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The Cues & All Library
Plays by William ShakespearePlays by Ben JonsonPlays by Christopher Marlowe


Plays by William Shakespeare (and the Apocrypha*)

What follows is a list of plays by William Shakespeare, with links to Web editions of those plays. Each play title appears in italics and is followed by a bulleted list of editions of the play publicly available on the Web. These texts have been culled from Internet Shakespeare Editions, MIT, and Webdome. As modern scholarship and editorial processes differ, I have tried to include at least one edited version ('Ed.') and one transcription of the original text ('F' or 'Q' for Folio and Quarto, respectively; the numbers following F and Q refer to the edition of which the transcription was made.) For a brief explanation of Elizabethan publishing processes, click here.

You may notice a few titles with which you are unfamiliar... most of these are from the Apocrypha, or have been recently added to the canon (or they've been part of the canon the whole time, and you just haven't heard of them). Titles followed by an asterisk have a note about authorship. In any case, I've chosen to sort apocryphal plays with the canonical plays.

Also, there are a few plays for which I could only find one edition (in some of the Apocryphal cases, none). If you know of a link to other editions of any of the plays, please let me know.

And finally, if you are looking for a monologue, you might want to visit Shakespeare's Monologues, a site that is working on compiling every monologue in Shakespeare, filtered by gender... they're still working, but even now they have a pretty big list. Enjoy your stay in the Cues & All Library.

a | b | c | d | e | f | g | h | i | j | k | l | m | n | o | p | q | r | s | t | u | v | w | x | y | z | notes

  • All's Well That Ends Well
  • Antony and Cleopatra
  • As You Like It
  • The Comedy of Errors
  • Coriolanus
  • Cymbeline
  • Edward III*
  • Hamlet
  • Henry IV, part 1
  • Henry IV, part 2
  • Henry V
  • Henry VI, part 1
  • Henry VI, part 2
  • Henry VI, part 3
  • Henry VIII, or All is True
  • Julius Caesar
  • King John
  • King Lear
  • Locrine*
  • Love's Labour's Lost
  • Macbeth*
  • Measure for Measure
  • The Merchant of Venice
  • The Merry Wives of Windsor
  • A Midsummer Night's Dream
  • Much Ado About Nothing
  • Othello
  • Pericles, Prince of Tyre*
  • Richard II
  • Richard III
  • Romeo and Juliet
  • Sir John Oldcastle, part 1*
  • The Taming of the Shrew
  • The Tempest
  • Thomas, Lord Cromwell*
  • Timon of Athens
  • Titus Andronicus
  • Troilus and Cressida
  • Twelfth Night, or What You Will
  • The Two Gentlemen of Verona
  • The Two Noble Kinsmen*
  • The Winter's Tale
  • A Yorkshire Tragedy*

Notes:

Edward III has recently been acknowledged to be a part of the canon. Shakespeare is believed to have written parts of the text, and perhaps to have revised the play as a whole. (back to list)

Locrine is one of many plays previously ascribed to Shakespeare, but no longer accepted as such. It is usually relegated to the Apocrypha. (back to list)

The surviving text of Macbeth is believed by many scholars to be the product of emendation, perhaps by Thomas Middleton. (back to list)

Pericles is generally believed by scholars to be the product of more than one playwright, Shakespeare, being one. (back to list)

Sir John Oldcastle was the original name of Sir John Falstaff, the character from Henry IV, parts 1 and 2, and The Merry Wives of Windsor, and indeed in original editions of some of those texts, he is named Oldcastle. After an outcry from the Oldcastle estate, claiming the real Oldcastle was a Puritan Martyr, not the drunken roister of the plays, Shakespeare changed the name to Falstaff. This Apocryphal play was probably commissioned to try to restore some dignity to the Oldcastle estate. (back to list)

The Life and Death of Thomas, Lord Cromwell is another of the plays that made its way into the Shakespeare Folio of 1664, but is no longer regarded to be his work. (back to list)

The Two Noble Kinsmen has gained general acceptance into the canon, and was co-written with John Fletcher. (back to list)

A Yorkshire Tragedy, no longer generally believed to be Shakespeare's work, now shares the Apocryphal status of plays such as Locrine and Cromwell. (back to list)

A note on Elizabethan publishing practices

This is by no means a comprehensive view on this subject... I discuss the subject more thouroughly in the Cues & All verse workshop. Also check out our discussion forum, or research it on your own. It is a fascinating topic.

