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January 22, 2018

Class of 1978 Pavilion in the Kislak Center
6th Floor of Van-Pelt Library

We will be welcoming Heather Wolfe for a talk entitled: “Making Sense of the Surviving Manuscript Depictions of Shakespeare’s Coat of Arms.” Heather writes: In a 1950 publication titled Shakespeare’s Arms C.W. Scott-Giles declared, “But one halfpenny worth of fact to an intolerable deal of supposition-such is the matter for a note on Shakespeare’s arms.” Indeed, although the 1596 grant of arms was to John Shakespeare, scholars have long surmised that William Shakespeare applied for it on behalf of his aging father, who was retired and living in Stratford-upon-Avon. By acquiring a coat of arms for his father rather than for himself, William Shakespeare could claim to be a gentleman by descent rather than by an exchange of money. Previously unstudied manuscripts relating both to Shakespeare’s coat of arms in particular, and to the dispute among the heralds about recklessly granting arms to undeserving individuals in general, allow us to remove some of the supposition and to thicken the story about Shakespeare’s involvement in the acquisition and defense of his coat of arms. In this talk I’ll ponder the relationship between a series of contemporary depictions of Shakespeare’s coat of arms found in heraldic compilations and place them in the context of the surviving working papers of two heralds, William Dethick and Ralph Brooke.   Heather Wolfe is Curator of Manuscripts at the Folger Shakespeare Library. She received an MLIS from UCLA and a PhD from the University of Cambridge. She is currently principal investigator of Early Modern Manuscripts Online, co-principal investigator of Shakespeare’s World, curator ofShakespeare Documented and co-director of Before Farm to Table: Early Modern Foodways and Cultures, a Mellon Initiative in Collaborative Research at the Folger Institute of the Folger Shakespeare Library. Her first book, Elizabeth Cary, Lady Falkland: Life and Letters (2000) received the Josephine Roberts Scholarly Edition Award from the Society for the Study of Early Modern Women. She has written widely on the intersections between manuscript and print culture in early modern England, and also edited The Trevelyon Miscellany of 1608 (2007), The Literary Career and Legacy of Elizabeth Cary (2007), and, with Alan Stewart, Letterwriting in Renaissance England (2004). Her most recent research explores Shakespeare’s coat of arms, early modern filing systems, and the social circulation of writing paper and blank books.