Sydney, Thursday 27 October 2022: A special viewing of Shakespeare’s First Folio at the State Library of NSW, and a private lecture delivered by Australian theatre and Shakespeare legend John Bell, were among two highlights of a Shakespeare-themed excursion for our University of Queensland (UQ) Ramsay Scholars this month.
More than thirty scholars in their second and third year of western civilisation degrees at UQ travelled from Brisbane to Sydney to take part in the trip, designed to offer them a unique ‘Shakespeare-themed experience.’
As part of the curated program, designed by UQ academics and Ramsay Centre CEO Professor Simon Haines, the scholars visited the State Library of NSW, the Art Gallery of NSW, and the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation.
At the State Library of NSW, State Librarian Dr John Vallance organised for the students to view rare original book versions of Shakespeare’s works known as folios. The students viewed the First Folio (1623), Second Folio (1632), Third Folio (1663), the second impression (1664) that includes seven new plays, and the Fourth Folio (1685).
The First Folio, printed in 1623, is the first published collection of Shakespeare’s plays, produced seven years after his death. Its title is Mr. William Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories & Tragedies, and it groups his plays into comedies, histories, and tragedies for the first time. Out of perhaps 750 copies printed, 235 are known to remain throughout the world, most of which are kept in either public archives or private collections. Original versions of the other folios are also rare.
The students were given insights into the folios by library staff and UQ academic Dr Jennifer Clement and Dr Gayle Allan from the University of Melbourne. Dr Clement is an expert on the history of print culture and adaptation studies and has written extensively on Shakespeare and adaptation, and on book history. Dr Allan has an international profile in research and writing in the area of Shakespeare studies.
In the evening, the scholars were treated to a lecture at the Ramsay Centre by John Bell AO OBE; the founder of Bell Shakespeare, an actor, director and one of Australia’s most acclaimed theatre personalities.
In a private lecture, John Bell spoke about his key moments of Shakespeare discovery that led to a life-long love affair with the works of the playwright, and a determination that they be brought to life in Australia. He discussed the future of Shakespeare in schools, how to approach Shakespeare as a student, his favourite plays and characters, roles he played as an actor, the importance of metatheatrical elements, modern adaptations, and why Shakespeare’s plays are timeless.
In addition to the Shakespeare experiences, the students enjoyed viewing an exhibition by contemporary artist Daniel Boyd at the Art Gallery of NSW, and several works in the newly transformed Grand Courts area of the Gallery.
Second year Ramsay Scholar Jamie Robbins praised the trip, saying he felt it was a wonderful way to engage with the themes and topics the scholars study in class, outside of class, where they could simply enjoy the literature and history “for what they are.”
“The exhibitions, tours and talks were all engaging, covering a variety of different but relevant perspectives on Shakespeare, literature, and art more broadly,” he said.
“The trip was a fantastic opportunity to engage with the executive of the Ramsay Centre, to engage laterally between the different year groups, and to engage with ideas of Shakespeare.”
Media contact: Sarah Switzer 0407 816 098/ firstname.lastname@example.org