image : William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon in April 1564, and his birth is traditionally celebrated on April 23. The facts of his life, known from surviving documents, are sparse. He was one of eight children born to John Shakespeare, a merchant of some standing in his community. William probably went to the King's New School in Stratford, but he had no university education. In November 1582, at the age of eighteen, he married Anne Hathaway, eight years his senior, who was pregnant with their first child, Susanna. She was born on May 26, 1583. Twins, a boy, Hamnet ( who would die at age eleven), and a girl, Judith, were born in 1585. By 1592 Shakespeare had gone to London working as an actor and already known as a playwright. A rival dramatist, Robert Greene, referred to him as "an upstart crow, beautified with our feathers." Shakespeare became a principal shareholder and playwright of the successful acting troupe, the Lord Chamberlain's Men (later under James I, called the King's Men). In 1599 the Lord Chamberlain's Men built and occupied the Globe Theater in Southwark near the Thames River. Here many of Shakespeare's plays were performed by the most famous actors of his time, including Richard Burbage, Will Kempe, and Robert Armin. In addition to his 37 plays, Shakespeare had a hand in others, including Sir Thomas More and The Two Noble Kinsmen, and he wrote poems, including Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece. His 154 sonnets were published, probably without his authorization, in 1609. In 1611 or 1612 he gave up his lodgings in London and devoted more and more time to retirement in Stratford, though he continued writing such plays as The Tempest and Henry VII until about 1613. He died on April 23 1616, and was buried in Holy Trinity Church, Stratford. No collected edition of his plays was published during his life-time, but in 1623 two members of his acting company, John Heminges and Henry Condell, put together the great collection now called the First Folio.

The Best 13 Books on William Shakespeare

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King Lear

Designed to appeal to the book lover, the Macmillan Collector's Library is a series of beautifully bound pocket-sized gift editions of much loved classic titles. Bound in real cloth, printed on high quality paper, and featuring ribbon markers and gilt edges, Macmillan Collector's Library are books to love and treasure.

An ageing king makes a capricious decision to divide his realm among his three daughters according to the love they express for him. When the youngest daughter refuses to take part in this charade, she is banished, leaving the king dependent on her manipulative and untrustworthy sisters. In the scheming and recriminations that follow, not only does the king's own sanity crumble, but the stability of the realm itself is also threatened.

Illustrated throughout by Sir John Gilbert (1817-1897), famous for his depictions of historical scenes; as well as Shakespeare, he illustrated works of Sir Walter Scott, Cervantes, Wilkie Collins and Wordsworth.

With an Introduction by Dr Robert Mighall.

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Macbeth (No Fear Shakespeare)

Read Shakespeare’s plays in all their brilliance—and understand what every word means!
 
Don’t be intimidated by Shakespeare! These popular guides make the Bard’s plays accessible and enjoyable.

Each No Fear guide contains:

  • The complete text of the original play
  • A line-by-line translation that puts the words into everyday language
  • A complete list of characters, with descriptions
  • Plenty of helpful commentary
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Much Ado About Nothing (Folger Shakespeare Library)

Much Ado About Nothing includes two quite different stories of romantic love. Hero and Claudio fall in love almost at first sight, but an outsider, Don John, strikes out at their happiness. Beatrice and Benedick are kept apart by pride and mutual antagonism until others decide to play Cupid.

The authoritative edition of Much Ado About Nothing from The Folger Shakespeare Library, the trusted and widely used Shakespeare series for students and general readers, includes:

-Freshly edited text based on the best early printed version of the play

-Full explanatory notes conveniently placed on pages facing the text of the play

-Scene-by-scene plot summaries

-A key to the play’s famous lines and phrases

-An introduction to reading Shakespeare’s language

-An essay by a leading Shakespeare scholar providing a modern perspective on the play

-Fresh images from the Folger Shakespeare Library’s vast holdings of rare books

-An annotated guide to further reading

Essay by Gail Kern Paster

The Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC, is home to the world’s largest collection of Shakespeare’s printed works, and a magnet for Shakespeare scholars from around the globe. In addition to exhibitions open to the public throughout the year, the Folger offers a full calendar of performances and programs. For more information, visit Folger.edu.
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Hamlet (No Fear Shakespeare)

Read Shakespeare’s plays in all their brilliance—and understand what every word means!
 
Don’t be intimidated by Shakespeare! These popular guides make the Bard’s plays accessible and enjoyable.

Each No Fear guide contains:

  • The complete text of the original play
  • A line-by-line translation that puts Shakespeare into everyday language
  • A complete list of characters with descriptions
  • Plenty of helpful commentary
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image William Shakespeare

Othello

In Othello, Shakespeare creates powerful drama from a marriage between the exotic Moor Othello and the Venetian lady Desdemona that begins with elopement and mutual devotion and ends with jealous rage and death. Shakespeare builds many differences into his hero and heroine, including race, age, and cultural background. Yet most readers and audiences believe the couple’s strong love would overcome these differences were it not for Iago, who sets out to destroy Othello. Iago’s false insinuations about Desdemona’s infidelity draw Othello into his schemes, and Desdemona is subjected to Othello’s horrifying verbal and physical assaults.

