quotes, notes, timelines & more

Home » Shakespeare’s Works

Shakespeare’s Works

So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee. 

First Folio 1623; Title Page
Engraving by Martin Droeshout; 1623

Ben Jonson assessed Shakespeare's longevity with, “He was not of an age, but for all time.” His immortality was ensured with the publication of the First Folio in 1623, seven years after his death. Without the Folio, eighteen of the thirty-six plays in this book might have been lost forever because they had not been previously printed. Shakespeare enthusiasts are indebted to his friends and fellow actors, John Heminge and Henry Condell, who saved these works in the First Folio. As important as Heminge and Condell were at the end of Shakespeare's life, his teachers at King Edward VI School in Stratford-Upon-Avon also deserve praise for Shakespeare's early education. Shakespeare's teachers instilled in their precocious student a knowledge and love of Latin grammar, poetry, and plays. The seeds of the Classics education they planted in young Will bore bountiful harvests in his adult career, during the English Renaissance. His works continue to be read, performed, studied, adapted, and even edited 400 years later.

Shakespeare's handwritten addition to Sir Thomas More

Modern editions of Shakespeare's works are products of editorial revisions based in part on scholarly research. They are necessary because some works appeared in multiple quarto editions as well as in the Folio, e.g., Romeo and Juliet (4), Hamlet (4), and King Lear (3). Those editions sometimes differed significantly. Editors cannot seek guidance from Shakespeare because his only surviving handwritten manuscripts are a few pages he wrote for another playwright's work, Sir Thomas More. So editors must decide which passages from which editions are best. Even when the only edition is the Folio, editors make spelling and punctuation revisions to help readers. They may go further. Believing typesetters made errors, editors make corrections. Some modern editions include the Arden, Cambridge, Oxford, and Signet Classic. The passages on this website are from the Folger Shakespeare Library editions, edited by Barbara Mowat, et al. For more on Folger editions, read Note on the Sources.

Painting by John Taylor, c.1610; National Portrait Gallery, London

The engraving of Shakespeare on the First Folio's title page was made by Martin Droeshout (c.1601-1650), several years after Shakespeare's death. The oil portrait is believed to be painted by John Taylor (c.1580–1653) about a decade earlier when Shakespeare was in his forties. He may have sat for this portrait. Some scholars also believe Droeshout may have used Taylor's painting as his model for the engraving. The painting, now known as the Chandos Portrait after an early owner of the work, hangs in England's National Portrait Gallery.

  • Publications
    Tables and other information about Shakespeare's works published around his lifetime
  • Genres
    A path to the plays, sonnets, poems and songs
  • Elements
    An overview of rhetorical devices, themes and characters