Any English enthusiast must make time to see the Folger Shakespeare Library, home to the world’s largest collection of Shakespeare materials and Renaissance works. One of its most valuable and stunning attractions is the collection of 79 copies of the First Folio, the first collection of Shakespeare’s works published after his death. Some of his best plays, from Macbeth to Twelfth Night, would have been lost without this historic publication. One of the Folger’s First Folios is on display, accompanied by a digital display that lets visitors flip through the virtual pages of the collection. Visitors should also be sure to go to the Shakespeare Gallery, where a video explores the Folger today in conjunction with scenes from Shakespeare films.
But the Folger as an organization is much more than just the library. Every year, the Folger Theater produces a season of three Shakespeare or Shakespeare-related plays, performed in the period-style Elizabethan Theater. With its three-tiered wooden balconies, carved oak columns, and half-timbered facade, the theater evokes the Globe Theater itself.
The Folger has also dedicated itself to the expansion of modern America’s conception of poetry with Folger Poetry, responsible for eight to ten poetry readings and receptions each year. It also offers regular performances by a nationally recognized chamber music ensemble, The Folger Consort.
Docent tours of the building and the current exhibition are available Monday through Friday at 11 am, 1 pm, and 3 pm, Saturday at 11 am and 1 pm, and Sunday at 1 pm. The tours are free and no advance reservations are needed. Guided tours of the Elizabethan Garden are available every Saturday, April through October at 10 am. Garden tours are also free and require no prior reservations. Finally, visitors can sign up for tours of the reading rooms each Saturday from noon to 1 pm. These tours are free, but advance reservations are required. See the tours page of the Folger web site for more information.
To learn more about the Folger’s special events—performances of plays, chamber music concerts, poetry readings, or special exhibits—visit www.folger.edu.
Folger Shakespeare Library
Hours: Building and Exhibitions are open to the public from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday.
Reading room open 8:45 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. Monday through Friday,
Closed all federal holidays. Check the website for other dates the library is closed.
Admission: Free admission into the library. Tickets for performances vary.
Parking: There is limited street parking near the library. On weekdays, paid parking may be available at the National Capital Bank on Pennsylvania Avenue, near Third Street. Paid parking is also available at Union Station, a short taxi ride from the Folger. (or a seven block walk).
Metrorail: Blue and Orange Line to Capitol South (4 blocks) or Red Line to Union Station (7 blocks).
Old Town Trolley Tour