‘In celebration of this day with shows, Pageants, and sights of honour.’

Henry VIII, IV i

Edward Blount

Edward Blounte

Isaac Jaggard

Isaac Jaggard

‘Entered for their copy under the hands of Master Doctor Worrall and Master Cole, warden; ‘Mr. William Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies

From the entry of The First Folio on the 8th November 1623 in the Stationers’ Register at The Worshipful Company of Stationers and Newspaper Makers, Ave Maria Lane, London.

Celebrations Past

To celebrate the 400th birthday of the First Folio, the first printed edition of Shakespeare’s collected plays, Folio400 arranged, encouraged or promoted an array of events, shows and activities in 2023.

On display


The First Folio was announced to the world in the October 1622 Frankfurt Book Fair catalogue: ‘Playes, written by M. William Shakespeare, all in one volume, printed by Isaak Iaggard, in fol.’ Shakespeare’s Globe in London teamed up with the Deutsches Literartarchiv (DLA) in Marbach, Germany, to celebrate the 400th anniversary of this announcement and kick off the year of Folio400 celebrations.

The DLA hosted a two-day international conference ‘Shakespeare-An International Legacy’ on 13th and 14th October, and an exhibition from 12th October 2022 to 21st May 2023 entitled ‘Will’s Book, Shakespeare’s First Folio 400 years on’, which presented a First, Second, Third and Fourth Folio, along with a Ben Jonson Folio and an array of associated quartos and other artefacts. An occasional series of performance events was given alongside the exhibition.

First Folios on public display

During 2023, copies of original First Folios were displayed to the public across the UK and elsewhere. Find out here where they were shown, ranked in their distance from William Jaggard’s Print House.

On stage

Shakespeare Plays

Photo by Stratford Computers

The Royal Shakespeare Company


The Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon presented five plays which would have been lost forever if the First Folio had not been published in 1623: The Tempest, Julius Caesar, Cymbeline, As You Like It and Macbeth, running consecutively from January to October 2023. Julius Caesar also toured the UK including The Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury; Hall for Cornwall, Truro; The Alhambra, Bradford; Theatre Royal, Newcastle; The Grand Theatre, Blackpool; Theatre Royal, Nottingham; Theatre Royal, Norwich; Theatre Royal, York; and The Lowry, Salford. The RSC also opened submissions for a nationwide playwriting project, 37 Plays, which created a living folio of bold new work that captured the stories of the UK in 2023.

Shakespeare's Globe Theatre
Photo by Pete Le May

Globe Theatre

Bankside, London, SE1 9DT.

Shakespeare’s Globe in London presented four folio plays in the Globe Theatre: The Tempest (a production created especially for young people, as part of its annual Playing Shakespeare with Deutsche Bank project), The Comedy of Errors, As You Like It and Macbeth. It also hosted a special adaptation of As You Like It for ages 3+ by CBeebies, filmed in the Globe Theatre for broadcast later in 2023. Professor Emma Smith explored the cultural and societal value in the saving and publishing of Shakespeare’s works for future generations in a special Folio400 lecture in the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse on 23rd April, and a new ‘Printers and Playscripts’ guided walking tour explored Bankside and ventured across the River Thames to the historic heart of printing in London around St Paul’s.

Photo by Lauren Rogers Parker

Blackfriars Playhouse

American Playhouse Center, Staunton, VA 24401, USA.

American Shakespeare Center’s 2023 artistic year included four plays first published in the First Folio: As You Like It, Measure for Measure, The Taming of the Shrew, and Coriolanus, all performed in ASC’s Blackfriars Playhouse in Staunton, Virginia.

Othello, Riverside Studios, 2023

Riverside Studios

London, W6 9BN

Riverside Studios, London, presented a new, fast-paced production of Othello, with three actors collectively playing Iago, from 4th to 29th October 2023.

Merchant of Venice, 1936. Trafalgar Theatre Productions and Eilene Davidson Productions

The Merchant of Venice 1936

Trafalgar Theatre Productions and Eilene Davidson Productions, in association with the Royal Shakespeare Company, presented The Merchant of Venice 1936, depicting Shylock as a resilient single mother and hard-working business woman, desperate to protect her daughter’s future as tensions in London’s East End are rising. The production opened on 21st September 2023 at the RSC’s Swan Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon, toured across the UK, and played the West End’s Criterion Theatre, 15th February to 23rd March 2024.

