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bookmark_borderWilliam Shakespeare – Hamlet: Drama em cinco Actos

EText-No. 25667
Title: Hamlet: Drama em cinco Actos
Author: Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616
Language: Portuguese
Link: cache/generated/25667/pg25667.epub

EText-No. 25667
Title: Hamlet: Drama em cinco Actos
Author: Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616
Language: Portuguese
Link: 2/5/6/6/25667/25667-h/25667-h.htm

EText-No. 25667
Title: Hamlet: Drama em cinco Actos
Author: Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616
Language: Portuguese
Link: cache/generated/25667/

EText-No. 25667
Title: Hamlet: Drama em cinco Actos
Author: Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616
Language: Portuguese
Link: 2/5/6/6/25667/25667-8.txt
Link: cache/generated/25667/pg25667.txt.utf8

EText-No. 25667
Title: Hamlet: Drama em cinco Actos
Author: Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616
Language: Portuguese
Link: 2/5/6/6/25667/

EText-No. 25667
Title: Hamlet: Drama em cinco Actos
Author: Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616
Language: Portuguese
Link: 2/5/6/6/25667/

bookmark_borderWilliam Shakespeare – When to the sessions of sweet silent thought

When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
I summon up remembrance of things past,
I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,
And with old woes new wail my dear time’s waste:
Then can I drown an eye, unused to flow,
For precious friends hid in death’s dateless night,
And weep afresh love’s long since cancell’d woe,
And moan the expense of many a vanish’d sight:
Then can I grieve at grievances foregone,
And heavily from woe to woe tell o’er
The sad account of fore-bemoaned moan,
Which I new pay as if not paid before.
But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,
All losses are restor’d and sorrows end.

bookmark_borderWilliam Shakespeare – How can I then return in happy plight

How can I then return in happy plight,
That am debarre’d the benefit of rest?
When day’s oppression is not eas’d by night,
But day by night and night by day oppress’d,
And each, though enemies to either’s reign,
Do in consent shake hands to torture me,
The one by toil, the other to complain
How far I toil, still farther off from thee.
I tell the day, to please him thou art bright,
And dost him grace when clouds do blot the heaven:
So flatter I the swart-complexion’d night,
When sparkling stars twire not thou gild’st the even.
But day doth daily draw my sorrows longer,
And night doth nightly make grief’s length seem stronger.

bookmark_borderWilliam Shakespeare – Weary with toil, I haste me to my bed

Weary with toil, I haste me to my bed,
The dear respose for limbs with travel tir’d;
But then begins a journey in my head
To work my mind, when body’s work’s expired:
For then my thoughts–from far where I abide–
Intend a zealous pilgrimage to thee,
And keep my drooping eyelids open wide,
Looking on darkness which the blind do see:
Save that my soul’s imaginary sight
Presents thy shadow to my sightless view,
Which, like a jewel (hung in ghastly night,
Makes black night beauteous, and her old face new.
Lo! thus, by day my limbs, by night my mind,
For thee, and for myself, no quiet find.

bookmark_borderWilliam Shakespeare – Lord of my love, to whom in vassalage

Lord of my love, to whom in vassalage
Thy merit hath my duty strongly knit,
To thee I send this written embassage,
To witness duty, not to show my wit:
Duty so great, which wit so poor as mine
May make seem bare, in wanting words to show it,
But that I hope some good conceit of thine
In thy soul’s thought, all naked, will bestow it:
Till whatsoever star that guides my moving,
Points on me graciously with fair aspect,
And puts apparel on my tatter’d loving,
To show me worthy of thy sweet respect:
Then may I dare to boast how I do love thee;
Till then, not show my head where thou mayst prove me.

bookmark_borderWilliam Shakespeare – Let those who are in favour with their stars

Let those who are in favour with their stars
Of public honour and proud titles boast,
Whilst I, whom fortune of such triumph bars
Unlook’d for joy in that I honour most.
Great princes’ favourites their fair leaves spread
But as the marigold at the sun’s eye,
And in themselves their pride lies buried,
For at a frown they in their glory die.
The painful warrior famoused for fight,
After a thousand victories once foil’d,
Is from the book of honour razed quite,
And all the rest forgot for which he toil’d:
Then happy I, that love and am belov’d,
Where I may not remove nor be remov’d.

bookmark_borderWilliam Shakespeare – Mine eye hath play’d the painter and hath stell’d

Mine eye hath play’d the painter and hath stell’d,
Thy beauty’s form in table of my heart;
My body is the frame wherein ’tis held,
And perspective it is best painter’s art.
For through the painter must you see his skill,
To find where your true image pictur’d lies,
Which in my bosom’s shop is hanging still,
That hath his windows glazed with thine eyes.
Now see what good turns eyes for eyes have done:
Mine eyes have drawn thy shape, and thine for me
Are windows to my breast, where-through the sun
Delights to peep, to gaze therein on thee;
Yet eyes this cunning want to grace their art,
They draw but what they see, know not the heart.

bookmark_borderWilliam Shakespeare – As an unperfect actor on the stage

As an unperfect actor on the stage,
Who with his fear is put beside his part,
Or some fierce thing replete with too much rage,
Whose strength’s abundance weakens his own heart;
So I, for fear of trust, forget to say
The perfect ceremony of love’s rite,
And in mine own love’s strength seem to decay,
O’ercharg’d with burthen of mine own love’s might.
O! let my looks be then the eloquence
And dumb presagers of my speaking breast,
Who plead for love, and look for recompense,
More than that tongue that more hath more express’d.
O! learn to read what silent love hath writ:
To hear with eyes belongs to love’s fine wit.

bookmark_borderWilliam Shakespeare – My glass shall not persuade me I am old

My glass shall not persuade me I am old,
So long as youth and thou are of one date;
But when in thee time’s furrows I behold,
Then look I death my days should expiate.
For all that beauty that doth cover thee,
Is but the seemly raiment of my heart,
Which in thy breast doth live, as thine in me:
How can I then be elder than thou art?
O! therefore love, be of thyself so wary
As I, not for myself, but for thee will;
Bearing thy heart, which I will keep so chary
As tender nurse her babe from faring ill.
Presume not on th;heart when mine is slain,
Thou gav’st me thine not to give back again.

bookmark_borderWilliam Shakespeare – So is it not with me as with that Muse

So is it not with me as with that Muse,
Stirr’d by a painted beauty to his verse,
Who heaven itself for ornament doth use
And every fair with his fair doth rehearse,
Making a couplement of proud compare
With sun and moon, with earth and sea’s rich gems,
With April’s first-born flowers, and all things rare,
That heaven’s air in this huge rondure hems.
O! let me, true in love, but truly write,
And then believe me, my love is as fair
As any mother’s child, though not so bright
As those gold candles fix’d in heaven’s air:
Let them say more that like of hearsay well;
I will not praise that purpose not to sell.

bookmark_borderWilliam Shakespeare – A woman’s face with nature’s own hand painted

A woman’s face with nature’s own hand painted,
Hast thou, the master mistress of my passion;
A woman’s gentle heart, but not acquainted
With shifting change, as is false women’s fashion:
An eye more bright than theirs, less false in rolling,
Gilding the object whereupon it gazeth;
A man in hue all ‘hues’ in his controlling,
Which steals men’s eyes and women’s souls amazeth.
And for a woman wert thou first created;
Till Nature, as she wrought thee, fell a-doting,
And by addition me of thee defeated,
By adding one thing to my purpose nothing.
But since she prick’d thee out for women’s pleasure,
Mine be thy love and thy love’s use their treasure.

bookmark_borderWilliam Shakespeare – La Tempesta – Traduzione di Diego Angeli

C’è stata un’epoca della mia vita in cui sono stato innamorato di Titania. Io ero allora un ragazzetto appena settenne e vivevo in una vecchia villa toscana, fra le giogaie petrose della Gonfolina e i lecci medicei di Artimino. Ma appunto fra quelle pietre, nelle cui fessure crescevano le linarie gialle e dentro i cui ginepri arsicci zirlavano i tordi nei mattini di novembre, o sotto le ombre cupe dell’antico parco dove s’intravedevano ancora gli avanzi dello splendore d’altri tempi io ho ricercato invano la piccola regina delle Fate con tutto il suo minuscolo corteggio di genietti invisibili. Avevo imparato a conoscerla in un vecchio volume illustrato da uno di quelli artisti che con lo Stoddart e col William Blake furono i precursori di tutto l’idealismo letterario della pittura inglese. Avevo imparato a conoscerla in quelle grandi illustrazioni, un poco primitive, dove essa compariva sempre all’ombra dei tassobarbassi vellosi o delle fragole gigantesche, mentre sopra ogni stelo d’erba si cullava maliziosamente il piccolo «Cobweb» o l’inafferrabile «Pea’s Blossom», mentre Puck dall’alto di un cespuglio vigilava se Oberon non si avvicinasse. Nella grande stanza deserta, il sole d’agosto entrava a fiotti dalle vetrate senza tende, e gli armadii intorno sapevano di resina, e i mosconi ronzavano contro i cristalli mentre lo stridio non interrotto delle cicale sembrava arrecare su dalla valle il saluto trionfale della terra feconda. Nella calma di quei pomeriggi estivi, mentre tutta la casa dormiva nella siesta quotidiana, io sfogliavo il vecchio volume trovato nella biblioteca paterna e imparavo a conoscere Caliban, punzecchiato dagli spiriti maligni di Prospero, e il cane bizzarro di Speed, e i cervi che scendevano ad abbeverarsi lungo il ruscello nella foresta delle Ardenne dove il vecchio duca esiliato ascoltava le bizzarrie filosofiche di messer Giacomo e i sospiri amorosi di Rosalinda. Ma sopra tutti era Titania quella che attirava il mio spirito infantile, Titania con le sue chiome disciolte, coi suoi occhi attoniti, con le sue collane di corolle fiorite e con la sua tenerezza per il bel somarello dalle lunghe orecchie pelose. Così che molte volte io mi son ritrovato, su per gli scopeti odorosi di funghi di Artimino o fra i pinastri di Villa Campi, a cercare timorosamente in ogni campanella d’oro di tassobarbasso e in ogni calice azzurro di fanciullaccia se non si nascondesse una di quelle fate misteriose che andavano di notte ad appendere goccie di rugiada sui fiori della loro regina.

Questa è stata la mia prima visione del mondo shekspiriano e se più tardi ho cercato altre cose nei suoi volumi e ho trovato altre emozioni fra i suoi eroi, nessuna certo è stata così pura e così spontanea come quella di un amore infantile, nato nel tedio delle ore di studio, dentro una grande villa toscana sui colli di Signa, arsi dall’estate. E forse è in quel ricordo lontano che debbo ricercare il senso quasi religioso che io ho avuto sempre per il grande poeta inglese. Col crescere degli anni e degli studii la prima sensazione puramente fantastica si è naturalmente modificata, ma anche oggi non posso rileggere i versi divini del «Midsummer night’s dream» senza provare un poco l’antica nostalgia e ritrovare come in un angolo riposto del mio cuore qualcosa dell’amore di altri tempi. Per questo quando il Gaffuri di Bergamo mi propose di tradurgli quella divina fantasia per una edizione italiana delle illustrazioni di Arturo Rackham io accettai con gioia e mi accinsi al lavoro con tale un impeto di entusiasmo che i versi della traduzione mi vennero quasi naturalmente come in un accesso del «brevis furor» oraziano.

Pubblicato il volume io non pensavo certo a farlo seguire da altri, quando sopravvennero due fatti nuovi che fecero nascere in me una idea—ancora indeterminata—dell’opera a cui mi sono accinto. Il primo fu un articolo di G. S. Gargano, sul «Marzocco» di Firenze, articolo che oltre a parole fin troppo lusinghiere per la mia versione, conteneva come un ringraziamento per avere con essa fatto conoscere ai lettori italiani il capolavoro della fantasia shekspiriana nella sua integrità; e in secondo luogo venne la rappresentazione che di essa fu fatta dalla compagnia stabile all’Argentina di Roma, rappresentazione che ebbe esito trionfale e che mi procurò l’onore di una lettera dell’ambasciatore inglese sir Rennel Rodd—che è poeta tanto nobile, quanto è sagace diplomatico—nella quale dopo di avermi detto il suo piacere nell’aver assistito a quel trionfo del poema inglese che non credeva possibile d’innanzi a un pubblico latino, m’incoraggiava a proseguire e a dare agli italiani una intiera versione dell’opera shekspiriana.

Debbo confessare che da principio l’impresa mi parve così ardua che non osai concepirla. Ma le due voci diverse mi risuonavano continuamente nel pensiero e mi spronavano a tentarla. L’Italia, in fatti, non ha una vera e propria traduzione del Teatro di Guglielmo Shakespeare. Sia in prosa che in versi i traduttori italiani, per quanto valenti, non hanno mai avuto il coraggio di osare la semplicità e spesso la ruvidezza shekspiriana: costretti dalla moda del tempo a quella artificiosità ridondante che era propria della letteratura italiana, essi hanno travisato il testo, travestendolo in uno stile che non è lo stile del poeta inglese e spesso allontanandosene totalmente, quando un passo oscuro e audace sembrava loro che fosse insopportabile al pensiero italiano. D’altra parte, da che la poesia nostra si è felicemente liberata da quelle pastoie accademiche, nessun poeta aveva tentato di accingersi all’impresa non facile e non breve. Il Gargano, alcuni anni or sono, aveva tentato di costituire una società shekspiriana fra i varii letterati italiani, che si accingessero alla desiderata versione, la quale—tra parentesi—doveva essere in prosa e più documento letterario che lavoro d’arte. Ma il tentativo fallì e non fu danno—io credo. Perchè un’opera di tal genere deve essere compiuta da un unico individuo, che le dia quell’unità e quella armonia di intendimenti e di stile senza la quale non potrebbe riuscire degna dell’altissimo soggetto. D’altra parte, altre nazioni avevano già risoluto il problema per opera di uno solo, perchè non si sarebbe tentato di fare lo stesso in Italia? L’impresa è ardua, ma lusinghiera, e a poco a poco divenne così prepotente in me l’idea di attuarla, che decisi di accingermi al lavoro.

