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by William Shakespeare

Shakespeare's Works
George Wythe bookplate.jpg
Title not held by The Wolf Law Library
at the College of William & Mary.
Author William Shakespeare
Published :
Edition Precise edition unknown
Volumes volume set

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) is widely considered the foremost writer in the English language.[1] Shakespeare was an actor who begun to write plays sometime between 1585 and 1592.[2] He began his career as a playwright with English histories such as Henry VI, comedies such as The Taming of the Shrew, and tragedies such as Titus Andronicus.[3] His first published work was the poem Venus and Adonis (1593).

In the mid-1590s, he wrote Love’s Labour’s Lost, Richard II, Romeo and Juliet, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. He continued to write prolifically during the late 1590s and early 1600s. In 1606 Shakespeare wrote King Lear and Macbeth, which were both influenced by contemporary politics. By 1609, about half of Shakespeare’s plays had been printed. Shakespeare continued to write plays until 1613, three years before his death.

Shakespeare is known for his exploration of human nature. As Samuel Johnson states in his famous “Preface to the Works of Shakespeare”, "His persons act and speak by the influence of those general passions and principles by which all minds are agitated, and the whole system of life is continued in motion. . . .Shakespeare has no heroes; his scenes are occupied only by men, who act and speak as the reader thinks that he himself should have spoken and acted on the same occasion."[4]

Evidence for Inclusion in Wythe's Library

Listed in the Jefferson Inventory of Wythe's Library as "Shakespeare. 3.odd vols. p. f." and given by Thomas Jefferson to his granddaughters, Ann and Ellen Randolph. The precise edition of the incomplete set inherited by Jefferson is unknown. George Wythe's Library[5] on LibraryThing indicates as much, adding "Three volumes of any one of numerous Shakespeare editions." The Brown Bibliography[6] suggests Mr. William Shakespeare, his Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies (1767-1768), a ten-volume set edited by Edward Capell. Brown bases this identification on existing Jefferson volumes at the University of Virginia. Brown does note, however, "The tradition is that they were from his parent’s library, but without any documentation of previous association."

The Wolf Law Library has not attempted to replicate these odd volumes.

See also


  1. Peter Holland, “Shakespeare, William (1564–1616)”, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004), accessed October 7, 2013. Unless otherwise noted, all biographical details are from this source.
  2. Holland, “Shakespeare, William."
  3. S. Schoenbaum, “William Shakespeare, Gentleman,” The Wilson Quarterly, 3, No. 1 (1979), p. 184.
  4. Samuel Johnson, “Preface,” The Plays of William Shakespeare, accessed through Shakespeare’s Editors (Palomar 2009), vii and xii.
  5. LibraryThing, s. v. "Member: George Wythe," accessed on July 11, 2023,
  6. Bennie Brown, "The Library of George Wythe of Williamsburg and Richmond," (unpublished manuscript, May, 2012) Microsoft Word file. Earlier edition available at: