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The First Folio

First Folio 1623; Catalogue Page
First Folio 1623; Catalogue Page

Thirty-Six of Shakespeare's plays are printed in the First FolioA folio is a book made by folding large sheets of paper once, creating two leaves or four pages.. In addition to the 35 plays on the Catalog page at right, Troilus and Cressida is included in the First Folio between the histories and the tragedies. Rights to publish it may have been acquired after the Catalog page was printed. Two additional plays that do not appear in the First Folio, Pericles Prince of Tyre and The Two Noble Kinsmen, are now considered to have been written at least in part by Shakespeare. Edward III has recently gained some acceptance among scholars as being written at least in part by Shakespeare. It first appeared in an anonymous quarto edition in 1596, but was not included in the First Folio nor is there evidence that it was ever performed by The Lord Chamberlain's Men.Two other plays, Cardenio and Love's Labor's Won, are mentioned in documents during or shortly after Shakespeare's life as having been written by him, but they have never been found.

Eighteen of the First Folio plays (in Bold below) had never appeared in print before the First Folio. Since they had not been previously published, they might have been lost forever. See Publication History for quartoA quarto is a book made by folding large sheets of paper twice, creating four leaves or eight pages and octavoAn octavo is a book made by folding large sheets of paper three times, creating eight leaves or sixteen pages editions that were printed prior to the First Folio.

The First Folio categorized Shakespeare's plays into three genre. While we still recognize the Greek masks of comedy and tragedy, the Folio introduced a relatively new dramatic genre — history. Future scholars relabeled some of Shakespeare's later comedies as tragicomedies. And some scholars divide the tragicomedies into romances and problem plays. Romances incorporate theatrical spectacle as well as mystical or magical elements. Problem plays are darker and explore more complex psychological, social and moral issues than the earlier comedies. These definitions are not settled among scholars nor do scholars agree on which plays belong in each category.


Works in the Order They Appear in the First Folio

Bold — works that appeared for the first time in the 1623 First Folio.
*Single asterisks — works sometimes considered Romances.
**Double asterisks — works sometimes considered Problem Plays.

Comedies

*The TempestTwo Gentlemen of Verona, Merry Wives of Windsor, **Measure for MeasureComedy of Errors, Much Ado About Nothing, Love's Labor's Lost, Midsummer Night's Dream, **Merchant of Venice, As You Like ItTaming of the Shrew, **All is Well That Ends WellTwelfth Night*/**Winter's Tale

Histories

King John, Richard II, Henry IV Pt. 1, Henry IV Pt 2, Henry V, Henry VI Pt 1, Henry VI Pt 2, Henry VI Pt 3, Richard III, Henry VIII

**Troilus and Cressida (appears in the First Folio between the histories and the tragedies, but not in the Catalogue at the beginning of the Folio; scholars assume the Catalogue page was printed before the publishers could secure the rights to the play; scholarly speculation suggests that had rights been secured in time the play might have appeared in the tragedies after Romeo and Juliet)

Tragedies

Coriolanus, Titus Andronicus, Romeo and Juliet, **Timon of AthensJulius CaesarMacbeth, Hamlet, King Lear, Othello, Antony and Cleopatra, *Cymbeline

Tragicomedies, Romances, Problem Plays, and Poems

Some scholars have relabeled a few of Shakespeare's later comedies as tragicomedies. While most, like comedies, include a love interest, these later plays are more serious or darker. Among the tragicomedies, some scholars have subdivided them as romances and problem plays. Romances incorporate spectacle, magic or mysticism. Problem plays explore social, psychological and moral issues.

Works below in italics were published during Shakespeare's life in quartoA quarto is a book made by folding large sheets of paper twice, creating four leaves or eight pages. editions but did not appear in the First Folio.

*Romances

Cymbeline, The Winter's Tale, The Tempest, Pericles Prince of TyreThe Two Noble Kinsmen

**Problem Plays

Troilus and Cressida, All's Well That Ends Well, Measure for Measure, Winter's Tale, Timon of Athens, Merchant of Venice

Poems

Venus and Adonis, The Rape of Lucrece, The Phoenix and Turtle, The Sonnets