William Shakespeare is widely considered one of the world’s greatest writers. Since the beginning of his playwriting career in the 1590s, his plays have been produced all over the world and have been translated into more than eighty languages—including, for Star Trek fans, Klingon. Shakespeare’s influence extends far beyond his plays; people who have never seen or read his work use expressions such as “elbow room,” “full circle,” and “foregone conclusion” that were introduced in his plays.
Information about Shakespeare’s life is incomplete and has given rise to many conflicting theories about his identity and background. The exact dates when his plays were written are unknown, but they were produced between 1590 and 1614. Between 1592 and 1594, when theaters closed because of a bubonic plague outbreak, he turned to writing poetry. After Shakespeare’s death, members of his King’s Men acting company, concerned with keeping his memory alive, compiled and published an authorized edition of the plays. Ben Jonson, Shakespeare’s contemporary and rival, contributed a poem as preface in which he wrote, “He was not of an age, but for all time.”
This minibibliography lists thirty-eight plays and several volumes of poetry. All titles can be requested from your local cooperating library. The digital braille and talking-book titles can be downloaded from the NLS Braille and Audio Reading Download (BARD) website. Contact your local cooperating library to register for BARD. Registered users may also download audio titles on iOS and Android devices using the BARD Mobile app. Braille titles may be downloaded using the app on an iOS device linked by Bluetooth to a refreshable braille display.
To find your local cooperating library, go to Find a Local Library or call toll-free 1-888-NLS-READ (1-888-657-7323).
All’s Well That Ends Well
A young woman saves a king’s life and is given her choice of husbands. The man she loves does not reciprocate her affection, and she attempts to claim him legally if not amorously.
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As You Like It
Pastoral comedy set in the court usurped by Duke Frederick and in the Forest of Arden, where the rightful duke and his followers wander in a maze of romances and mixed identities.
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The Comedy of Errors
Egeon and Emilia name each of their twin sons Antipholus and hire twin attendants, each named Dromio. Shipwreck separates the family, dividing it in half. The son who lives with Egeon takes his Dromio in search of his mother and his twin and fails to return. Egeon goes to Ephesus, an unfriendly place for a man from Syracuse, to look for them, but a demand for ransom and mistaken identity complicates matters.
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Love’s Labour’s Lost
The king of Navarre and three of his friends swear to avoid the company of women for three years and to devote themselves to study. Their plans go awry when the charming princess of France arrives on a diplomatic mission with three vivacious ladies.
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Measure for Measure
Vincentio, the Duke of Vienna, has been lax about enforcing chastity laws. Fearing protests if he calls for reforms, he appoints Angelo to act as his deputy and pretends to leave town. Disguised as a friar, the duke observes the zealous prosecutor and becomes alarmed by the cruelty of his decisions. He must quickly reassume leadership to clear up entanglements and to save a young gentleman’s life.
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The Merchant of Venice
A five-act comedy about love, marriage, and exacting justice. Portia, disguised as a man, defends Antonio in court against Shylock, who is demanding a pound of flesh in payment for a debt.
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The Merry Wives of Windsor
In this comic drama, Falstaff, a rowdy drunkard pinched for funds, decides to make love to the wives of two wealthy citizens of Windsor, since it is the wives who control their husbands’ money. But Nim and Pistol, discarded associates of Falstaff, warn the husbands of Falstaff’s plans, and a series of merry assignations begins.
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A Midsummer Night’s Dream
A five-act comedy revolving around the upcoming wedding of the Duke of Athens. The action takes place in the woods where lovers converge, the king and queen of fairies quarrel, Puck causes mischief, and workmen rehearse a play for the wedding.
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Much Ado about Nothing
This comedy concerns two pairs of lovers. Before Hero and Claudio can find happiness together, they must sort out the complications of Don John’s false accusations. Meanwhile, Beatrice and Benedick match wits and fall in love.
