Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 21 August 2014

Stars back online Shakespeare bid

Stephen Fry is backing a bid to get Shakespeare online

Leading stars of stage and screen, including Stephen Fry and Vanessa Redgrave, have added their backing to a new campaign to make the first volume of Shakespeare's plays available online.

Oxford University's Bodleian Libraries has launched a fundraising appeal to digitise the first collected edition of the Bard's plays, known as the First Folio, which date back to around 1623.

The Sprint for Shakespeare campaign aims to raise £20,000 to put 1,000 pages of the playwright's work online - a cost of around £20 per page.

Once the work is complete, anyone will be able to access the website and the plays free of charge, Bodleian Libraries said. There would also be articles and blogs from academics, specialists, theatre professionals and members of the public available.

The campaign has won the support of a number of actors, actresses, directors, producers and scholars. Fry said he was "whole-heartedly" supporting the project.

"First Folio as a phrase sounds so distant from our everyday lives, but this priceless and extraordinary collection of plays turned the world upside down (or should that be the right way up?) every bit as much as Newton was to do nearly 60 or so years later," he said.

"The works of Shakespeare, now as much as ever, tell us what it is to be alive. The ambiguity, doubt, puzzlement, pain, madness and hilarity of existence had never been expressed so well and to this day never has.

"To bring the First Folio, the great authoritative publication, to everyone in the world via digitisation is as noble and magnificent a project as can be imagined."

Sir Peter Hall, founder of the Royal Shakespeare Company and theatre and film director, said: "The digitisation of the Bodleian copy of Shakespeare's First Folio is a project of huge importance.

"It will provide an unrivalled opportunity for textual study not only for actors, directors and other theatre practitioners and their academic colleagues, but also for audiences whose love of the plays has remained undiminished over the centuries."

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