Information provided about the plays
The "Bard" William Shakespeare never published any of his plays and therefore none of the original manuscripts have survived. Eighteen unauthorised versions of William Shakespeare's plays were, however, published during his lifetime in quarto editions by unscrupulous publishers (there were no copyright laws protecting Shakespeare and his works during the Elizabethan era). A collection of William Shakespear's works did not appear until 1623 (a full seven years after William Shakespeare's death on April 23, 1616) when two of his fellow actors, John Hemminges and Henry Condell, posthumously recorded his work and published 36 of William Shakespeare's plays in the First Folio. Some dates are therefore approximate other dates are substantiated by historical events, records of performances and the dates plays appeared in print.
The Characters and Scripts
These enduring works feature many famous and well loved characters. The text and scripts convey vivid impressions. The language used today is, in many ways, different to that used in the 16th century Elizabethan era and this is often reflected in the script and text used in the plays. It is therefore not surprising that we have no experience or understanding of some of the words contained in the text / script of the various works. We have therefore included a Shakespearean Dictionary for most of the more obscure words used in the script of his plays, some of which are obsolete in modern language or Dictionaries. Make a note of any unusual words that you encounter whilst reading the scripts and check their definition in the Dictionary by clicking Dictionary at the top of the page to access Elizabethan Dictionary - Guide to language and words used in the Elizabethan era.
Chronology of Plays
The section relating to the Chronology of Plays by William Shakespeare provides a list of when plays were written and published. This section provides access to the plot summary of each of the plays, pictures, key dates, characters, history and the full script of every one of the William Shakespeare plays.
Chronology of Plays - First performance and publications
Editions of William Shakespeare Plays
This selection of Collections of William Shakespeare conveys the number of different editions of the Plays of the Bard that have been published. Editions may vary in content and variations are generally detailed and explained in the modern forewords of the 1623 The First Folio (F1)
1632 The Second Folio (F2)
1663 The Third Folio (F3) Second issue of the F3 in the following year includes Pericles.
1685 The Fourth Folio (F4)
1709 Nicholas Rowe's edition
1723-25 Alexander Pope's edition.
1733 Lewis Theobald's edition.
1734-5 Robert Walker's small-format editions of the individual plays
1734-6 Jacob Tonson
1743-4 Thomas Hanmer's edition.
1747 William Warburton's edition.
1765 Samuel Johnson's edition.
1767-8 Edward Capell's edition.
1773 George Stevens's revision of Samuel Johnson's edition.
1773-4 John Bell's edition - Based on the prompt books then being used in the London theatres.
1778 Isaac Reed's revision of Stevens's Johnson edition.
1790 Edmond Malone's edition.
1791-1802 J. & J. Boydell's edition.
1795 First American edition published at Philadelphia.
1807 Francis Douce's edition
1821 A revised edition of Malone, prepared by James Boswell.
1822-23 Pickering edition.
1838-43 Charles Knight's edition.
1859-60 Mary Cowden Clarke's edition.
1863-6 Clark, Wright and Glover Cambridge University Press edition.
1870-1911 William J. Rolfe edition
1899-1931 W. J. Craig and R. H. Case's 'The Arden Shake-speare'.
1921-66 John Dover Wilson and Arthur Quiller-Couch's 'New Cambridge Shake-speare'.
1937-59 George B. Harrison's 'Penguin Shake-speare'.
1951 Peter Alexander's edition.
1956-67 Alfred Harbage's 'Pelican Shake-speare'.
1974 G. Blakemore Evans's 'Riverside Shakes-peare'.The edition most widely used among US colleges
1986 Stanley Wells and Gary Taylor's 'Oxford Shake-speare'.
1995- Richard Proudfoot, Ann Thompson and David Scott Kastan's revision of the Arden (now known as 'Arden 3').
First Folio - Description of William Shakespeare Quarto Texts and first published plays as Comedies, Histories and Tragedies
Plays and the Globe Theatre
Plays were big!! There was money to be made!! There was a constant demand for new material!! Rivalry between Theatres Playhouses was enormous!! As soon as plays were written they was immediately produced - printing followed productions! So the actors initially used 'foul papers' or prompts. Rival theater companies would send their members to attend plays to produce unauthorised copies of plays - notes were made and copied as quickly as possible. In William Shakespeare’s time copyright did not exist. Alternative versions of Shakespearean plays were produced! These unauthorised and inferior text copies of William Shakespeare's plays are called Quarto Texts.
The success of the Elizabethan theaters, including that of the Globe, was such that other forms of Elizabethan entertainment were being seriously affected. In 1591 the growing popularity of theatres led to a law closing all theaters on Thursdays so that the bull and bear bating industries would not be neglected! Many of the plays of the Great Playwright were first featured in the Globe Theatre of London.
William Shakespeare - Comedies, Histories and Tragedies