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The Taming of the Shrew
Katherina is a young woman of violent whims and tempers. Her father is so eager to see her married that he forbids his younger daughter, Bianca, to marry first. Petruchio, an imperturbable gentleman from Verona, accepts Katherina’s hand and begins the relentless taming process.
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Fraternal twins Viola and Sebastian are separated by shipwreck. Viola masquerades as Cesario, a page who acts as the Duke Orsino’s envoy of love to Countess Olivia, who in turn falls in love with Cesario. Sebastian arrives and mistaken identities precede a happy reunion.
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The Two Gentlemen of Verona
A romantic comedy about two sets of lovers. Proteus is in love with Julia. Valentine goes to Milan and falls in love with Silvia. When Proteus visits his friend, he too falls for Silvia. Meanwhile Julia, dressed as a boy, becomes a page to Proteus. Complications and heartbreak ensue.
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Antony and Cleopatra
Mark Antony provokes Cleopatra with his marriage to Octavia, the sister of his rival, Octavius Caesar. When the marriage and the political alliance break down, Antony returns to Egypt. In the ensuing battle, Antony loses his military power, the respect of friends and followers, love, and even the opportunity for an honorable death.
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Caius Marcius, a haughty Roman general, is given the surname Coriolanus after defeating the Volscians in the battle of Corioli. Persuaded to seek election to the consulship, he is eventually banished from Rome by fickle plebeians. The play records his attempts to get revenge.
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Prince Hamlet’s uncle seduced Hamlet’s mother, killed his father, and usurped his royal claim. Hamlet tries to avenge his father’s murder, but his melancholic, irresolute temperament inhibits decisive action and contributes to further calamities.
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A tragedy concerning a petulant king and his three daughters. Amid much other, more political action, Lear is taken in by false avowals of love from two of his daughters, and disinherits a third because of her refusal to flatter him.
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The victorious general Macbeth, spurred on by his ambitious wife, murders Duncan, the king, while he is a guest in Macbeth’s castle. Once Macbeth sets himself upon this path, he must clear further obstacles.
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Othello, a Moor in the service of Venice, marries a senator’s daughter. He overcomes her father’s opposition, but is sabotaged by Iago, an older soldier he failed to promote. By prevarication, Iago creates jealousy leading to confusion and tragedy.
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Romeo and Juliet
Two teenagers from rival families fall in love. A sentence of exile and an impending arranged marriage force the two to flee. A friar suggests a ruse to accomplish their union, but miscommunication causes it to backfire.
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Timon of Athens
Satire on Timon, an extravagant Athenian nobleman, who becomes bankrupt and loses his friends. He discovers gold and finds some who would renew their friendship. But he expresses his disdain for treasure and leaves an epitaph that curses humankind.
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Titus Andronicus, a noble Roman general, returns after his victory over the Goths, bringing their queen and her sons with him. Titus turns his attention to seeking revenge for the atrocities that have been committed against his family. Later, his promises turn to reality in a grotesque and bloody sequence of deception, barbarism, and cruelty.
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Troilus and Cressida
Troilus, one of the King of Troy’s five sons, is in love with Cressida, the daughter of Calchas, a Trojan priest siding with the Greeks. Calchas, knowing that Troy is about to fall to the Greeks, flees, leaving Cressida to be taken prisoner. Although Cressida vows to remain faithful to Troilus, he witnesses her betrayal.
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Cymbeline, a British king, banishes his daughter Imogen’s husband in disapproval of their secret marriage. The queen, second wife to the king, connives to arrange a match between Imogen and her own son, Cloten. A series of deceptions cause all to believe Imogen dead, but coincidences lead to some happy reunions.
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Pericles, Prince of Tyre, attempts to win the king of Antioch’s daughter by solving the monarch’s riddle. Upon guessing the king’s incestuous relationship with Princess Hesperides, Pericles is banished. He is shipwrecked and marries a foreign princess, who appears to die in childbirth. Years of confusion and mishap precede a joyous family reunion.
