The publication of Mr. William Shakespeare's Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies, commonly known as the Shakespeare First Folio in 1623 was one of the most remarkable events in literary history. At a time in England when some intellectuals looked down on vernacular drama, it confirmed Shakespeare's position as the central figure of the Western tradition and began a process that would make him the most famous and important writer in the world today. Because it is in this volume, seven years after Shakespeare's death, that we find Ben Jonson extolling him as a writer who excelled even the ancients, and about whom Jonson ventured his prophetic words: "he was not of an age but for all time." Almost half of the plays attributed to Shakespeare today were first published in the First Folio. Shakespeare's fame as a writer had been building steadily from the late 1590s, when his drama began to be reproduced in smaller quarto versions. The First Folio was consequently less of an unprecedented beginning than the culmination of a process that began earlier in Shakespeare's career, when his name came to have value as a sign of genius. With its publication, modern literature had arrived.
Speaker: Dr. James P. Bednarz, Professor of English, Long Island University-LIU Post
Dr. Bednarz, received a B.A. (summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa) from Columbia College, before going on to receive an M.A. with honors and a Ph. D. with distinction from the Columbia Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. He has served as a member of the advisory committee on Shakespeare for PMLA. His work focuses primarily on William Shakespeare and his contemporaries, especially Christopher Marlowe, Ben Jonson, John Marston and John Donne. His study "Shakespeare and the Poets' War" (Columbia University Press, 2001) was selected as an International Book of the Year by The Times Literary Supplement. ." He has recently completed "Shakespeare and the Truth of Love," an examination of the political, religious and literary contexts that shaped Shakespeare's perspective as a dramatist and poet at the height of his career in 1601.
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