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King's College Library and archives open their doors

This year is the quatercentenary of the death of William Shakespeare (1654–1616) and events are being held worldwide to celebrate the life and work of the UK’s most famous poet, playwright and actor, described by Ben Jonson as ‘not of an age, but for all time’. In this special year, King’s College Library and Archives will be joining the festivities by hosting an exhibition Shakespeare and Theatre in Cambridge showcasing many of their rare book and archive treasures.

The most famous edition of the plays, published posthumously in 1623, is the so-called First Folio, which includes all but two of the plays now recognised as Shakespeare’s. King’s Library will be exhibiting its copy of this famous publication (one of only four copies in Cambridge) and will be displaying it alongside other early editions of the Bard’s plays.

The way Shakespeare is spoken today owes much to Kingsman GHW ‘Dadie’ Rylands (1902–99, King’s Fellow from 1927). He directed many of the Marlowe Society’s student productions, influenced undergraduates including co-founders of the Royal Shakespeare Company and actors Sir Derek Jacobi and Sir Ian McKellen, directed John Gielgud in Hamlet, and produced the pioneering first Complete Shakespeare LP recordings (re-released this summer on CD). The Open Cambridge exhibition at King’s College will guide you through the theatrical world of King’s, from the local—establishment of the Cambridge Arts Theatre as well as a strong tradition of involvement in student theatre—all the way to the national stage.