances to more witty posts, like the scene between Grumio and Katherina from The Taming of the Shrew on International No Diet Day. Although not an event to physically attend, this web based event can spark those who follow to plan their own Shakespeare 400 celebration. The resource could be specifically well used to integrate technology into the classroom with Facebook as the spark of interest for younger students. Each class could begin with a student reading the post of that day. A stray from the traditional festival, the Shakespeare 400 Daily Reading creates a community, unifying those who want to celebrate Shakespeare but may not have the resources to attend a festival or production.

Blue Apple Theatre

Located in Winchester, England the Blue Apple Theatre provides programs of dance and drama to those with learning disabilities. The company was created in 2005, celebrating its 10th anniversary last year, and has put on 24 productions since its inception. Their mission as an internationally touring group: “Through producing high quality theatre, dance and film we aim to challenge prejudice and transform the lives of people with a learning disability.” In celebration of Shakespeare 400, a local news station covered Blue Apple Theatre’s March production of Hamlet at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse at The Globe. Along with regularly scheduled classes, the company has also performed A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Much Ado About Nothing. The company’s production has no limits to its audience, as the main goal of the organization is to be inclusive.

Shakespeare 400 Chicago

Shakespeare 400 Chicago is a yearlong festival that began January of 2016 and will be running till the very end, December 31st of 2016. The festival is to commemorate the 400th year anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death. This celebration of the great bard will host 850 events by the end of the year, with performers, exhibits, and other artists hailing from all corners of the globe. Shakespeare 400 is run by the Chicago Shakespeare Theater and is supported by the Julius Frankel Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the Pritzer Military Museum & Library. With such a diverse offering of activities and performances, this festival can appeal to multiple types of Shakespeare fans. For the more traditional, there is a performance of The Globe’s The Merchant of Venice from August 4th-16th. For the more lighthearted, there is Improvised Shakespeare, a yearlong production of Shakespearean inspired improvised theatre that is prompted by audience members. For younger audiences, the festival has workshops and poetry slams. The event is also stocked full of art exhibits, Shakespearean ballets, operas, experimental adaptations, and even a production of Twelfth Night performed by individuals with special needs. The festival truly has something for everyone.  

Shakespeare 400 at The Public

The Public Theater in New York will be celebrating the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death with Shakespeare 400, a conglomeration of free/cheap performances of Shakespeare’s plays, along with an exhibit, and a gala. The event kicked off with a production of Romeo and Juliet performed by the Mobile Shakespeare Unit from April 11th to May 1st. The free performances will be held at the Public Theater in New York, during their annual “Shakespeare in the Park.” From May 24th to June 26th, there will be an all female production of Taming of the Shrew. From July 19th to August 14th, they will be showing Troilus and Cressida. They will also have a free musical adaptation of Twelfth Night at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park from September 2nd to the 6th. A gala will be held June 6th in celebration of Shakespeare’s 400th at the Delacorte Theater, with cocktails, dinner, and a performance. Lastly, Shakespeare’s First Folio will be on display at the New York Historical Society for six weeks, beginning June 7th. Accompanying this exhibit will be several events and conversations about the Bard. Shakespeare 400 seems to be primarily targeted towards an adult audience who are fans of Shakespeare, however, the performances certainly can appeal to Shakespeare novices who want to experience Shakespeare’s work for the first time for a reasonable price (free).