02/04/1980 at 01:00 AM EST
The Bard himself once wrote, "Alas 'tis true I have gone here and there/and made myself a motley to the view," so he'd probably be the last to cavil at this gloriously mounted traveling show of Shakespeareana. Opening next week at the William Rockhill Nelson Gallery in Kansas City, the exhibit includes priceless books, manuscripts, paintings and costumes from the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., which houses the world's most extensive collection of Shakespeare material. This is the first U.S. tour of its treasures.
At the entrance is a sort of electronic marquee flashing quotes and facts like "Do you know that 23,000 students in your city are reading Julius Caesar at this moment?" The opening room re-creates Shakespeare's native Stratford-upon-Avon. The next stop is Elizabethan London, shown in rare etchings and paintings and books from the Queen's household, including her father's copy of Cicero, inscribed, "Thys booke is myne, Prynce Henry." (He was Henry VIII.) Children will enjoy a handsome wooden model of the Globe Theatre, where many of the plays were first staged. Bringing one back to date are scenes from movies—Laurence Olivier doing "Alas, poor Yorick!" from Hamlet, Orson Welles going bonkers as Macbeth, and Leslie Howard and Norma Shearer in Romeo and Juliet. Perhaps the highlight, however, is the first collected edition of Shakespeare's plays (only Pericles is missing), published in 1623. Henry Clay Folger, founder of the collection, called it "the most precious book in the world," since such works as Macbeth and Julius Caesar might have been lost without it. The Folger library owns 79 of the 240 existing First Folios; four of them are with the show, which moves to Pittsburgh in June, Dallas in October and Atlanta and New York City next year.