Verdi: Falstaff

Shakespeare Onstage-Offstage


Shakespeare Onstage-Offstage

A Celebration of the Bard, Fall 2013

Pacific Opera Victoria's production of Falstaff is a perfect celebration of Verdi's 200th birthday, of our own 100th production, and of all things Shakespeare!

Through September and October, 2013, our celebration spilled into the community with a marvellous potpourri of events called Shakespeare Onstage-Offstage.

The City of Victoria proclaimed September 21 to October 27 as Shakespeare Onstage-Offstage Celebration Days. View the Proclamation, which was signed by Mayor Dean Fortin at a meeting of the Victoria City Council on September 12th and read by Acting Mayor Shellie Gudgeon at the Opening of the Shakespeare Onstage-Offstage celebration on September 21st.

For details, see the Shakespeare Onstage-Offstage brochure

Here is a sampler of what was brewing during Shakespeare Onstage-Offstage: Glynis Leyshon, Timothy Vernon, and Brian Bannatyne-Scott toast Shakespeare with Hoyne's Falstaff Ale

  • Victoria's own Hoyne Brewing Company concocted a Falstaff Ale just for the occasion – available at the Royal Theatre during performances of Falstaff.

    Above right, director Glynis Leyshon, conductor Timothy Vernon, and Brian Bannatyne-Scott (Falstaff) raise glasses of Hoyne's Falstaff Ale to toast Shakespeare and POV's upcoming production of Verdi's Falstaff.

  • All four Folios of Shakespeare's plays were displayed together for the first time in BC at the Shakespeare's Big Books exhibit at the Legacy Gallery. See below for more details.

  • The Belfry Theatre offers a season brimming with Shakespearean goodies, beginnning with Goodnight Desdemona, Good Morning Juliet, an exuberant play about the chaos that ensues when two of the Bard's tragic heroines don't die after all.

  • The Greater Victoria Public Library, the University of Victoria Libraries, the Belfry Theatre, CBC Radio, and POV presented a wealth of behind-the-scenes explorations, performances, talks, and exhibits.

There was something for everyone – kids, teachers, history buffs, theatre and music lovers, scholars, and beer aficionados!


Falstaff and Shakespeare's Big Books

Title page of the 1623 First Folio. Courtesy of the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, University of Toronto.

The University of Victoria Libraries is excited to offer you two exhibits this year to celebrate Pacific Opera Victoria's production of Falstaff. Both events are part of the Shakespeare Onstage-Offstage community collaboration.

On campus, our Falstaff and Music exhibit showcases early editions, musical scores, and theatrical ephemera inspired by Shakespeare's larger-than-life character.

Downtown at the Legacy Gallery, we're displaying, for the first time in Western Canada, the earliest collections of Shakespeare's plays. The four 17th-century anthologies are known as the First, Second, Third, and Fourth Folios, dating from 1623, 1632, 1663-64, and 1685 respectively.

Thanks to generous loans of First and Third Folios from the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library at the University of Toronto and of Second and Fourth Folios from Victoria's own Legislative Library, visitors to the Shakespeare's "Big Books" exhibit will be able to see these rare volumes in person.

Folios have been much in the news of late. Recently, the University of London considered auctioning off its copies of these books in a sale that would likely have generated 3 to 5 million pounds. Outraged responses from scholars, librarians, and the general public scuttled the plans.

So why do we care about Shakespeare folios? If the First Folio did not exist, eighteen of his plays would now be lost, including As You Like It, Macbeth, Julius Caesar, and The Tempest.

The Folio offers different versions of plays that had already been printed in small quarto or octavo volumes.

The plays that feature or mention Falstaff – Henry IV, Part 1, Henry IV, Part 2, Henry V, and The Merry Wives of Windsor – do survive in earlier single-play versions, but our understanding of these texts would be quite different without the Folio. For example, the famous Chorus speeches from Henry V appear only in the Folio, and there are no references to Windsor in the quarto text of Merry Wives.

Even though we have our choice of many wonderful modern editions of the plays, being in the presence of these special 17th-century books transports us to Shakespeare's world.

Only about 230 copies of the First Folio have survived – each one unique even at press time, customized by its first owner, and bearing signs of its subsequent and sometimes mysterious travels.

The free Shakespeare's "Big Books" exhibit runs until October 23 at the Legacy Gallery downtown. Hours are Wednesday to Saturday, 10-4.

You'll also want to visit Falstaff and Music in the Special Collections Reading Room at the UVic Libraries (Room A005, Mearns Centre for Learning), before November 29. Hours are Monday to Friday, 8:30-4:30.

Erin E. Kelly, Assistant Professor
Department of English, University of Victoria

Janelle Jenstad, Associate Professor
Department of English, University of Victoria.
Assistant Coordinating Editor, Internet Shakespeare Editions


Further Reading

  • Eric Rasmussen, The Shakespeare Thefts: In Search of the First Folios. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011. GVPL call number: 822.33 RAS
  • Paul Collins, The Book of William: How Shakespeare's First Folio Conquered the World. New York: Bloomsbury, 2009. GVPL call number: 822.33 COL


CBC's Gregor Craigie interviews Janelle Jenstad and Erin Kelly about the mystery behind Victoria's own Shakespeare folios. Held in the BC Legislative Library, of all places, these folios were part of an amazing collection of rare books that was sold to the Provincial Library early in the 20th century by a Manchester industrialist named Harrison Garside.

The Book that Saved Macbeth: More on Shakespeare and the importance of the Folios: The Victoria News interviews Janelle Jenstad and Erin Kelly.


What on Earth is a Folio?

In Shakespeare's day, the number of times a standard sheet of paper was folded determined the finished size of a book. Folio, showing the foldsA folio is a book in which the sheets of paper are folded in half once to produce 2 leaves and 4 printed pages. To create a smaller -sized book, sheets were folded twice to give 4 leaves and 8 pages. Octavo-sized books involved folding a sheet 3 times for 8 leaves and 16 pages.

A folio was thus roughly equivalent to a coffee table book – large, expensive, and posh. (Many thought it too good for plays which, like many operas in those days, might have no life past their first staging.)

Quarto, showing the foldsQuartos and Octavos were smaller and cheaper, rather like hardcover and paperback books respectively.

If you were to keep folding, you could end up with a much smaller Sexagesimo-quarto, aka Sixty-fourmo – with 6 folds, 64 leaves, and 128 pages!

This leads to the inevitable question of how many times you can fold a piece of paper in half. It has often been said that the maximum is 7 times, but that story has been disproven by, among others, the popular TV show Mythbusters. Just google "fold paper times" and enjoy browsing the 90 million results!

Maureen Woodall


Below, the Mythbusters answer the question, Is it possible to fold a piece of paper in half more than seven times?


Shakespeare Onstage-Offstage


Explore Falstaff