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Prospero, Duke of Milan, is ousted from his throne by his brother Antonio and banished with his daughter Miranda to a primitive island. Years later, a shipwreck deposits Antonio and his collaborators on the island. Prospero, knowledgeable about magic, releases spellbound spirits who help him undo his usurper.
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The Winter’s Tale
King Leontes of Sicilia banishes his wife Hermione for her attention towards Leontes’s friend, King Polixenes of Bohemia. He creates disaster in both households before things are resolved happily for all.
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Henry IV, Part 1
Depicts the early years of the reign of England’s Henry IV. The Earl of Northumberland’s son, Hotspur, becomes Henry’s opponent. Eventually Henry’s son, Prince Hal, leaves the merrymaker Falstaff to join the battle at Shrewsbury against Hotspur. Annotated version with historical background and essay on literary perspective.
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Henry IV, Part 2
An annotated version of the play involving Prince Hal, Falstaff, and the troubled monarch, Henry IV. Provides historical perspective and plot summaries. Defines obscure terms and uses modern spelling.
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The newly ascended king of England first deals with three suspected traitors. Then, on a pretext, Henry invades France to claim the throne. After his victory in the battle of Agincourt, there is a huge celebration, and Henry turns his attention to his courtship of Catherine of France.
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A three-part historical drama. The first part deals with the French-English wars during the early fifteenth century. Part II includes Henry’s marriage and Yorkist intrigues. In Part III Henry surrenders the crown and is later murdered by an unscrupulous duke.
Henry VI, Part 1
A three-part historical drama opens with the funeral of King Henry V at Westminster Abbey. The play, based on the fifteenth-century French-English wars, reveals the schemes of military leaders to advance themselves even at the expense of England, often taking advantage of their inexperienced ruler, Henry VI, whose opponent was Joan of Arc. In the final act, the young king considers peace with France and marriage.
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Henry VI, Part 2
In Part II the earl of Suffolk secures a favorable position for himself when he arranges a marriage between the young king and Margaret of Anjou. But the peaceful scene is disturbed when the terms of the contract become known. A famous quarrel erupts between Queen Margaret and a duchess, the nobility jockey for power, rebels take to the streets, and the royal couple flee.
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Henry VI, Part 3
In Part III Henry surrenders the crown and is later murdered by an unscrupulous duke.
Deals with the fall and death of the Duke of Buckingham; the question of the king’s divorce; and the disgrace and demise of Cardinal Wolsey. Later, the play turns to the archbishop of Canterbury’s success over his enemies and to the christening of a princess, who becomes Queen Elizabeth I.
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Deals with King John’s cruelty toward Arthur, his nephew and the rightful heir to the throne. Other principal characters include Constance, Arthur’s grieving mother, and the Bastard, illegitimate son of Richard I, John’s late brother.
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Richard II, a weak and ineffectual king, settles a quarrel and exiles Henry Bolingbroke for ten years. Henry returns to claim his inheritance, murders the king’s supporters, imprisons Richard, and usurps the throne.
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All the Love Poems of Shakespeare
This volume includes the complete “Venus and Adonis” as well as “The Passionate Pilgrim,” “A Lover’s Complaint,” and the sonnets.
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Shakespeare: Songs from the Plays
Songs and lyrics from seventeen of Shakespeare’s plays and from Henry VIII and The Two Noble Kinsmen.
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Sonnets 1 to 126, addressed to a young man, and sonnets 127 to 154, to a dark-haired woman, are introduced by poet W.H. Auden, who discusses the erotic and sexual aspects of the themes.
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The complete collection of 154 sonnets attributed to Shakespeare, without commentary. Sonnets 1 to 126 are addressed to a beloved friend—a young man—while Sonnets 127 to 152 are to a lady of dark beauty, and the last two poems are adaptations of a Greek epigram.
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