Nel qual lavoro io ho tentato sopra tutto la più scrupolosa fedeltà, rispettando i metri e le rime, rispettando i concetti e le espressioni anche là dove esse potevano sembrare meno tollerabili ad orecchi latini. Ma Guglielmo Shakespeare è con Dante Alighieri una di quelle forze vive della natura, da cui dobbiamo accettare tutto. D’altra, parte, per quello che riguarda la struttura metrica dei suoi drammi o delle sue commedie, essa ha una così profonda relazione con l’anima dei suoi personaggi che non potrebbe esserne divisa senza grave danno. Per questo, non solo ho lasciato la doppia forma prosastica e poetica—come era naturale—ma nei versi ho voluto rispettare per fino gli emistichi e quei distici rimati che quasi sempre chiudono il lungo discorso in versi sciolti di un personaggio. E anche questa fedeltà credo sia necessaria per rendere il pensiero shekspiriano, a punto perchè egli è di quei poeti in cui nulla è trascurabile e in cui ogni parola ha un significato profondo e immutabile.

Certo, ai primi passi di un’opera a cui dedicherò quanto oramai mi resta di vita, io non mi dissimulo le difficoltà e spesso mi dimando se veramente mi potrà bastare la forza per condurla a fine. Ma ricordando gli esempi di altri popoli e le parole buone di chi volle incoraggiarmi, so ritrovare la fiducia primitiva, confidando anche nei lettori i quali vorranno perdonare le possibili manchevolezze e incoraggiare anch’essi questo sforzo inteso a dare agl’italiani una visione il più possibilmente precisa di quel mondo creato da uno dei genii più alti che mai abbia onorato il pensiero umano.

Roma, Marzo 1911.



EText-No. 26169
Title: La Tempesta
Author: 1616;1564;Shakspere, William;Shakespeare, William;Shakspeare, William
Language: Italian
Link: cache/generated/26169/pg26169.epub

EText-No. 26169
Title: La Tempesta
Author: 1616;1564;Shakspere, William;Shakespeare, William;Shakspeare, William
Language: Italian
Link: cache/generated/26169/pg26169.html.utf8

EText-No. 26169
Title: La Tempesta
Author: 1616;1564;Shakspere, William;Shakespeare, William;Shakspeare, William
Language: Italian
Link: cache/generated/26169/

EText-No. 26169
Title: La Tempesta
Author: 1616;1564;Shakspere, William;Shakespeare, William;Shakspeare, William
Language: Italian
Link: cache/generated/26169/pg26169.txt.utf8

EText-No. 26169
Title: La Tempesta
Author: 1616;1564;Shakspere, William;Shakespeare, William;Shakspeare, William
Language: Italian
Link: 2/6/1/6/26169/

bookmark_borderWilliam Shakespeare – Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm’d;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature’s changing course untrimm’d;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;
Nor shall Death brag Continua a leggere “William Shakespeare – Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?”

bookmark_borderWilliam Shakespeare – Let me not to the marriage of true minds

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours Continua a leggere “William Shakespeare – Let me not to the marriage of true minds”

bookmark_borderWiliam Shakespeare – When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes

When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries
And look upon myself and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possess’d,
Desiring this man’s art and that man’s scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to Continua a leggere “Wiliam Shakespeare – When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes”

bookmark_borderWilliam Shakespeare – Richard III – Audiobook – Librivox

Filename Size Date
richardiii_0_shakespeare_64kb.mp3 1,708,421   8/15/14
richardiii_1_shakespeare_64kb.mp3 28,664,477   8/15/14
richardiii_2_shakespeare_64kb.mp3 11,173,303   8/15/14
richardiii_3_shakespeare_64kb.mp3 21,823,948   8/15/14
richardiii_4_shakespeare_64kb.mp3 23,708,317   8/15/14
richardiii_5_shakespeare_64kb.mp3 13,448,464   8/15/14


Pubblico Dominio

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bookmark_borderWilliam Shakespeare – Hamlet – Audiobook – Librovox

Filename Size Date
hamlet_0_shakespeare_64kb.mp3 1,296,650  11/24/09
hamlet_act1_shakespeare_64kb.mp3 24,561,291  11/24/09
hamlet_act2_shakespeare_64kb.mp3 19,768,553  11/24/09
hamlet_act3_shakespeare_64kb.mp3 26,424,762  11/24/09
hamlet_act4_shakespeare_64kb.mp3 19,076,204  11/24/09
hamlet_act5_shakespeare_64kb.mp3 20,886,176  11/24/09

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Pubblico Dominio

bookmark_borderWilliam Shakespeare

William Shakespeare

The Chandos portrait, artist and authenticity unconfirmed. National Portrait Gallery, London.
Born Baptised 26 April 1564 (birth date unknown)
Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, England
Died 23 April 1616 (aged 52)
Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, England
Occupation Playwright, poet, actor
Period English Renaissance
Spouse(s) Anne Hathaway (m. 1582–1616)


William Shakespeare (/ˈʃkspɪər/;[1] 26 April 1564 (baptised) – 23 April 1616)[nb 1] was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world’s pre-eminent dramatist.[2] He is often called England’s national poet and the “Bard of Avon”.[3][nb 2] His extant works, including some collaborations, consist of about 38 plays,[nb 3] 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems, and a few other verses, the authorship of some of which is uncertain. His plays have been translated into every major living language and are performed more often than those of any other playwright.[4]

Shakespeare was born and brought up in Stratford-upon-Avon. At the age of 18, he married Anne Hathaway, with whom he had three children: Susanna, and twins Hamnet and Judith. Between 1585 and 1592, he began a successful career in London as an actor, writer, and part-owner of a playing company called the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, later known as the King’s Men. He appears to have retired to Stratford around 1613 at age 49, where he died three years later. Few records of Shakespeare’s private life survive, and there has been considerable speculation about such matters as his physical appearance, sexuality, religious beliefs, and whether the works attributed to him were written by others.[5]

Shakespeare produced most of his known work between 1589 and 1613.[6][nb 4] His early plays were mainly comedies and histories, genres he raised to the peak of sophistication and artistry by the end of the 16th century. He then wrote mainly tragedies until about 1608, including Hamlet, King Lear, Othello, and Macbeth, considered some of the finest works in the English language. In his last phase, he wrote tragicomedies, also known as romances, and collaborated with other playwrights.

Many of his plays were published in editions of varying quality and accuracy during his lifetime. In 1623, John Heminges and Henry Condell, two friends and fellow actors of Shakespeare, published the First Folio, a collected edition of his dramatic works that included all but two of the plays now recognised as Shakespeare’s. It was prefaced with a poem by Ben Jonson, in which Shakespeare is hailed, presciently, as “not of an age, but for all time.”[7]

Shakespeare was a respected poet and playwright in his own day, but his reputation did not rise to its present heights until the 19th century. The Romantics, in particular, acclaimed Shakespeare’s genius, and the Victorians worshipped Shakespeare with a reverence that George Bernard Shaw called “bardolatry“.[8] In the 20th century, his work was repeatedly adopted and rediscovered by new movements in scholarship and performance. His plays remain highly popular today and are constantly studied, performed, and reinterpreted in diverse cultural and political contexts throughout the world.


Early life

William Shakespeare was the son of John Shakespeare, an alderman and a successful glover originally from Snitterfield, and Mary Arden, the daughter of an affluent landowning farmer.[9] He was born in Stratford-upon-Avon and baptised there on 26 April 1564. His actual date of birth remains unknown, but is traditionally observed on 23 April, Saint George’s Day.[10] This date, which can be traced back to an 18th-century scholar’s mistake, has proved appealing to biographers, since Shakespeare died 23 April 1616.[11] He was the third child of eight and the eldest surviving son.[12]

Although no attendance records for the period survive, most biographers agree that Shakespeare was probably educated at the King’s New School in Stratford,[13] a free school chartered in 1553,[14] about a quarter-mile from his home. Grammar schools varied in quality during the Elizabethan era, but grammar school curricula were largely similar, the basic Latin text was standardised by royal decree,[15] and the school would have provided an intensive education in grammar based upon Latin classical authors.[16]

John Shakespeare’s house, believed to be Shakespeare’s birthplace, in Stratford-upon-Avon.

At the age of 18, Shakespeare married the 26-year-old Anne Hathaway. The consistory court of the Diocese of Worcester issued a marriage licence on 27 November 1582. The next day, two of Hathaway’s neighbours posted bonds guaranteeing that no lawful claims impeded the marriage.[17] The ceremony may have been arranged in some haste, since the Worcester chancellor allowed the marriage banns to be read once instead of the usual three times,[18] and six months after the marriage Anne gave birth to a daughter, Susanna, baptised 26 May 1583.[19] Twins, son Hamnet and daughter Judith, followed almost two years later and were baptised 2 February 1585.[20] Hamnet died of unknown causes at the age of 11 and was buried 11 August 1596.[21]

After the birth of the twins, Shakespeare left few historical traces until he is mentioned as part of the London theatre scene in 1592. The exception is the appearance of his name in the ‘complaints bill’ of a law case before the Queen’s Bench court at Westminster dated Michaelmas Term 1588 and 9 October 1589.[22] Scholars refer to the years between 1585 and 1592 as Shakespeare’s “lost years”.[23] Biographers attempting to account for this period have reported many apocryphal stories. Nicholas Rowe, Shakespeare’s first biographer, recounted a Stratford legend that Shakespeare fled the town for London to escape prosecution for deer poaching in the estate of local squire Thomas Lucy. Shakespeare is also supposed to have taken his revenge on Lucy by writing a scurrilous ballad about him.[24] Another 18th-century story has Shakespeare starting his theatrical career minding the horses of theatre patrons in London.[25] John Aubrey reported that Shakespeare had been a country schoolmaster.[26] Some 20th-century scholars have suggested that Shakespeare may have been employed as a schoolmaster by Alexander Hoghton of Lancashire, a Catholic landowner who named a certain “William Shakeshafte” in his will.[27] Little evidence substantiates such stories other than hearsay collected after his death, and Shakeshafte was a common name in the Lancashire area.[28]

London and theatrical career

“All the world’s a stage,
and all the men and women merely players:
they have their exits and their entrances;
and one man in his time plays many parts…”

As You Like It, Act II, Scene 7, 139–42[29]

It is not known exactly when Shakespeare began writing, but contemporary allusions and records of performances show that several of his plays were on the London stage by 1592.[30] By then, he was sufficiently well known in London to be attacked in print by the playwright Robert Greene in his Groats-Worth of Wit:

…there is an upstart Crow, beautified with our feathers, that with his Tiger’s heart wrapped in a Player’s hide, supposes he is as well able to bombast out a blank verse as the best of you: and being an absolute Johannes factotum, is in his own conceit the only Shake-scene in a country.[31]

Scholars differ on the exact meaning of these words,[32] but most agree that Greene is accusing Shakespeare of reaching above his rank in trying to match university-educated writers such as Christopher Marlowe, Thomas Nashe and Greene himself (the “university wits”).[33] The italicised phrase parodying the line “Oh, tiger’s heart wrapped in a woman’s hide” from Shakespeare’s Henry VI, Part 3, along with the pun “Shake-scene”, identifies Shakespeare as Greene’s target. Here Johannes Factotum—”Jack of all trades”— means a second-rate tinkerer with the work of others, rather than the more common “universal genius”.[32][34]

Greene’s attack is the earliest surviving mention of Shakespeare’s career in the theatre. Biographers suggest that his career may have begun any time from the mid-1580s to just before Greene’s remarks.[35] From 1594, Shakespeare’s plays were performed by only the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, a company owned by a group of players, including Shakespeare, that soon became the leading playing company in London.[36] After the death of Queen Elizabeth in 1603, the company was awarded a royal patent by the new king, James I, and changed its name to the King’s Men.[37]

In 1599, a partnership of company members built their own theatre on the south bank of the River Thames, which they called the Globe. In 1608, the partnership also took over the Blackfriars indoor theatre. Records of Shakespeare’s property purchases and investments indicate that the company made him a wealthy man.[38] In 1597, he bought the second-largest house in Stratford, New Place, and in 1605, he invested in a share of the parish tithes in Stratford.[39]

Some of Shakespeare’s plays were published in quarto editions from 1594. By 1598, his name had become a selling point and began to appear on the title pages.[40] Shakespeare continued to act in his own and other plays after his success as a playwright. The 1616 edition of Ben Jonson‘s Works names him on the cast lists for Every Man in His Humour (1598) and Sejanus His Fall (1603).[41] The absence of his name from the 1605 cast list for Jonson’s Volpone is taken by some scholars as a sign that his acting career was nearing its end.[42] The First Folio of 1623, however, lists Shakespeare as one of “the Principal Actors in all these Plays”, some of which were first staged after Volpone, although we cannot know for certain which roles he played.[43] In 1610, John Davies of Hereford wrote that “good Will” played “kingly” roles.[44] In 1709, Rowe passed down a tradition that Shakespeare played the ghost of Hamlet’s father.[45] Later traditions maintain that he also played Adam in As You Like It and the Chorus in Henry V,[46] though scholars doubt the sources of the information.[47]

Shakespeare divided his time between London and Stratford during his career. In 1596, the year before he bought New Place as his family home in Stratford, Shakespeare was living in the parish of St. Helen’s, Bishopsgate, north of the River Thames.[48][49] He moved across the river to Southwark by 1599, the year his company constructed the Globe Theatre there.[48][50] By 1604, he had moved north of the river again, to an area north of St Paul’s Cathedral with many fine houses. There he rented rooms from a French Huguenot named Christopher Mountjoy, a maker of ladies’ wigs and other headgear.[51]

Later years and death

Rowe was the first biographer to pass down the tradition that Shakespeare retired to Stratford some years before his death.[52] It is perhaps relevant that the London public playhouses were repeatedly closed for months at a time during the extended outbreaks of the plague (a total of over 60 months closure between May 1603 and February 1610),[53] which meant there was often no acting work. Retirement from all work was uncommon at that time,[54] and Shakespeare continued to visit London.[52] In 1612, Shakespeare was called as a witness in Bellott v. Mountjoy, a court case concerning the marriage settlement of Mountjoy’s daughter, Mary.[55] In March 1613 he bought a gatehouse in the former Blackfriars priory;[56] and from November 1614 he was in London for several weeks with his son-in-law, John Hall.[57]

Shakespeare’s funerary monument in Stratford-upon-Avon.

