Shakespeare's First Folio gets child-friendly makeover - The Leamington Observer

Shakespeare's First Folio gets child-friendly makeover

Leamington Editorial 16th Apr, 2023   0

MAKING Shakespeare more accessible to schoolchildren is the aim of a new project.

The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust is publishing a new abridged version of Shakespeare’s complete works targeted at a younger audience.

SBT, which holds three original copies of the 1623 First Folio as part of its world-class collection, hopes that the new publication will help to ensure that children’s first encounter with the bard is a positive and accessible experience.

Andy Reeves, SBT head of learning development, said: “With 2023 being the 400th anniversary of the publication of the First Folio, a book that first brought Shakespeare’s plays together in one volume and set the highest bar for creativity, performance, and collaboration, we could think of no better way of celebrating than to re-introduce the works and words of Shakespeare to young people, empowering them to read or perform them as they choose.”

Produced in partnership with Walker Books, a publisher of children’s books, Shakespeare’s Plays: A First Folio for Children is targeted at children aged seven to 14, and will include all 36 plays published in the First Folio, in the same order.

And the new edition uses all of Shakespeare’s language and has been abridged allowing each play to be performed by a minimum of eight people and in under 20 minutes.

SBT senior lecturer in Shakespeare Studies Dr Anjna Chouhan edited all of the plays for the children’s folio project.

She said: “This book isn’t about re-writing or reducing the power of Shakespeare’s words and works. Instead, we want the original language, themes and stories to be celebrated. By capturing the essence of each play, through characters and dialogue, and maintaining as many themes as possible, I hope to help children access and explore famous speeches, concepts, and enjoy Shakespeare’s incredible stagecraft.”

“Where else but in Shakespeare can you enjoy such weird and wonderful words like ‘sluggardise’, and ‘rampallion’ one moment, lead armies into battle with Henry V the next, turn a page to confront mortality with Hamlet, and conclude by enjoying a good practical joke with Sir Toby Belch?”

Shakespeare’s Plays: A First Folio for Children will be lavishly illustrated by Emily Sutton – described by The Times as “one of our greatest children’s illustrators” – who has researched each play using the SBT’s extensive collection, which includes weapons, domestic objects, textiles and early printed books as inspiration.

Denise Johnstone-Burt, publishing director at Walker Books, added: “Without the First Folio, we would not have the works of Shakespeare as we know them. This flagship project is a fantastic opportunity to celebrate one of the greatest books ever published and bring the works of our most important writer to a younger generation, in an accessible form.

“We are enormously proud to continue our work alongside the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and inspire new audiences for the future.”

Shakespeare’s Plays: A First Folio for Children, will be officially launched in the autumn, on the anniversary of the publication of the First Folio. The first print run of 10,000 copies will be distributed to 6,000 schools and 3,000 libraries across the UK.

Accompanying the physical book, the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust is also developing a series of free digital resources for teachers.

More information on the project, including details on how schools can register and how to support the project, can be found at



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