The Works Of Shakespeare

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by William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) is a playwright and poet widely seen as the foremost writer in the English language.[1]

Shakespeare was an actor that begun to write plays sometime between 1585 and 1592. He began his career as a playwright with English histories, including Henry VI, comedies, including The Taming of the Shrew, and tragedies, including Titus Andronicus.[2] His first published work was the poem Venus and Adonis (1593).

His plays were beginning to be published in 1594, during which time 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 1600s. In 1606 Shakespeare wrote King Lear and Macbeth, which are both influenced by contemporary politics.

In 1609, Thomas Thorpe famously published Shakespeare’s sonnets, provoking controversy to this day about the rationale behind the order of the sonnets,[3] and the identity of “W.H.” Thorpe included in his epigraph.[4] By 1609, about half of Shakespeare’s plays had been printed. Shakespeare continued to write plays until 1613, and he died in 1616.

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 things that he himself should have spoken and acted on the same occasion.[5]

The Works of Shakespeare: In Eight Volumes was published in 1740, during a time when Shakespeare was enormously popular in England. It includes multiples elegies written about Shakespeare, his will, and biographical documents that provide a background of Shakespeare’s life, in addition to his plays.

Bibliographic Information

Author: William Shakespeare

Title: The Works Of Shakespeare: In Eight Volumes, Collated With The Oldest Copies, And Corrected

Publication Info: 2nd ed. London: Printed for H. Lintott, C. Hitch, J. and R. Tonson, C. Corbet, R. and B. Wellington, J. Brindley, and E. New, 1740.


Evidence for Inclusion in Wythe's Library

Description of the Wolf Law Library's copy

8 volumes bound in contemporary full calf with raised bands, red title labels and gilt decoration to spines. Frontis portrait of Shakespeare to volume one and a facing plate to each separate work throughout, after H. Gravetot, engraved by G. Vander Gucht. Purchased from Wadard Books.


  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. S. Schoenbaum, “William Shakespeare, Gentleman,” The Wilson Quarterly (1976-), 3, No. 1 (Wilson Quarterly, Winter 1979), p. 184.
  3. J.A. Fort, “The Order and Chronology of Shakespeare’s Sonnets,” The Review of English Studies, 9, No. 33 (Oxford University Press, 1933), p. 22.
  4. Donald W. Foster, “Master W.H., R. I. P.,” PMLA, 102, No. 1 (Modern Language Association, Jan. 1979), p. 42.
  5. Samuel Johnson, “Preface,” The Plays of William Shakespeare, accessed through Shakespeare’s Editors (Palomar 2009), vii and xii.