After 1610, Shakespeare wrote fewer plays, and none are attributed to him after 1613.[58] His last three plays were collaborations, probably with John Fletcher,[59] who succeeded him as the house playwright for the King’s Men.[60]

Shakespeare died on 23 April 1616[61] and was survived by his wife and two daughters. Susanna had married a physician, John Hall, in 1607,[62] and Judith had married Thomas Quiney, a vintner, two months before Shakespeare’s death.[63]

In his will, Shakespeare left the bulk of his large estate to his elder daughter Susanna.[64] The terms instructed that she pass it down intact to “the first son of her body”.[65] The Quineys had three children, all of whom died without marrying.[66] The Halls had one child, Elizabeth, who married twice but died without children in 1670, ending Shakespeare’s direct line.[67] Shakespeare’s will scarcely mentions his wife, Anne, who was probably entitled to one third of his estate automatically.[68] He did make a point, however, of leaving her “my second best bed”, a bequest that has led to much speculation.[69] Some scholars see the bequest as an insult to Anne, whereas others believe that the second-best bed would have been the matrimonial bed and therefore rich in significance.[70]

Shakespeare was buried in the chancel of the Holy Trinity Church two days after his death.[71] The epitaph carved into the stone slab covering his grave includes a curse against moving his bones, which was carefully avoided during restoration of the church in 2008:[72]

Shakespeare’s grave

Good frend for Iesvs sake forbeare,
To digg the dvst encloased heare.
Bleste be ye man yt spares thes stones,
And cvrst be he yt moves my bones.[73]

(Modern spelling: Good friend, for Jesus’ sake forbear, | To dig the dust enclosed here. | Blessed be the man that spares these stones, | And cursed be he that moves my bones.)

Sometime before 1623, a funerary monument was erected in his memory on the north wall, with a half-effigy of him in the act of writing. Its plaque compares him to Nestor, Socrates, and Virgil.[74] In 1623, in conjunction with the publication of the First Folio, the Droeshout engraving was published.[75]

Shakespeare has been commemorated in many statues and memorials around the world, including funeral monuments in Southwark Cathedral and Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey.


Most playwrights of the period typically collaborated with others at some point, and critics agree that Shakespeare did the same, mostly early and late in his career.[76] Some attributions, such as Titus Andronicus and the early history plays, remain controversial, while The Two Noble Kinsmen and the lost Cardenio have well-attested contemporary documentation. Textual evidence also supports the view that several of the plays were revised by other writers after their original composition.

The first recorded works of Shakespeare are Richard III and the three parts of Henry VI, written in the early 1590s during a vogue for historical drama. Shakespeare’s plays are difficult to date, however,[77] and studies of the texts suggest that Titus Andronicus, The Comedy of Errors, The Taming of the Shrew and The Two Gentlemen of Verona may also belong to Shakespeare’s earliest period.[78] His first histories, which draw heavily on the 1587 edition of Raphael Holinshed’s Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland,[79] dramatise the destructive results of weak or corrupt rule and have been interpreted as a justification for the origins of the Tudor dynasty.[80] The early plays were influenced by the works of other Elizabethan dramatists, especially Thomas Kyd and Christopher Marlowe, by the traditions of medieval drama, and by the plays of Seneca.[81] The Comedy of Errors was also based on classical models, but no source for The Taming of the Shrew has been found, though it is related to a separate play of the same name and may have derived from a folk story.[82] Like The Two Gentlemen of Verona, in which two friends appear to approve of rape,[83] the Shrew’s story of the taming of a woman’s independent spirit by a man sometimes troubles modern critics and directors.[84]

Oberon, Titania and Puck with Fairies Dancing. By William Blake, c. 1786. Tate Britain.

Shakespeare’s early classical and Italianate comedies, containing tight double plots and precise comic sequences, give way in the mid-1590s to the romantic atmosphere of his greatest comedies.[85] A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a witty mixture of romance, fairy magic, and comic lowlife scenes.[86] Shakespeare’s next comedy, the equally romantic Merchant of Venice, contains a portrayal of the vengeful Jewish moneylender Shylock, which reflects Elizabethan views but may appear derogatory to modern audiences.[87] The wit and wordplay of Much Ado About Nothing,[88] the charming rural setting of As You Like It, and the lively merrymaking of Twelfth Night complete Shakespeare’s sequence of great comedies.[89] After the lyrical Richard II, written almost entirely in verse, Shakespeare introduced prose comedy into the histories of the late 1590s, Henry IV, parts 1 and 2, and Henry V. His characters become more complex and tender as he switches deftly between comic and serious scenes, prose and poetry, and achieves the narrative variety of his mature work.[90] This period begins and ends with two tragedies: Romeo and Juliet, the famous romantic tragedy of sexually charged adolescence, love, and death;[91] and Julius Caesar—based on Sir Thomas North’s 1579 translation of Plutarch’s Parallel Lives—which introduced a new kind of drama.[92] According to Shakespearean scholar James Shapiro, in Julius Caesar “the various strands of politics, character, inwardness, contemporary events, even Shakespeare’s own reflections on the act of writing, began to infuse each other”.[93]

Hamlet, Horatio, Marcellus, and the Ghost of Hamlet’s Father. Henry Fuseli, 1780–5. Kunsthaus Zürich.

In the early 17th century, Shakespeare wrote the so-called “problem playsMeasure for Measure, Troilus and Cressida, and All’s Well That Ends Well and a number of his best known tragedies.[94] Many critics believe that Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies represent the peak of his art. The titular hero of one of Shakespeare’s most famous tragedies, Hamlet, has probably been discussed more than any other Shakespearean character, especially for his famous soliloquy which begins “To be or not to be; that is the question“.[95] Unlike the introverted Hamlet, whose fatal flaw is hesitation, the heroes of the tragedies that followed, Othello and King Lear, are undone by hasty errors of judgement.[96] The plots of Shakespeare’s tragedies often hinge on such fatal errors or flaws, which overturn order and destroy the hero and those he loves.[97] In Othello, the villain Iago stokes Othello’s sexual jealousy to the point where he murders the innocent wife who loves him.[98] In King Lear, the old king commits the tragic error of giving up his powers, initiating the events which lead to the torture and blinding of the Earl of Gloucester and the murder of Lear’s youngest daughter Cordelia. According to the critic Frank Kermode, “the play offers neither its good characters nor its audience any relief from its cruelty”.[99] In Macbeth, the shortest and most compressed of Shakespeare’s tragedies,[100] uncontrollable ambition incites Macbeth and his wife, Lady Macbeth, to murder the rightful king and usurp the throne, until their own guilt destroys them in turn.[101] In this play, Shakespeare adds a supernatural element to the tragic structure. His last major tragedies, Antony and Cleopatra and Coriolanus, contain some of Shakespeare’s finest poetry and were considered his most successful tragedies by the poet and critic T. S. Eliot.[102]

In his final period, Shakespeare turned to romance or tragicomedy and completed three more major plays: Cymbeline, The Winter’s Tale and The Tempest, as well as the collaboration, Pericles, Prince of Tyre. Less bleak than the tragedies, these four plays are graver in tone than the comedies of the 1590s, but they end with reconciliation and the forgiveness of potentially tragic errors.[103] Some commentators have seen this change in mood as evidence of a more serene view of life on Shakespeare’s part, but it may merely reflect the theatrical fashion of the day.[104] Shakespeare collaborated on two further surviving plays, Henry VIII and The Two Noble Kinsmen, probably with John Fletcher.[105]