The authoritative edition of Othello from The Folger Shakespeare Library, the trusted and widely used Shakespeare series for students and general readers, includes:

-Freshly edited text based on the best early printed version of the play

-Full explanatory notes conveniently placed on pages facing the text of the play

-Scene-by-scene plot summaries

-A key to the play’s famous lines and phrases

-An introduction to reading Shakespeare’s language

-An essay by a leading Shakespeare scholar providing a modern perspective on the play

-Fresh images from the Folger Shakespeare Library’s vast holdings of rare books

-An annotated guide to further reading

Essay by Susan Snyder

The Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC, is home to the world’s largest collection of Shakespeare’s printed works, and a magnet for Shakespeare scholars from around the globe. In addition to exhibitions open to the public throughout the year, the Folger offers a full calendar of performances and programs. For more information, visit Folger.edu.
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Hamlet ( Folger Library Shakespeare)

Hamlet: An UPDATED EDITION from the Folger Shakespeare Library

Hamlet is Shakespeare's most popular, and most puzzling, play. It follows the form of a "revenge tragedy," in which the hero, Hamlet, seeks vengeance against his father's murderer, his uncle Claudius, now the king of Denmark. Much of its fascination, however, lies in its uncertainties.

Among them: What is the Ghost--Hamlet's father demanding justice, a tempting demon, an angelic messenger? Does Hamlet go mad, or merely pretend to? Once he is sure that Claudius is a murderer, why does he not act? Was his mother, Gertrude, unfaithful to her husband or complicit in his murder?

The authoritative edition of Hamlet from The Folger Shakespeare Library, the trusted and widely used Shakespeare series for students and general readers, includes:

-Freshly edited text based on the best early printed version of the play
-Newly revised explanatory notes conveniently placed on pages facing the text of the play
-Scene-by-scene plot summaries
-A key to the play's famous lines and phrases
-An introduction to reading Shakespeare's language
-An essay by a leading Shakespeare scholar providing a modern perspective on the play
-Fresh images from the Folger Shakespeare Library's vast holdings of rare books
-An up-to-date annotated guide to further reading

Essay by Michael Neill

Enjoy this updated Folger edition of Hamlet in either the handy pocket-sized mass market paperback (ISBN 978-0743477123), elegant trade paperback featuring finer paper and wider margins (ISBN 978-1451669411), or Kindle edition (ASIN B00IWTWDA6).
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Julius Caesar (No Fear Shakespeare)

Read Shakespeare’s plays in all their brilliance—and understand what every word means!
 
Don’t be intimidated by Shakespeare! These popular guides make the Bard’s plays accessible and enjoyable.

Each No Fear guide contains:

  • The complete text of the original play
  • A line-by-line translation that puts Shakespeare into everyday language
  • A complete list of characters, with descriptions
  • Plenty of helpful commentary
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Romeo and Juliet (No Fear Shakespeare)

No Fear Shakespeare gives you the complete text of Romeo and Juliet on the left-hand page, side-by-side with an easy-to-understand translation on the right.

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Spark Notes No Fear Shakespeare Othello (SparkNotes No Fear Shakespeare)

Read Shakespeare’s plays in all their brilliance—and understand what every word means!
 
Don’t be intimidated by Shakespeare! These popular guides make the Bard’s plays accessible and enjoyable.

Each No Fear guide contains:

  • The complete text of the original play
  • A line-by-line translation that puts the words into everyday language
  • A complete list of characters, with descriptions
  • Plenty of helpful commentary
Read More
image William Shakespeare

King Lear (Folger Shakespeare Library)

Shakespeare’s King Lear challenges us with the magnitude, intensity, and sheer duration of the pain that it represents. Its figures harden their hearts, engage in violence, or try to alleviate the suffering of others. Lear himself rages until his sanity cracks. What, then, keeps bringing us back to King Lear? For all the force of its language, King Lear is almost equally powerful when translated, suggesting that it is the story, in large part, that draws us to the play.

The play tells us about families struggling between greed and cruelty, on the one hand, and support and consolation, on the other. Emotions are extreme, magnified to gigantic proportions. We also see old age portrayed in all its vulnerability, pride, and, perhaps, wisdom—one reason this most devastating of Shakespeare’s tragedies is also perhaps his most moving.

The authoritative edition of King Lear from The Folger Shakespeare Library, the trusted and widely used Shakespeare series for students and general readers, includes:

-Freshly edited text based on the best early printed version of the play

-Full explanatory notes conveniently placed on pages facing the text of the play

-Scene-by-scene plot summaries

-A key to the play’s famous lines and phrases

-An introduction to reading Shakespeare’s language

-An essay by a leading Shakespeare scholar providing a modern perspective on the play

-Fresh images from the Folger Shakespeare Library’s vast holdings of rare books

-An annotated guide to further reading

Essay by Susan Snyder

The Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC, is home to the world’s largest collection of Shakespeare’s printed works, and a magnet for Shakespeare scholars from around the globe. In addition to exhibitions open to the public throughout the year, the Folger offers a full calendar of performances and programs. For more information, visit Folger.edu.
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image William Shakespeare

Macbeth (Folger Shakespeare Library)

In 1603, James VI of Scotland ascended the English throne, becoming James I of England. London was alive with an interest in all things Scottish, and Shakespeare turned to Scottish history for material. He found a spectacle of violence and stories of traitors advised by witches and wizards, echoing James’s belief in a connection between treason and witchcraft.

