- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 11, 2006

Nearly four centuries after his death, the works of William Shakespeare endure. His sonnets and plays have been studied by scholars, performed by professionals and interpreted onstage, on screen and in print.

The Bard has had an influence on the youngest of literature enthusiasts as well. From little books for Victorian-era youngsters to mass-produced Juliet dolls, Shakespeare is indeed everywhere, even at Toys R Us.

Shakespeare’s effect on young people is honored in a new exhibit at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Southeast Washington. “Golden Lads and Lasses”: Shakespeare for Children will run through May 13.

Georgianna Ziegler, a curator of the exhibit, says this is the first time the Folger has done an exhibit highlighting Shakespeare and children. The library looked in its collection and found many items, some dating back hundreds of years, that represented the impact the playwright has had on children. For other items, the curators had to go about finding them the modern way — by shopping. Some of the more recently created items include Shakespeare comic books and schoolchildren’s paintings.

One of Ms. Ziegler’s favorite items: paper dolls from the early 1800s featuring characters from “Othello” and other plays.

“This represents a sudden upsurge then in creating toys and games for children,” she says.

Another intriguing item is a 1623 first folio of Shakespeare’s works. The book apparently was owned by a family in the early 1700s. One of the children in the family doodled in the margins, drawing stick-figure people and a rendering of his house that looks similar to what a child would draw today.

“Here you have this big, important book,” Ms. Ziegler says, “and the kids started scribbling in it.”

The exhibit, set in the main hall of the library, is organized around Shakespeare and several themes. Among them:

• Shakespeare’s life and family. This area features a map of 16th-century England plus several books that guess what Shakespeare would have looked like as a boy. Nearby is a display about the famous Globe Theatre, the locale crucial to Shakespeare’s works.

• Lamb’s Tales. This series of books adapted by Charles and Mary Lamb in the early 1800s became popular retellings of Shakespeare’s tales. The inexpensive books, several of which are on display, feature hand-colored illustrations. The books have been translated into many languages and are still published.

• Shakespeare in School. This display shows how children worldwide have read and interpreted Shakespeare’s works for hundreds of years. There are school-issued books as well as photos of various local schools performing the famous plays.

• Shakespeare, the girl’s friend. Shakespeare had two daughters, and that could be why he wrote smart roles for women, Ms. Ziegler says. This display highlights some of those roles — such as Shylock’s daughter, Jessica, and Ophelia from “Hamlet.” Ms. Ziegler also points out the action in Shakespeare’s works and how that still appeals to boys today. Sword battles, kings and knights, revenge and double-crossing villains still translate well.

• Shakespeare as modern storyteller. There is a display of how the famous plays have been retold — among them, Wishbone the dog starring in a version of “Romeo and Juliet” and Homer Simpson as Macbeth. Shakespeare’s tales also have been the themes for modern productions. The award-winning movie “Shakespeare in Love” was a fictional behind-the-scenes tale. The teen movie “Ten Things I Hate About You” was a retelling of “Taming of the Shrew.”

A DVD player in this section shows “Animated Tales,” the HBO series that features many of Shakespeare’s works in their original language. The 30-minute films are done with beautiful animation and include actors’ voices from the Royal Shakespeare Company in England.

• Shakespeare’s influence in pop culture. In this display are “William Shakes-bear” teddy bears and Hamlet finger puppets. There is a Juliet Barbie doll as well as board games, puppets and picture books.

Children can pick up a study guide at the Folger. The pamphlet guides visitors through the hall, getting them to think by posing questions such as “How do covers of Shakespeare plays and books change over time?” or “How many different ‘Romeo and Juliet’ editions can you find here?”

When you go:

Location: The “Golden Lads and Lasses”: Shakespeare for Children exhibit is featured at the Folger Shakespeare Library, 201 East Capitol St. SE in the District.

Directions: The library is one block from the U.S. Capitol.

Hours: The library is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday. It is closed Sundays and federal holidays.

Admission: Free.

Parking: Limited street parking is available nearby. Union Station on the Red Line and Capitol South on the Orange and Blue lines are the closest Metro stations.

More information: 202/544-7077 or www.folger.edu.

Notes:

• “Golden Lads and Lasses”: Shakespeare for Children will run in the library’s main hall until May 13. The exhibit, which highlights William Shakespeare’s influence on children for the past 400 years, features antique and modern picture books, toys, paintings, drawings and films. The captions and explanations of each display are written in a way school-age children can understand.

• The museum store sells many items for youngsters, including Shakespeare-themed toys, dolls, puzzles and, of course, books.

• The Folger will hold a family program in conjunction with the exhibit on April 1. It will feature an in-depth exploration of the exhibit as well as the chance to take to the stage to act out scenes and stories.

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