It is not clear for which companies Shakespeare wrote his early plays. The title page of the 1594 edition of Titus Andronicus reveals that the play had been acted by three different troupes.[106] After the plagues of 1592–3, Shakespeare’s plays were performed by his own company at The Theatre and the Curtain in Shoreditch, north of the Thames.[107] Londoners flocked there to see the first part of Henry IV, Leonard Digges recording, “Let but Falstaff come, Hal, Poins, the rest…and you scarce shall have a room”.[108] When the company found themselves in dispute with their landlord, they pulled The Theatre down and used the timbers to construct the Globe Theatre, the first playhouse built by actors for actors, on the south bank of the Thames at Southwark.[109] The Globe opened in autumn 1599, with Julius Caesar one of the first plays staged. Most of Shakespeare’s greatest post-1599 plays were written for the Globe, including Hamlet, Othello and King Lear.[110]

The reconstructed Globe Theatre, London.

After the Lord Chamberlain’s Men were renamed the King’s Men in 1603, they entered a special relationship with the new King James. Although the performance records are patchy, the King’s Men performed seven of Shakespeare’s plays at court between 1 November 1604 and 31 October 1605, including two performances of The Merchant of Venice.[111] After 1608, they performed at the indoor Blackfriars Theatre during the winter and the Globe during the summer.[112] The indoor setting, combined with the Jacobean fashion for lavishly staged masques, allowed Shakespeare to introduce more elaborate stage devices. In Cymbeline, for example, Jupiter descends “in thunder and lightning, sitting upon an eagle: he throws a thunderbolt. The ghosts fall on their knees.”[113]

The actors in Shakespeare’s company included the famous Richard Burbage, William Kempe, Henry Condell and John Heminges. Burbage played the leading role in the first performances of many of Shakespeare’s plays, including Richard III, Hamlet, Othello, and King Lear.[114] The popular comic actor Will Kempe played the servant Peter in Romeo and Juliet and Dogberry in Much Ado About Nothing, among other characters.[115] He was replaced around the turn of the 16th century by Robert Armin, who played roles such as Touchstone in As You Like It and the fool in King Lear.[116] In 1613, Sir Henry Wotton recorded that Henry VIII “was set forth with many extraordinary circumstances of pomp and ceremony”.[117] On 29 June, however, a cannon set fire to the thatch of the Globe and burned the theatre to the ground, an event which pinpoints the date of a Shakespeare play with rare precision.[117]

Textual sources

Title page of the First Folio, 1623. Copper engraving of Shakespeare by Martin Droeshout.

In 1623, John Heminges and Henry Condell, two of Shakespeare’s friends from the King’s Men, published the First Folio, a collected edition of Shakespeare’s plays. It contained 36 texts, including 18 printed for the first time.[118] Many of the plays had already appeared in quarto versions—flimsy books made from sheets of paper folded twice to make four leaves.[119] No evidence suggests that Shakespeare approved these editions, which the First Folio describes as “stol’n and surreptitious copies”.[120] Alfred Pollard termed some of them “bad quartos” because of their adapted, paraphrased or garbled texts, which may in places have been reconstructed from memory.[121] Where several versions of a play survive, each differs from the other. The differences may stem from copying or printing errors, from notes by actors or audience members, or from Shakespeare’s own papers.[122] In some cases, for example Hamlet, Troilus and Cressida and Othello, Shakespeare could have revised the texts between the quarto and folio editions. In the case of King Lear, however, while most modern additions do conflate them, the 1623 folio version is so different from the 1608 quarto, that the Oxford Shakespeare prints them both, arguing that they cannot be conflated without confusion.[123]


In 1593 and 1594, when the theatres were closed because of plague, Shakespeare published two narrative poems on erotic themes, Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece. He dedicated them to Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton. In Venus and Adonis, an innocent Adonis rejects the sexual advances of Venus; while in The Rape of Lucrece, the virtuous wife Lucrece is raped by the lustful Tarquin.[124] Influenced by Ovid’s Metamorphoses,[125] the poems show the guilt and moral confusion that result from uncontrolled lust.[126] Both proved popular and were often reprinted during Shakespeare’s lifetime. A third narrative poem, A Lover’s Complaint, in which a young woman laments her seduction by a persuasive suitor, was printed in the first edition of the Sonnets in 1609. Most scholars now accept that Shakespeare wrote A Lover’s Complaint. Critics consider that its fine qualities are marred by leaden effects.[127] The Phoenix and the Turtle, printed in Robert Chester’s 1601 Love’s Martyr, mourns the deaths of the legendary phoenix and his lover, the faithful turtle dove. In 1599, two early drafts of sonnets 138 and 144 appeared in The Passionate Pilgrim, published under Shakespeare’s name but without his permission.[128]


Title page from 1609 edition of Shake-Speares Sonnets.

Published in 1609, the Sonnets were the last of Shakespeare’s non-dramatic works to be printed. Scholars are not certain when each of the 154 sonnets was composed, but evidence suggests that Shakespeare wrote sonnets throughout his career for a private readership.[129] Even before the two unauthorised sonnets appeared in The Passionate Pilgrim in 1599, Francis Meres had referred in 1598 to Shakespeare’s “sugred Sonnets among his private friends”.[130] Few analysts believe that the published collection follows Shakespeare’s intended sequence.[131] He seems to have planned two contrasting series: one about uncontrollable lust for a married woman of dark complexion (the “dark lady”), and one about conflicted love for a fair young man (the “fair youth”). It remains unclear if these figures represent real individuals, or if the authorial “I” who addresses them represents Shakespeare himself, though Wordsworth believed that with the sonnets “Shakespeare unlocked his heart”.[132]

“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate…”

—Lines from Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18.[133]

The 1609 edition was dedicated to a “Mr. W.H.”, credited as “the only begetter” of the poems. It is not known whether this was written by Shakespeare himself or by the publisher, Thomas Thorpe, whose initials appear at the foot of the dedication page; nor is it known who Mr. W.H. was, despite numerous theories, or whether Shakespeare even authorised the publication.[134] Critics praise the Sonnets as a profound meditation on the nature of love, sexual passion, procreation, death, and time.[135]


Shakespeare’s first plays were written in the conventional style of the day. He wrote them in a stylised language that does not always spring naturally from the needs of the characters or the drama.[136] The poetry depends on extended, sometimes elaborate metaphors and conceits, and the language is often rhetorical—written for actors to declaim rather than speak. The grand speeches in Titus Andronicus, in the view of some critics, often hold up the action, for example; and the verse in The Two Gentlemen of Verona has been described as stilted.[137]

Soon, however, Shakespeare began to adapt the traditional styles to his own purposes. The opening soliloquy of Richard III has its roots in the self-declaration of Vice in medieval drama. At the same time, Richard’s vivid self-awareness looks forward to the soliloquies of Shakespeare’s mature plays.[138] No single play marks a change from the traditional to the freer style. Shakespeare combined the two throughout his career, with Romeo and Juliet perhaps the best example of the mixing of the styles.[139] By the time of Romeo and Juliet, Richard II, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the mid-1590s, Shakespeare had begun to write a more natural poetry. He increasingly tuned his metaphors and images to the needs of the drama itself.

