This is something my sister wrote after visiting the British Library in London during her first semester abroad. I feel at some level we can all relate to what she felt when she saw Shakespeare’s First Folio.
Sometimes in life, you come across things that simply take your breath away. While exploring the British Library earlier this week, I came across the Shakespeare folio, and the magnitude of what I was standing in front of was simply breathtaking. There are only a handful of things that are recognized by people throughout the world, such as Coca Cola, Apple, and Shakespeare.
Every student of Literature, whether it is in English or not, studies Shakespeare at some point in their academic lives. Quite possibly there is a Shakespeare production every single day somewhere in this world. On a daily basis we use phrases such as, “neither here nor there,” “break the ice,” and “refuse to budge an inch,” that are attributed to Shakespeare.
And here, in a case in front of me, was lying Shakespeare’s First Folio – the first edition of the complete works of Shakespeare. As I stood there and stared at the First Folio, my life as a distracted, rushed, grudging high school student of Shakespeare flashed in front of me – along with various versions of Cliff Notes, Spark Notes, and Shakespeare Made Easy.
Looking at this 500 year old folio containing the most important works of literature in the world, I wished I had made more of an effort to read what he wrote, analyzed and understood his quotes, related to his characters, laughed more at Puck’s mischief, cried more at the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, and hero worshiped Julius Caesar some more.
Shakespeare and so many generations after him have gone – and yet these books with his words, stories, and characters have survived – and our lives have been enriched because of them. Standing in front of the First Folio – what can be considered the pinnacle of man’s creativity – was truly a humbling experience, one I will always remember and cherish.