On this day in history : 13th November 1964 – The Royal Shakespeare Company performs Hamlet in Rome, to an audience which includes the Pope – who almost causes a diplomatic embarrassment….

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Pope VI in 1963 – Image : Vatican City – Public domain

The RSC owns a copy of the First Folio of Shakespeare’s plays…. Printed in 1623 only 233 copies remain, many of which are incomplete…. It is one of the most valuable books in the World…. The RSC’s edition was carefully packaged and the Company carried it with them to Rome for Pope Paul VI to bless at the end of a performance of Hamlet – which was being held at the Palazzo Pio to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth….

The book was presented to the Pope and he looked through some of the pages….before graciously accepting the ‘gift’ for the Vatican Library…. Without a doubt some diplomacy and tact had to be rapidly deployed…. The 400 year old copy of the Bard’s work is now kept safely at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in Stratford-upon-Avon….

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The First Folio – Folger Shakespeare library, Washington DC – Image : Daderot CC BY-SA

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