Pity by William Blake, 1795, Tate Britain, is an illustration of two similes in Macbeth: “And pity, like a naked new-born babe, / Striding the blast, or heaven’s cherubim, hors’d / Upon the sightless couriers of the air”.

Shakespeare’s standard poetic form was blank verse, composed in iambic pentameter. In practice, this meant that his verse was usually unrhymed and consisted of ten syllables to a line, spoken with a stress on every second syllable. The blank verse of his early plays is quite different from that of his later ones. It is often beautiful, but its sentences tend to start, pause, and finish at the end of lines, with the risk of monotony.[140] Once Shakespeare mastered traditional blank verse, he began to interrupt and vary its flow. This technique releases the new power and flexibility of the poetry in plays such as Julius Caesar and Hamlet. Shakespeare uses it, for example, to convey the turmoil in Hamlet’s mind:[141]

Sir, in my heart there was a kind of fighting
That would not let me sleep. Methought I lay
Worse than the mutines in the bilboes. Rashly—
And prais’d be rashness for it—let us know
Our indiscretion sometimes serves us well…
Hamlet, Act 5, Scene 2, 4–8[141]

After Hamlet, Shakespeare varied his poetic style further, particularly in the more emotional passages of the late tragedies. The literary critic A. C. Bradley described this style as “more concentrated, rapid, varied, and, in construction, less regular, not seldom twisted or elliptical”.[142] In the last phase of his career, Shakespeare adopted many techniques to achieve these effects. These included run-on lines, irregular pauses and stops, and extreme variations in sentence structure and length.[143] In Macbeth, for example, the language darts from one unrelated metaphor or simile to another: “was the hope drunk/ Wherein you dressed yourself?” (1.7.35–38); “…pity, like a naked new-born babe/ Striding the blast, or heaven’s cherubim, hors’d/ Upon the sightless couriers of the air…” (1.7.21–25). The listener is challenged to complete the sense.[143] The late romances, with their shifts in time and surprising turns of plot, inspired a last poetic style in which long and short sentences are set against one another, clauses are piled up, subject and object are reversed, and words are omitted, creating an effect of spontaneity.[144]

Shakespeare combined poetic genius with a practical sense of the theatre.[145] Like all playwrights of the time, he dramatised stories from sources such as Plutarch and Holinshed.[146] He reshaped each plot to create several centres of interest and to show as many sides of a narrative to the audience as possible. This strength of design ensures that a Shakespeare play can survive translation, cutting and wide interpretation without loss to its core drama.[147] As Shakespeare’s mastery grew, he gave his characters clearer and more varied motivations and distinctive patterns of speech. He preserved aspects of his earlier style in the later plays, however. In Shakespeare’s late romances, he deliberately returned to a more artificial style, which emphasised the illusion of theatre.[148]


Macbeth Consulting the Vision of the Armed Head. By Henry Fuseli, 1793–94. Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington.

Shakespeare’s work has made a lasting impression on later theatre and literature. In particular, he expanded the dramatic potential of characterisation, plot, language, and genre.[149] Until Romeo and Juliet, for example, romance had not been viewed as a worthy topic for tragedy.[150] Soliloquies had been used mainly to convey information about characters or events; but Shakespeare used them to explore characters’ minds.[151] His work heavily influenced later poetry. The Romantic poets attempted to revive Shakespearean verse drama, though with little success. Critic George Steiner described all English verse dramas from Coleridge to Tennyson as “feeble variations on Shakespearean themes.”[152]

Shakespeare influenced novelists such as Thomas Hardy, William Faulkner, and Charles Dickens. The American novelist Herman Melville’s soliloquies owe much to Shakespeare; his Captain Ahab in Moby-Dick is a classic tragic hero, inspired by King Lear.[153] Scholars have identified 20,000 pieces of music linked to Shakespeare’s works. These include two operas by Giuseppe Verdi, Otello and Falstaff, whose critical standing compares with that of the source plays.[154] Shakespeare has also inspired many painters, including the Romantics and the Pre-Raphaelites. The Swiss Romantic artist Henry Fuseli, a friend of William Blake, even translated Macbeth into German.[155] The psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud drew on Shakespearean psychology, in particular that of Hamlet, for his theories of human nature.[156]

In Shakespeare’s day, English grammar, spelling and pronunciation were less standardised than they are now,[157] and his use of language helped shape modern English.[158] Samuel Johnson quoted him more often than any other author in his A Dictionary of the English Language, the first serious work of its type.[159] Expressions such as “with bated breath” (Merchant of Venice) and “a foregone conclusion” (Othello) have found their way into everyday English speech.[160]

Critical reputation

“He was not of an age, but for all time.”

Shakespeare was not revered in his lifetime, but he received a large amount of praise.[162] In 1598, the cleric and author Francis Meres singled him out from a group of English writers as “the most excellent” in both comedy and tragedy.[163] And the authors of the Parnassus plays at St John’s College, Cambridge, numbered him with Chaucer, Gower and Spenser.[164] In the First Folio, Ben Jonson called Shakespeare the “Soul of the age, the applause, delight, the wonder of our stage”, though he had remarked elsewhere that “Shakespeare wanted art”.

A recently garlanded statue of William Shakespeare in Lincoln Park, Chicago, typical of many created in the 19th and early 20th century.

Between the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660 and the end of the 17th century, classical ideas were in vogue. As a result, critics of the time mostly rated Shakespeare below John Fletcher and Ben Jonson.[165] Thomas Rymer, for example, condemned Shakespeare for mixing the comic with the tragic. Nevertheless, poet and critic John Dryden rated Shakespeare highly, saying of Jonson, “I admire him, but I love Shakespeare”.[166] For several decades, Rymer’s view held sway; but during the 18th century, critics began to respond to Shakespeare on his own terms and acclaim what they termed his natural genius. A series of scholarly editions of his work, notably those of Samuel Johnson in 1765 and Edmond Malone in 1790, added to his growing reputation.[167] By 1800, he was firmly enshrined as the national poet.[168] In the 18th and 19th centuries, his reputation also spread abroad. Among those who championed him were the writers Voltaire, Goethe, Stendhal and Victor Hugo.[169]

During the Romantic era, Shakespeare was praised by the poet and literary philosopher Samuel Taylor Coleridge; and the critic August Wilhelm Schlegel translated his plays in the spirit of German Romanticism.[170] In the 19th century, critical admiration for Shakespeare’s genius often bordered on adulation.[171] “That King Shakespeare,” the essayist Thomas Carlyle wrote in 1840, “does not he shine, in crowned sovereignty, over us all, as the noblest, gentlest, yet strongest of rallying signs; indestructible”.[172] The Victorians produced his plays as lavish spectacles on a grand scale.[173] The playwright and critic George Bernard Shaw mocked the cult of Shakespeare worship as “bardolatry“. He claimed that the new naturalism of Ibsen’s plays had made Shakespeare obsolete.[174]

