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Celebrating Shakespeare 400

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Shakespeare Folios open

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Juliet event in the Mitchell Library

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Paul Kelly performing in the Mitchell Library Reading Room

The State Library – the home of Shakespeare in Australia - joined the international celebrations to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the Bard’s death on the 23 April with a dynamic program throughout the entire month.

Our Shakespeare 400 celebrations kicked off with a showcase of its priceless collection of Shakespeare’s four folios – Australia’s only complete set!

The First, Second, Third and Fourth folios are now on display in the Amaze Gallery until 29 May, along with other extraordinary Shakespeariana from the Library’s rich collections, including a newly acquired collection of plays from 1564. Authored by Italian poet Matteo Bandello, this rare book includes a story of ill-fated young lovers which inspired Shakespeare’s most popular play, Romeo and Juliet.

The First Folio 1623 has been recently digitised and now, for the first time, people can read Romeo and Juliet and all 36 plays published in the First Folio on the Library’s website.

Proving Shakespeare’s ongoing significance and popularity, people of all ages flocked to the Library to enjoy a series of exciting events, including Shakespeare for shorties storytime sessions.

The sold out Bach and the Bard performance saw cellist Rachel Scott and actor Paul Armstrong marry Shakespearean sonnets and Bach’s second suite for solo ‘cello (BWV 1008). The Library is hoping to hold a second performance later in the year.

Bard buffs descended on the Library from all parts of Sydney to test their knowledge at the Library’s inaugural trivia night, with the winning team only dropping a few questions.

On the eve of Shakespeare’s 400th anniversary, history was made in the iconic Mitchell Library Reading Room with 50 aspiring Juliets reading the famous balcony scene, with talented young actor Ed McKenna stepping up to play Romeo.

On Saturday 23 April over 1,000 people joined in the fun as the Library came alive with roving performers, Morris dancers, a fairy grotto, craft activities, drawing workshops with award-winning children’s author Leigh Hobbs, a sonnet slam, and much more.

The Library’s stunning Shakespeare Room – one of Sydney’s hidden gems - attracted huge crowds throughout the day, with many lucky punters treated to random performances from Bell Shakespeare actors.

The newly refreshed Shakespeare Room is open every Tuesday from 10am to 4pm. 

As our fabulous fan day came to an end, music fans gathered on the steps of the Mitchell Library in anticipation of our Shakespeare 400 headline event with acclaimed Australian singer/storyteller Paul Kelly who launched his new Shakespeare-inspired album, Seven Sonnets & A Song. With amazing vocal performances by Vika and Linda Bull, Paul Kelly wowed with crowd with his signature sound and then stayed to chat to fans and sign albums.

Our Shakespeare 400 program will continue throughout the year. Our upcoming event on 18 May will see an actor, student, academic and passionate director to discuss the ups and downs that come with loving the Bard, presented as part of the Sydney Writers’ Festival 2016.

From June 2016, Shakespeare’s First Folio will visit select public libraries in regional NSW. 

Find more about the program information here.