These Foolish Games (Inside Folger!)

So, picture it.  Georgianna has begun our tour of the Folger Library, and we’re in this very cool dining hall decorated with stained glass representations of characters from the plays.  She asks my son whether he can name a particular piece.
“That’s Hamlet,” my boy replies, pointing at one before I can even figure it out.  “Because he’s talking to a skeleton.”

 “Very good,” Georgianna replies.  “Now can you find someone else from that play?”

Again, before I can take it all in (I think I spy Polonius, actually), the boy points to another window and says, “Over there!  The Joker!”
I laugh.  “No,” I tell him, “I think that’s the Fool from King Lear.”
“No, he’s right!” Georgianna tells us  “See the skull that he’s stepping on? We’ve always taken that to mean that this is Yorick.” 
Now, I’m quite sure that this full time employee of the center of the Shakespeare universe knows more about this stuff than I do.  But it strikes me as odd.  Not only is every other window a major character – Henry V, Cleopatra, Portia, Julius Caesar – but, as far as I can tell, each play is only represented once. Why then would Hamlet be represented not only by two windows, but with a minor character that never even appears in the play?
I must know!  Surely somebody reading this has been in that room and knows the story of those windows.  Clue me in!
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4 thoughts on “These Foolish Games (Inside Folger!)

  1. (Reposted, with typo corrected)
    Looks like the artist deliberately left it open for interpretation: a letter from Nicola D'Ascenzo, cited in a 1937 letter to the Folger from William H. Livingston on behalf of Paul Cret, architect, says the Founders' Room figures are: Cardinal Wolsey, Portia, Henry VIII, Romeo, Hamlet, A Jester, Shylock, Ophelia, Cleopatra, Richard III, Caesar, Katherine (from Taming of the Shrew)."

  2. Great answer, thank you! This both confirms and disputes my theory, however. There is no representation for Lear. But, there's still two characters referenced from Hamlet either way you look at it. So the Jester as Yorick would make it 3 Hamlet references.

    Where'd you get that? Any chance that I"m speaking with someone who I in fact just met last week? Seems like a very odd and specific bit of information that you just happened to have on hand 🙂

  3. Aha! I've been outed. I was on holiday last week, so alas we didn't meet, but I'm Erin Blake, Curator of Art & Special Collections.

  4. Hi Duane,

    My vote is for Touchstone
    from As You Like It…largely
    because he's got the same
    self-portrait on-a-stick that
    The Globe production had for
    the character a couple of
    seasons back.

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