FACSIMILES

First Folio 1623 - Plays

The First Folio is the first collected edition of William Shakespeare's plays, collated and published in 1623, seven years after his death. Folio editions were large and expensive books that were seen as prestige items. Shakespeare wrote around 37 plays, 36 of which are contained in the First Folio.Of the 36 plays in the First Folio, 17 were printed in Shakespeare's lifetime in various good and bad smaller quarto editions, one was printed after his death and 18 had not yet been printed at all. It is this fact that makes the First Folio so important; without it, 18 of Shakespeare’s plays, including Twelfth Night, Measure for Measure, Macbeth, Julius Caesar and The Tempest, might never have survived.

The text was collated by two of Shakespeare's fellow actors and friends, John Heminge and Henry Condell, who edited it and supervised the printing. They appear in a list of the 'Principall Actors' who performed in Shakespeare's plays, alongside Richard Burbage, Will Kemp and Shakespeare himself.
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Quarto 1609 - Sonnets

What is a sonnet? The sonnet form, most commonly used for love poems, was created in Italy in the 13th century and made popular by Renaissance poets such as Petrarch. The Italian sonnet (also called the Petrarchan sonnet) is made up of 14 lines of iambic pentameter (lines of ten syllables in a ti-tum, ti-tum, ti-tum rhythm). Its argument is in two parts, an octave (eight lines) outlining a problem or question, followed by a sestet (six lines) offering a resolution; the transition between the two at the start of the ninth line is called the volta or ‘turn’. The octave rhymes abba abba, while the sestet can have a looser rhyme scheme, often cde cde or cd cd cd. Some common features of Petrarch’s love sonnets are an exaggerated adoration of the beloved, the use of contrasts and opposites in his imagery, and the idea of the poet being in anguish because his love is not acknowledged or returned. Although nowadays we think of Shakespeare primarily as a playwright, in his own lifetime he was also well-known as a poet. His sonnets and narrative poems appeared in print to widespread acclaim during the 1590s and 1600s.

Scholars believe that Shakespeare wrote and revised the sonnets during the 1590s and early 1600s. They were first printed in 1609 in a quarto volume – Shakes-Speares Sonnets – containing a sequence of 154 sonnets concluded by a longer poem, A Lover’s Complaint. Although scholars in the past have taken a different view, it is now generally believed that Shakes-Speares Sonnets was published with the consent of the author and with the poems in their proper order, but that the manuscript/s used to set the printed text may not have been authorial or definitive, or may have been difficult to work from.
  • Shakespeare Network is a non-profit with a bold vision: Provide the Complete Works of Shakespeare as well as research and media material free and open knowledge to everyone around the world. We strive for balance and equality on our programs and for us, the best way to achieve our mission is to operate without ads or paywalls. For this reason, Shakespeare Network is funded by donations. Your donations keep Shakespeare Network freely available and accessible to all.
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