In honor of the 400th anniversary of the first publication of William Shakespeare’s works, a portrait of the playwright and a speech from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” were sent to the edge of space as part of a short film series.
Published seven years after Shakespeare’s death on November 8, 1623, the First Folio, believed to have around 750 printed copies, contains 36 of the 37 plays he wrote, categorized into comedies, tragedies, and histories for the first time.
Filmmaker Jack Jewers created six short films to mark the occasion, using Shakespeare’s speeches and poems to address contemporary themes like space exploration, the impact of the COVID pandemic, and the war in Ukraine.
In one film called “Lovers and Madmen,” narrated by actor Tom Baker, the portrait and text were attached to a weather balloon and sent to the Earth’s upper atmosphere. A miniature copy of ‘The Lovers and Madmen’ speech from ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ was placed inside the portrait, symbolizing Shakespeare’s words floating in space alongside his image.
Another film, “The Stranger’s Case,” combined a speech contributed by Shakespeare to an unperformed play with footage of refugees at sea, highlighting the continued relevance of Shakespeare’s works to contemporary issues.
The First Folio is widely regarded as one of the most important books in English literature, preserving 18 plays, including “Macbeth,” which might have been lost otherwise. Will Tosh, the head of research at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London, explained that Shakespeare’s fellow actors and theater company owners compiled the First Folio as a testament to their esteemed colleague, recognizing him as one of the greatest playwrights they had ever worked with.