Willow Globe Folio Fest 2023

Shakespeare Link and The Wet Mariners

Willow Globe, Penlanole, Llanwrthwl, Powys, LD1 6NN

Shakespeare Link and The Wet Mariners held a First Folio Festival at the Willow Globe, Llanwrthwl, Powys, from 26th to Monday 28th August 2023. The festivities began with Coriolanus and continued over the holiday weekend with letterpress, calligraphy, and movement workshops, a scavenger hunt, talks, films and games.

Opera & Ballet

Several opera and ballet companies produced Shakespeare-inspired works to mark Folio400, including:


  • Verdi’s Otello, presented by Maryland Lyric Opera, 3rd and 5th March 2023
  • Verdi’s Macbeth, presented by Teatro di San Carlo, 9th to 18th March 2023
  • Verdi’s Macbeth, presented by Teatro alla Scala, 17th June to 8th July 2023
  • Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, presented by Glyndebourne, 1st July to 22nd August 2023
  • Purcell’s The Fairy Queen (originally composed to fit between acts of A Midsummer Night’s Dream), presented by Longborough Festival Opera, 29th July to 3rd August 2023
  • Berlioz’s Beatrice & Benedict (based on Much Ado About Nothing), presented by Mid Wales Opera, touring 13 venues from 13th October to 10th Nov 2023
  • Verdi’s Macbeth, presented by Mid Wales Opera, touring nine large venues from 2nd to 23rd March 2024



  • Prokofiev’s Romeo e Giulietta, presented by Teatro alla Scala, 24th June to 7th July 2023

Portland State University, Oregon

Celebrate Folio400 at Portland State University, Oregon

Portland State University, Oregon

Portland State University, Oregon celebrated Folio400 with performances of Shakespearean drama, opera, music, and film in association with Play On Shakespeare, Portland Opera, Oregon Symphony, Oregon Renaissance Band, theatre dybbuk, and Hollywood Theatre. A series of 11 free public talks by distinguished speakers explored the power of Shakespeare’s plays within a spectrum of contemporary topics: visual arts, public health, race relations, food, sexuality, and music, among others, with speakers tracing the questions that animate Shakespeare’s plays to our current cultural interests and public debates, and illuminating surprising cultural continuities between 1623 and 2023. A free public exhibition in Portland from 6th April to 19th May 2023 presented an array of Shakespearean literature for young readers, a variety of adaptations of the plays in modern media, and Shakespeare-inspired artifacts from popular culture.

Recent plays about the Folio

Compositor E

The Ominbus Theatre, Clapham, London presented Charlie Dupré’s 2022 play, Compositor E, from 19th September to 7th October 2023. A play about the hidden fingerprints of history that asks who the storytellers really are. It is 1623, and 17-year old John has come to London to work as an apprentice typesetter, under the mentorship of printer Isaac Jaggard, on a potentially game-changing new commission. But having persuaded Isaac to let him progress to setting from a confusing manuscript of Macbeth, John’s trauma begins to spill out onto the print shop floor.

The Book of Will

The Book of Will

Lauren Gunderson’s 2017 play, The Book of Will was presented by Queen’s Theatre, Hornchurch (27th April to 13th May 2023), Octagon Theatre, Bolton (17th May to 3rd June 2023), and Shakespeare North Playhouse, Prescot (19th October to 11th November 2023). After the death of their friend and mentor, the two actors are determined to compile the First Folio and preserve the words that shaped their lives. They just have to borrow, beg, and band together to get it done.

‘Nay, Remember Me!

The Coach House Theatre in Malvern, Worcestershire, presented a new production of Amelia Marriette’s 2001 play, Nay, Remember Me! (published by Lazy Bee Scripts, 2018) as part of Malvern Folio 400 Festival, running from 5th to 11th of November 2023.

Nay Remember Me! by Amelia Marriette Malvern Theatre Players 400th Anniversary Production 2023
Queer Folio

Queer Folio

The 1632 Theatre Company presented ‘Queer Folio’, a celebration of LGBTQ+ creativity that included 30 new pieces co-created by LBGTQ+ artists and community groups inspired by the First Folio.

Shakespeare Unbound – A Gift to the Future

Colin David Reese presented his one-man play Shakespeare Unbound – A Gift to the Future, exploring a life in theatre as seen through the eyes of John Heminge. Colin made an abridged version of the play available for free online on 18th March 2023.