The modernist revolution in the arts during the early 20th century, far from discarding Shakespeare, eagerly enlisted his work in the service of the avant-garde. The Expressionists in Germany and the Futurists in Moscow mounted productions of his plays. Marxist playwright and director Bertolt Brecht devised an epic theatre under the influence of Shakespeare. The poet and critic T. S. Eliot argued against Shaw that Shakespeare’s “primitiveness” in fact made him truly modern.[175] Eliot, along with G. Wilson Knight and the school of New Criticism, led a movement towards a closer reading of Shakespeare’s imagery. In the 1950s, a wave of new critical approaches replaced modernism and paved the way for “post-modern” studies of Shakespeare.[176] By the 1980s, Shakespeare studies were open to movements such as structuralism, feminism, New Historicism, African-American studies, and queer studies.[177][178]

Speculation about Shakespeare


Around 230 years after Shakespeare’s death, doubts began to be expressed about the authorship of the works attributed to him.[179] Proposed alternative candidates include Francis Bacon, Christopher Marlowe, and Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford.[180] Several “group theories” have also been proposed.[181] Only a small minority of academics believe there is reason to question the traditional attribution,[182] but interest in the subject, particularly the Oxfordian theory of Shakespeare authorship, continues into the 21st century.[183]


Some scholars claim that members of Shakespeare’s family were Catholics, at a time when Catholic practice was against the law.[184] Shakespeare’s mother, Mary Arden, certainly came from a pious Catholic family. The strongest evidence might be a Catholic statement of faith signed by John Shakespeare, found in 1757 in the rafters of his former house in Henley Street. The document is now lost, however, and scholars differ as to its authenticity.[185] In 1591 the authorities reported that John Shakespeare had missed church “for fear of process for debt”, a common Catholic excuse.[186] In 1606 the name of William’s daughter Susanna appears on a list of those who failed to attend Easter communion in Stratford.[186] Scholars find evidence both for and against Shakespeare’s Catholicism in his plays, but the truth may be impossible to prove either way.[187]


Few details of Shakespeare’s sexuality are known. At 18, he married the 26-year-old Anne Hathaway, who was pregnant. Susanna, the first of their three children, was born six months later on 26 May 1583. Over the centuries some readers have posited that Shakespeare’s sonnets are autobiographical,[188] and point to them as evidence of his love for a young man. Others read the same passages as the expression of intense friendship rather than sexual love.[189] The 26 so-called “Dark Lady” sonnets, addressed to a married woman, are taken as evidence of heterosexual liaisons.[190]


No written contemporary description of Shakespeare’s physical appearance survives, and no evidence suggests that he ever commissioned a portrait, so the Droeshout engraving, which Ben Jonson approved of as a good likeness,[191] and his Stratford monument provide the best evidence of his appearance. From the 18th century, the desire for authentic Shakespeare portraits fuelled claims that various surviving pictures depicted Shakespeare. That demand also led to the production of several fake portraits, as well as mis-attributions, repaintings and relabelling of portraits of other people.[192]

List of works

Classification of the plays

The Plays of William Shakespeare. By Sir John Gilbert, 1849.

Shakespeare’s works include the 36 plays printed in the First Folio of 1623, listed below according to their folio classification as comedies, histories and tragedies.[193] Two plays not included in the First Folio, The Two Noble Kinsmen and Pericles, Prince of Tyre, are now accepted as part of the canon, with scholars agreed that Shakespeare made a major contribution to their composition.[194] No Shakespearean poems were included in the First Folio.

In the late 19th century, Edward Dowden classified four of the late comedies as romances, and though many scholars prefer to call them tragicomedies, his term is often used.[195] These plays and the associated Two Noble Kinsmen are marked with an asterisk (*) below. In 1896, Frederick S. Boas coined the term “problem playsto describe four plays: All’s Well That Ends Well, Measure for Measure, Troilus and Cressida and Hamlet.[196] “Dramas as singular in theme and temper cannot be strictly called comedies or tragedies”, he wrote. “We may therefore borrow a convenient phrase from the theatre of today and class them together as Shakespeare’s problem plays.”[197] The term, much debated and sometimes applied to other plays, remains in use, though Hamlet is definitively classed as a tragedy.[198] The other problem plays are marked below with a double dagger (‡).

Plays thought to be only partly written by Shakespeare are marked with a dagger (†) below. Other works occasionally attributed to him are listed as apocrypha.


Lost plays

See also



  1. ^ Dates follow the Julian calendar, used in England throughout Shakespeare’s lifespan, but with the start of year adjusted to 1 January (see Old Style and New Style dates). Under the Gregorian calendar, adopted in Catholic countries in 1582, Shakespeare died on 3 May (Schoenbaum 1987, xv).
  2. ^ The “national cult” of Shakespeare, and the “bard” identification, dates from September 1769, when the actor David Garrick organised a week-long carnival at Stratford to mark the town council awarding him the freedom of the town. In addition to presenting the town with a statue of Shakespeare, Garrick composed a doggerel verse, lampooned in the London newspapers, naming the banks of the Avon as the birthplace of the “matchless Bard” (McIntyre 1999, 412–432).
  3. ^ The exact figures are unknown. See Shakespeare’s collaborations and Shakespeare Apocrypha for further details.
  4. ^ Individual play dates and precise writing span are unknown. See Chronology of Shakespeare’s plays for further details.
  5. ^ The Passionate Pilgrim, published under Shakespeare’s name in 1599 without his permission, includes early versions of two of his sonnets, three extracts from Love’s Labour’s Lost, several poems known to be by other poets, and eleven poems of unknown authorship for which the attribution to Shakespeare has not been disproved (Wells et al. 2005, 805)


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  2. ^ Greenblatt 2005, 11; Bevington 2002, 1–3; Wells 1997, 399.
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  16. ^ Baldwin 1944, 117.
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  19. ^ Schoenbaum 1987, 93.
  20. ^ Schoenbaum 1987, 94.
  21. ^ Schoenbaum 1987, 224.
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  23. ^ Schoenbaum 1987, 95.
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  26. ^ Schoenbaum 1987, 110–11.
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  50. ^ Shapiro 2005, 122.
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  57. ^ Honan 1998, 387.
  58. ^ Schoenbaum 1987, 279.
  59. ^ Honan 1998, 375–78.
  60. ^ Schoenbaum 1987, 276.
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  62. ^ Schoenbaum 1987, 287.
  63. ^ Schoenbaum 1987, 292, 294.
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  71. ^ Schoenbaum 1987, 306–07; Wells et al. 2005, xviii
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  76. ^ Thomson, Peter, “Conventions of Playwriting”. in Wells & Orlin 2003, 49.
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  79. ^ Dutton & Howard 2003, 147.
  80. ^ Ribner 2005, 154–155.
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  156. ^ Bloom, Harold. The Western Canon. New York, Riverhead Books, p.346
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  171. ^ Sawyer 2003, 113.
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Filename Size Date
sonnets_001-010_shakespeare_64kb.mp3 4,314,928   7/26/07  10:52 pm
sonnets_011-020_shakespeare_64kb.mp3 4,373,442   7/26/07  10:57 pm
sonnets_021-030_shakespeare_64kb.mp3 4,257,668   7/26/07  10:58 pm
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sonnets_131-140_shakespeare_64kb.mp3 4,434,673   7/26/07  10:55 pm
sonnets_141-154_shakespeare_64kb.mp3 5,979,660   7/26/07  10:54 pm


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