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Shakespeare wrote plays, poems and sonnets. His plays are, of course, the reason he remains the most revered writer in the English language. While his plays were written to be performed, about half of them were published and sold in quarto and octavo editions during his lifetime. He did not appear to take interest in their publication. Seven years after his death two of his friends assumed on the responsibility of publishing all 38 plays in a single volume that is now known as the First Folio. That work was revised and republished three more times in the 17th century.

Shakespeare did take an interest in the publication of his two major narrative poems, Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece, during the plague years of 1592-94. In fact, Venus and Adonis was republished more than any other work in his lifetime and its success may have been the source of his early wealth, which he may have used to invest as a shareholder in The Lord Chamberlain's Men, his theatre company, as well as in real estate. Sales of his poetry and theatre tickets contributed to Shakespeare's financial success. While he is believed to have started writing his sonnets about 1592, they were not published until 1609.

This section reviews some aspects of Shakespeare's publications