The Bard would no doubt be pleased with the complex devoted to him at the Folger Shakespeare Library. Outside the marble building on East Capitol Street are nine bas-reliefs depicting scenes from his plays, with a statue of Puck, a character from "A Midsummer Night's Dream," presiding over a fountain and pool at the west end of the building.
Inside is a research and reading room housing the world's largest collection of Shakespeare's printed works, as well as rare Renaissance books and manuscripts from his time. The Elizabethan Theatre, with its three-tiered gallery, carved oak columns and walls of timber and plaster, would be recognizable to Shakespeare, as would the Great Hall that features rotating exhibitions of Folger treasures and other special events. Among past exhibits in the Great Hall: "Shakespeare's Unruly Women," featuring representations of Shakespeare's female characters in photos, paintings, costumes and playbills over the centuries.
The Folger isn't really set up for a time-pressed tourist.The extensive reading room is not open to the public; and the theater, like any, is somewhat sterile without action on the stage or people in the audience.
It's far better to visit here in conjunction with an event, such as a concert by the Folger Consort -- renowned for its performances of Renaissance music -- or a play. That way the place comes alive, as the Elizabethan atmosphere complements the entertainment.
-- Michael Farquhar