Publishing plays in Shakespeare's day was a much different industry than it is today. First, there was no such thing as copywright law, which led to a great deal of piracy. Second, plays were written to be played, not read, and because of the rampant piracy, it was in a theater company's interest to keep the play within the walls of the theater, keeping it as close to its owners at all times, rather than exposing it to theft. Third, publishing a play is expensive.

When things did get published, it was usually in one of two forms, folio, or quarto. A folio is a piece of printing paper folded in half once, forming two leaves, four pages, or a book composed of such pages. A quarto utilized the same sized paper but folded in half twice, creating eight pages. Folios were generally longer books, quartos shorter. English, being a relatively new language, had no standard for spelling, so often you will find the same word spelled three different ways on a single page. Also, typesetting was all done by hand, leading to a number of typographical errors, misreading of hand-written manuscripts, and substitutions for letters (i.e.: if the letter 'w' was particularly popular on a page, and the typsetter ran out of 'w's, he might employ two 'v's--vv).

When you put these things together, you get a lot of variables. Pirates looking to cash in on a popular play might pay actors to recall as many lines as possible from the play, and fill in the blanks themselves. Then take that to the printer, and you get what is known as a 'Bad Quarto.' Or, the theater company might want to cash in on the success of a play and hand the original manuscript (known as 'foul papers') or the playhouse copy (known as 'fair papers') to the printer, and you get what is known as a 'Good Quarto.' Or, the surviving partners in a successful theatrical enterprise wish to publish a collection of their resident playwright's plays, hand whatever they have (foul and fair papers alike) to the printer, and you get a Folio. Perhaps a bad quarto hits the streets, and the company is insulted by the forgery, and corrects it by printing a good quarto, or in today's terms, a second edition. There is the added bonus, of course, that there is no way for us to know for absolute certain what a playwright wrote, what was pirated, what was corrected by the playwright, or what is a combination of all those factors.

Because, of course, this all happened some four hundred years ago. Occasionally, a playwright became popular enough to warrant productions of his plays well after his death. Scholars and producers would emend texts to read as they believed they should, modernizing spelling and punctuation, and changing words they believed to be errors. The folios and quartos would be corrected for typos, and updated, each time getting a little further away from the source. These new and improved copies would then be the basis for the next generation of scholars, and on and on, ad infinitum.

The Shakespeare you read today in the Arden or Penguin (or whatever) editions has been severely edited. Some of the more scholarly texts will give you the differences between their edition and what has come before, but many will not. As a reader, most of these changes are for the better. As a theatrical artist, many of these changes take us further from the authors intent than we might like to go. Since we do not have the original manuscripts, the original published editions are as close as we have to the real thing. It is never a bad idea to look at them for a different take on the text. They might give you a new insight into the play.

(back to list) | (back to notes)

A note on the Apocrypha

The so-called Apocrypha is a collection of plays attributed at one time or another, for any number of reasons, to Shakespeare. Most plays in the Apocrypha are considered to have named Shakespeare as their author in order to cash in on his success, but all of them have undergone intense scrutiny by scholars to see if Shakespeare may indeed have had a hand in them. Due to the incredibly unscientific nature of both the publishing and playwrighting industries in the 16th and 17th Centuries, it is impossible to know for sure which plays Shakespeare actually wrote, but detailed analysis of vocabulary, stylistic elements, and in the case of surviving handwritten manuscripts (such as Sir Thomas More), handwriting samples have given scholars through the ages plenty of evidence on which to base authorial conjecture. Most were eventually rejected due to the fact that they were not included in the so-called First Folio--a collection of Shakespeare's work compiled seven years after his death by his theatrical partners John Heminges and Henry Condell--or stylistic evidence (i.e.: the play just isn't good enough to be Shakespeare's; many Apocryphal plays are set in England while Shakespeare only set one [accepted] fiction in England: The Merry Wives of Windsor, and that because the characters in it had already been established as Englishmen, and c.) It should be noted that while nearly 50 works have been at some time assigned to Shakespeare, only a few have been seriously considered enough to be included in any sort of coherent group--here, the Apocrypha.

Edward III has recently been accepted by leading scholars as being at least partly the work of Shakespeare, the first play to be introduced into the canon since Sir Thomas More a few years ago. (Shakespeare is believed to have penned a few scenes in More, and perhaps to have done some revisionary work.) Prior to More was The Two Noble Kinsmen co-written with John Fletcher near the end of Shakespeare's career. Even the authorship of a long accepted play as Pericles is up for debate, due to its preclusion from the First Folio.

Plays assigned to the Apocrypha include:

(back to list) | (back to notes)

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Plays by William ShakespearePlays by Ben JonsonPlays by Christopher Marlowe


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Last updated: August 10, 2000