In his Sonnet 16, Shakespeare writes of “Time’s pencil,” the passage of time that changes even a beloved person, seeming to depict him differently physically and in memory as the years pass. The materials in the Time’s Pencil website show how Shakespeare changed – how his texts shifted and his meanings altered – after the publication of his plays during his life and in the seminal First Folio collection, published in 1623, seven years after his death. Here you can survey the many shapes that Shakespeare's work has taken for readers and audiences with the passing of time.
Perhaps no other author has influenced the world as Shakespeare has. Yet what seems like the influence of a single writer also reflects the cultures that responded to Shakespeare. Surprisingly, Shakespeare’s global rise and influence depended on and led to successive waves of rewritings and alteration of his works. From the playwrights who adapted his plays to best please their own audiences, to the editors who offered countless versions of his “true” writings, to the many new stories told about Shakespeare, Shakespeare’s readers have recreated the author in myriad ways.
In his Sonnets, Shakespeare treats Time as a kind of rival poet; this site looks at some of the stories that poet has told about Shakespeare.
Where to start? Browse Exhibits, head to our first exhibit on Shakespeare’s Folios, or read about How to Use the Site. We will be adding much more content this year. Have a question or suggestion? Contact us.