In depicting a man who murders to become king, Macbeth teases us with huge questions. Is Macbeth tempted by fate, or by his or his wife’s ambition? Why does their success turn to ashes?

Like other plays, Macbeth speaks to each generation. Its story was once seen as that of a hero who commits an evil act and pays an enormous price. Recently, it has been applied to nations that overreach themselves and to modern alienation. The line is blurred between Macbeth’s evil and his opponents’ good, and there are new attitudes toward both witchcraft and gender.

The authoritative edition of Macbeth from The Folger Shakespeare Library, the trusted and widely used Shakespeare series for students and general readers, includes:

-Freshly edited text based on the best early printed version of the play
-Newly revised explanatory notes conveniently placed on pages facing the text of the play
-Scene-by-scene plot summaries
-A key to the play’s famous lines and phrases
-An introduction to reading Shakespeare’s language
-An essay by a leading Shakespeare scholar providing a modern perspective on the play
-Fresh images from the Folger Shakespeare Library’s vast holdings of rare books
-An up-to-date annotated guide to further reading

Essay by Susan Snyder

The Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC, is home to the world’s largest collection of Shakespeare’s printed works, and a magnet for Shakespeare scholars from around the globe. In addition to exhibitions open to the public throughout the year, the Folger offers a full calendar of performances and programs. For more information, visit Folger.edu.
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image William Shakespeare

The Tempest (Folger Shakespeare Library)

Putting romance onstage, The Tempest gives us a magician, Prospero, a former duke of Milan who was displaced by his treacherous brother, Antonio. Prospero is exiled on an island, where his only companions are his daughter, Miranda, the spirit Ariel, and the monster Caliban. When his enemies are among those caught in a storm near the island, Prospero turns his power upon them through Ariel and other spirits.

The characters exceed the roles of villains and heroes. Prospero seems heroic, yet he enslaves Caliban and has an appetite for revenge. Caliban seems to be a monster for attacking Miranda, but appears heroic in resisting Prospero, evoking the period of colonialism during which the play was written. Miranda’s engagement to Ferdinand, the Prince of Naples and a member of the shipwrecked party, helps resolve the drama.

The authoritative edition of The Tempest from The Folger Shakespeare Library, the trusted and widely used Shakespeare series for students and general readers, includes:

-Freshly edited text based on the best early printed version of the play

-Full explanatory notes conveniently placed on pages facing the text of the play

-Scene-by-scene plot summaries

-A key to the play’s famous lines and phrases

-An introduction to reading Shakespeare’s language

-An essay by a leading Shakespeare scholar providing a modern perspective on the play

-Fresh images from the Folger Shakespeare Library’s vast holdings of rare books

-An annotated guide to further reading

Essay by Barbara A. Mowat

The Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC, is home to the world’s largest collection of Shakespeare’s printed works, and a magnet for Shakespeare scholars from around the globe. In addition to exhibitions open to the public throughout the year, the Folger offers a full calendar of performances and programs. For more information, visit Folger.edu.
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The Merchant of Venice (Folger Shakespeare Library)

In The Merchant of Venice, the path to marriage is hazardous. To win Portia, Bassanio must pass a test prescribed by her father’s will, choosing correctly among three caskets or chests. If he fails, he may never marry at all.

Bassanio and Portia also face a magnificent villain, the moneylender Shylock. In creating Shylock, Shakespeare seems to have shared in a widespread prejudice against Jews. Shylock would have been regarded as a villain because he was a Jew. Yet he gives such powerful expression to his alienation due to the hatred around him that, in many productions, he emerges as the hero.

Portia is most remembered for her disguise as a lawyer, Balthazar, especially the speech in which she urges Shylock to show mercy that “droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven.”

The authoritative edition of The Merchant of Venice from The Folger Shakespeare Library, the trusted and widely used Shakespeare series for students and general readers, includes:

-Freshly edited text based on the best early printed version of the play

-Newly revised explanatory notes conveniently placed on pages facing the text of the play

-Scene-by-scene plot summaries

-A key to the play’s famous lines and phrases

-An introduction to reading Shakespeare’s language

-An essay by a leading Shakespeare scholar providing a modern perspective on the play

-Fresh images from the Folger Shakespeare Library’s vast holdings of rare books

-An up-to-date annotated guide to further reading

Essay by Alexander Leggatt

The Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC, is home to the world’s largest collection of Shakespeare’s printed works, and a magnet for Shakespeare scholars from around the globe. In addition to exhibitions open to the public throughout the year, the Folger offers a full calendar of performances and programs. For more information, visit Folger.edu.
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