A study of Shakespeare's text in the nineteenth century



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



No manuscript copies of Shakespeare's plays are available. Less than half of his plays were printed during his lifetime, and there is no evidence that Shakespeare himself oversaw any of these quarto publications. Moreover, his other plays, more than half of the total he wrote, were not printed until seven years after his death with the publication of the First Folio in 1623. With this basis, two centuries of editors prepared Shakespeare's plays for publication, relying to a great deal on personal preference or public demands, not on any real textual authority. The, nineteenth century editors, however, realized that, despite early editors' claims of having restored Shakespeare's text, the text had become more and more corrupt. Thus, they began to study the transmission of the text and the conditions under which the earliest manuscripts had been printed and to collate carefully and extensively. Without the groundwork laid by these textual scholars and editors, the substantial advances made in the twentieth century would have never been accomplished.