On screen

‘Will’s Book: Shakespeare’s First Folio’

Folio400 teamed up with Yorick Entertainment and the American Movie Channel (AMC) to make a television documentary on how the First Folio was made and has become ‘one of the greatest wonders of the literary world’. Interviewees included Professor Emma Smith, Professor Sir Stanley Wells, Professor Tiffany Stern, Dr Ruth Frendo, Dr Paul Edmondson, Dr Ben Higgins and Margaret Ford. Filming began in July 2022 and the documentary was first aired on Sky Arts on 14th November 2023.

Shakespeare season on the BBC

The BBC celebrated Folio400 with a season of content across TV, Radio, BBC iPlayer & BBC Sounds exploring why Shakespeare’s relevance and influence is as strong as ever.

Its highlight was a three-part series made by 72 Films (a Fremantle company) for BBC Two and iPlayer, from 10th to 25th November 2023, Shakespeare: Rise of a Genius, narrated by Juliet Stevenson and featuring actors Dame Judi Dench, Dame Helen Mirren, Brian Cox, Adrian Lester, Lolita Chakrabarti, Martin Freeman and Jessie Buckley, alongside academics and writers including Professor James Shapiro, Jeanette Winterson, Lucy Jago , Jeremy O’Harris and Ewan Fernie.

BBC Four featured archive performances throughout October 2023 with introductions from David Tennant on Hamlet, Sir Richard Eyre on King Lear, Dame Janet Suzman on The Wars of the Roses, Gregory Doran on the Shakespeare Gala from the RSC, Russell T Davies on A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Dame Helen Mirren on As You Like It, Hugh Quarshie on Othello, Steven Berkoff on Hamlet at Elsinore and Sir Simon Russell Beale on The Hollow Crown; a new production of Hamlet from Bristol Old Vic with Billy Howle in the title role; and Shakespeare’s Sonnets: A Modern Love Story included performances from Rose Ayling Ellis, Eloka Ivo, Eben Figueiredo and Ioanna Kimbook.

BBC Radio 3 dedicated 8th November exclusively to music inspired by Shakespeare and his world, with speeches from Shakespeare’s plays performed by Paterson Joseph and Niamh Cusack.

BBC Radio 4 broadcast a special edition of You’re Dead to Me recorded live at the Shakespeare North Playhouse, with Greg Jenner, Professor Farah Karim-Cooper and Richard Herring; Dame Judi Dench talked to John Wilson about her pivotal moments performing Shakespeare on stage and screen on This Cultural Life; and in a new comedy drama, First Folio, Mike Harris reimagined the collation of the First Folio through the efforts of John Heminge and Henry Condell.

BBC Teach created a brand new-9-part animation of Romeo and Juliet for primary schools.

Feature Film

Using imagination and wit to fill the gaps between the facts we know, a story was written by Dominic Dromgoole and developed as a screenplay by Richard Bean and Clive Coleman, telling an inspirational, humorous and human story of how the First Folio came to be, and how it very nearly came not to be.


National Library of Israel

Between April and June 2023, the National Library of Israel released a series of four lectures concerning Shakespeare and his enduring legacy, featuring prominent figures from Israel’s cultural and academic sphere.

‘Israeli Contemporary Theatre and Shakespeare’ with Yair Sherman & Dori Parnes; ‘Becoming Shakespeare: The Printed Canon at the National Library of Israel’ with Dr Micha Lazarus & Dr Stefan Litt; ‘Unlocking Shylock: Responding to Anti-Semitism in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice’ with Dr. Emmy Leah Zitter; ‘On Hebrew contemporary translations of Shakespeare’ with
Dori Parnes & Ronen Sonis.

Shakespeare’s Globe

Shakespeare’s Globe continued its series of free Anti-Racist Shakespeare webinars sponsored by Cambridge University Press, bringing together scholars and artists of colour from a wide variety of backgrounds to examine Shakespeare’s plays through the lens of race and social justice. During 2023, it discussed the Folio plays The Winter’s Tale with Priyanga Burford and scholar Dr David Sterling Brown (16th March), The Comedy of Errors with Dr Patricia Akhimie and Avita Jay (1st June), Macbeth with Kathryn Vomero Santos and Migdalia Cruz (17th August), and As You Like It with Andrew Bozio and Alfred Enoch (14th September).

On the page

First Folio Books

Shakespeare’s Syndicate - Ben Higgins

Shakespeare’s Syndicate: The First Folio, its Publishers and the Early Modern trade

By Ben Higgins, Career Development Fellow in English Literature, Lady Margaret Hall, University of Oxford, published by Oxford University Press in March 2022.

