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Were Shakespeare's plays published under his own name in his lifetime?


Maguire: There’s nothing unusual about an Elizabethan play reaching print without its author’s name. The important name on the title page was the theatre company’s, so Shakespeare’s plays were first published in editions that identified the playing company but did not name the author. 

Titus Andronicus in 1594, Richard II, Richard III, Romeo and Juliet in 1597—none of them said they were written by Shakespeare. But then a change crept in. When Richard II and Richard III were reprinted in 1598, their title pages advertised Shakespeare as the author. This change was not consistent. In Shakespeare’s lifetime there were 39 editions of 16 of his plays: only 66 per cent of these editions say “Written by William Shakespeare,” or “Newly corrected,” or “Newly augmented by William Shakespeare”.

Laurie Maguire

Laurie Maguire

Laurie Maguire is Professor of English at Oxford University, a Tutorial fellow of Magdalen College, and the author or editor of eight books.

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