Essential Information

Type Free displays
National Maritime Museum
Date and Times 31 March - 24 September 2023 | 10am-5pm
Prices Free

See a First Folio of William Shakespeare's plays on display at the National Maritime Museum.

The Folio, owned by Dulwich College, is one of only 50 known surviving copies in the UK. It will be on free public display as part of a national celebration marking 400 years since the First Folio's publication.

See the Folio on display inside the Maritime London gallery, and discover the connections between Shakespeare, the sea and Britain's maritime history.

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Shakespeare and the Sea

"This is an opportunity to view the Folio in a new context," explains Lucy Dale, Curator of Maritime History at the National Maritime Museum.

"Shakespeare arrived in London at some point in the 1580s. By this time England had transformed from an inward-looking country, whose ships rarely left home waters, into a nation with global maritime interests. This encompassed legitimate trade, early imperial endeavours, state-sanctioned raiding on rival ships and the emergence of maritime figures, such as Francis Drake, as national heroes. 

"Shakespeare’s works reflect contemporary attitudes to this nautical turn," Dale continues. "In his plays the seas and oceans are both brimming with opportunity – a vast network for trade, connection and encounter – and a dangerous arena in which men are tested: a place of pirates, sea battles and shipwreck.

"In fact," she concludes, "the very first play in the First Folio is The Tempest, and the first scene takes place aboard a ship where the crew battle in vain against a ferocious storm."

As well as the First Folio display, the National Maritime Museum is also co-hosting a two-day conference in September dedicated to exploring Shakespeare and the Sea.

Find out more

The Dulwich College Folio

A photograph showing a page from Shakespeare's First Folio owned by Dulwich College. The edition is laid open at the first page of The Tempest, with shelves of books just visible in the background
The Dulwich College Folio (image courtesy of Dulwich College)

The First Folio was published in 1623, seven years after the death of William Shakespeare. It was the first printed edition of Shakespeare's collected plays; without the Folio, many of his most famous plays might never have survived.

Around 235 copies of the First Folio survive today, with 50 in the UK.

The edition on display at the National Maritime Museum is owned by Dulwich College, and is believed to have been acquired by the College in 1686.

The Dulwich College Folio is in two volumes and includes both the Comedies and Histories; the Tragedies are missing. Handwritten notes, ink and water stains indicate this edition could have been used as part of theatrical productions, offering a tantalising connection to performances of the past.

Displayed alongside the First Folio will be a copy of The Telltale, a manuscript play written sometime after 1605, and a petition from Thames watermen to reopen the Rose Theatre in 1590 following an outbreak of plague.

This year marks the 400th anniversary of the First Folio's publication, with celebrations, events and exhibitions taking place up and down the country.

Find out more about Folio 400

Plan your visit

Do I need to book?

The Tempest and the Thames is a free display at the National Maritime Museum. You are welcome to book free Museum tickets in advance or just turn up on the day - find out more about planning your visit here.

Finding your way

The First Folio display can be found within the Maritime London gallery on the ground floor of the National Maritime Museum. Download a floor plan or ask a member of staff when you arrive for directions.

Facilities and access

Find useful information about facilities at our museums including cloakrooms, baby change and accessibility, and information for visitors with disabilities coming to any of our sites.

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Tickets and Opening

Free entry

31 March - 24 September

10am - 5pm

  • Greenwich Station
  • Cutty Sark DLR
  • Maze Hill Station
  • Greenwich Pier

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Main image courtesy of Dulwich College

Choose your tickets

The Tempest and the Thames display at the National Maritime Museum is free to visit, but you are welcome to book tickets online in advance. The Folio will be on display in Maritime London gallery from 31 March.

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