The Intertwined Lives - Chris Laoutaris

Shakespeare’s Book; The Intertwined Lives Behind the First Folio

By Chris Laoutaris, Associate Professor at The Shakespeare Institute in Stratford-Upon-Avon, published by HarperCollins in March 2023.

Shakespeare’s First Folio: Four Centuries of an Iconic Book

New editions of both Shakespeare’s First Folio: Four Centuries of an Iconic Book (Oxford University Press) and The Making of Shakespeare’s First Folio (Bodleian Library) by Emma Smith, Professor of Shakeaspeare Studies at the University of Oxford, and Fellow at Hertford College, University of Oxford, were published in April 2023.

Greg Doran Director's Journey

My Shakespeare: A Director’s Journey through the First Folio

By Greg Doran. Charting his personal and professional journey directing or producing all of the plays in the First Folio for the RSC, culminating with the production of his last, Cymbeline, My Shakespeare was published by Bloomsbury in April 2023.

The RSC Complete Works

Punblished by Bloomsbury in April 2022 in partnership with the Royal Shakespeare Company, this updated edition of the Complete Works of Shakespeare, edited by Sir Jonathan Bate and Professor Eric Rasmussen, was based on the iconic 1623 First Folio, with notes documenting the staging choices in 100 RSC productions demonstrating the myriad ways in which Shakespeare’s plays can be brought to life.

The Complete Plays from the Folio Society

In September 2023, The Folio Society published a magnificent new limited edition of 1,000 hand-numbered sets of Shakespeare’s Complete Plays, with Dame Judi Dench and Greg Doran, Artistic Director Emeritus at the Royal Shakespeare Company, writing the foreword and introduction. Each set was meticulously hand-crafted by skilled artisans, passionate about bookmaking, at the Smith Settle bindery in Yorkshire. The elegant linen and silk bindings, inspired by 16th-century blackwork embroidery, were woven on a Jacquard loom at Stephen Walters & Sons in Sussex, and Neil Packer provided exquisite illustrations.

Conway Stewart Sterling Silver Shakespeare Fountain Pen

Conway Stewart Sterling Silver Shakespeare Fountain Pen

Describing their good friend’s writing, John Heminge and Henry Condell wrote in their epistle ‘To The Great Variety of Readers’, ‘His mind and hand went together: And what he thought, he uttered with that easinesse, that we have scarse received from him a blot in his papers.’

British pen manufacturers Conway Stewart celebrated Folio400 with a special edition Sterling Silver Shakespeare fountain pen, reflecting that 18 of the plays in the First Folio were most likely typeset from handwritten scripts.

On site

Shakespeare Institute, Stratford-upon-Avon

Shakespeare Institute, photo by Mattykey
The Shakespeare Institute's Garden. Photo by Mattykey

The Shakespeare Institute
Church Street, Stratford

The 2023 Birthday Lecture on 21st April was hosted at the Shakespeare Institute in Stratford and marked the 400th anniversary of both the publication of the First Folio and Anne Shakespeare’s death with academics from the University of Birmingham: Dr Chris Laoutaris explored the people who created the First Folio, and Professor Tiffany Stern explained what the many mistakes in the First Folio can tell us. They were joined by Professor Katherine Scheil from the University of Minneapolis, Professor Charlotte Scott from the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, and Dr Paul Edmondson, from the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, who chaired the discussion.

William Jaggard’s Print House

In November 2022, Folio400 proposed a timeless ‘larger than life’ First Folio monument for the site at which it was printed, William Jaggard’s Print House, now covered by Lauderdale Place on the Barbican Estate in the City of London. The City Arts Initiative had concerns about the lack of artistic merit in Folio400’s design, so taking on board their comments, a second, simpler design was proposed, but this also failed to obtain planning permission.

Design One – July 2022

Design Two – January 2023

Stationers’ Hall

The publication of the First Folio was registered with the Stationers’ Company on Wednesday 8th November 1623. Exactly 400 years on, Folio400 and Shakespeare’s Globe organised a charity gala dinner at Stationers’ Hall to celebrate the quatercentenary and express gratitude to John Heminge and Henry Condell.

Guests enjoyed masques by professional actors and musicians and members of Shakespeare’s Globe Youth Theatre, and were able to view the Munro copy of the First Folio alongside the original entry in the register of the Stationers’ Company. The event raised more than £250,000 for Shakespeare’s Globe whose finances, like many theatres around the world, had been ravaged by the Covid-19 pandemic.