Welcome to the Literatures and Languages Library's Guide to William Shakespeare
In this guide, you will discover Shakespeare's major works and important productions of his plays; journals and online resources; and databases and other electronic resources to assist you as you learn more about the Bard of Avon. Have a question or need addition assistance? Feel free to contact Matt Roberts, your subject specialist for English and Drama.
The Rare Book and Manuscript Library here at the University of Illinois holds many of Shakespeare's works, including a first folio, quartos, work of his contemporaries, performance records, and more. You can view these materials in the RBML, but you must first register and then request them for use.
The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) is widely regarded as the accepted authority on the English language. It is an unsurpassed guide to the meaning, history, and pronunciation of 600,000 words— past and present—from across the English-speaking world.
As a historical dictionary, the OED is very different from dictionaries of current English, in which the focus is on present-day meanings. You’ll still find present-day meanings in the OED, but you’ll also find the history of individual words, and of the language—traced through 3 million quotations, from classic literature and specialist periodicals to film scripts and cookery books.
The OED started life more than 150 years ago. Today, the dictionary is in the process of its first major revision. Updates revise and extend the OED at regular intervals, each time subtly adjusting our image of the English language.
The OED inlcudes:
Search the OED
To look up a word in the Oxford English Dictionary, simply type the work into the "Quick Search" bar.
To perform and more comprehensive search, do an advanced search, which you can access by clicking the link of the same name. Here, you can search specifically by subject, language of origin, region, part of speech, usage, and date of entry. You can also search using quotations and definitions.
When you search for a word, you'll see one of two pages. If the word has multiple usages, like a noun or a verb, the OED will direct you to choose which one you're specifically looking for. After that, you'll see a page that looks similar to this:
The OED will tell you everything you want to know, from the origin of the word, its etymology, and its meanings and uses throughout history.
Key Resources for Shakespeare Studies
The Norton Shakespeare is an anthology of Shakespeare's work. It contains the tragedies, histories, comedies, and sonnets, as well as several verisons of King Lear and Hamlet. In addition, the Norton provides introductions, glosses, and bibliographies for each work. Several editions are available at the library; however, the most recent is the third.
Like the Norton, The Arden Shakespeare is a collection of Shakespeare's plays, poems, and sonnets. In addition to introductions for each work, a glossary is included to aid with reading. The Arden Shakespeare also publishes individual editions of Shakespeare's plays, which can also be found in the library's catalog.
The New Oxford Shakespeare: Modern Critical Edition contains new, modern spelling editions for each of Shakespeare's plays, all of which were edited from the original text. In addition, detailed introductions for each play as well as extensive on-page notes are provided for further understanding.
The New Oxford Shakespeare: Critical Reference Edition provides easy access to Shakespeare's works in their original spelling. It is made up of two volumes. The first contains Shakespeare's works published during his lifetime; the second gives access to the works published after his death.
The New Oxford Shakespeare: Authorship Companion explores the question of authorship in regard to Shakespeare's works, containing essays and articles regarding collaboration between Shakespeare and other playwrights in specific texts.
The Oxford Companion to Shakespeare provides a lucid, stimulating, and authoritative guide to Shakespeare's plays and poems, and their interpretation around the world over the last four centuries. Special feature entries on every play are included.
Stream the Globe's Productions of Shakespeare