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John M. Kelly Library

Research Guide to Shakespeare

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This research guide is designed for use particularly in undergraduate courses. It is maintained by Richard Carter. It was last updated August 2011.

General Criticism

Shakespearean Criticism

Shakespearean Criticism: Excerpts from the Criticism of William Shakespeare's Plays and Poetry, from the First Published Appraisals to Current Evaluations.

By Laurie Lanzen Harris, editor and Mark W. Scott, associate editor. Detroit, MI : Gale, c1984-present.
[Available online for UofT use.]
Shakespearean Criticism, a subset of Literature Criticism Online, provides immediate access to lengthy critical essays by major critics. Arranged alphabetically, the entries provide in-depth critical essays on an author's work, along with biographical facts, a list of major works, and related sources. Usually, the essays give an overview of a writer's work or themes. The entries are substantial. You can search by Named Work (Hamlet), or Keyword (e.g. Antonio in The Merchant of Venice, themes like ambition or pride, and critics like T.S. Eliot).

Mr. William Shakespeare and the Internet

Mr. William Shakespeare and the Internet.

[Available online for free.]
Not only does this site provide you with links to several full-text online versions of Shakespeare's works, but Mr. William Shakespeare and the Internet contains links to many full-text articles, both critical (by such critics as Frank Kermode and William Hazlitt) and descriptive (on such topics as Shakespeare's Life and Times).

Shakespeare, William

Shakespeare, William (Bartleby).

[Available online for free.]
Besides containing the full text of the Oxford Shakespeare online--both plays and poems--this Bartleby site includes full-text criticism on Shakespeare by such writers as T.S. Eliot, George Saintsbury and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Moreover, it provides a link to a full-text Shakespeare biography in the Columbia Encyclopedia.

Basic Reference

Shakespeare Collection

The Shakespeare Collection.

Gale Thomson Corporation, 2006.
[Available online for UofT use.]
Start here for plays, poems, criticism, and context. Besides the complete full-text and fully-searchable Arden Shakespeare (comprising texts, notes, introductions and commentaries), this collection includes primary sources, historical editions, contemporary criticism, textual history, critical reception, performance history, and the historical and cultural context in which Shakespeare wrote his work. You can also compare texts on screen line by line, scene by scene, by using the compare texts option.

Literature Online

Literature Online.

Chadwyck-Healey, 1996-2004.
[Available online for UofT use.]
This vast online library lets you access more than 350,000 full-text works of English and American poetry, drama and prose, as well as biographies, bibliographies and secondary sources. The interface is the same as the ABELL journal article database, and once in Literature Online you can use both resources, the library and the article database. To find Shakespeare-related criticism, select criticism and reference on the left, and then, under Author/Subject(s): type shakespeare william in the search box.

The Reader's Encyclopedia of Shakespeare

The Reader's Encyclopedia of Shakespeare.

Edited by Oscar James Campbell and Edward G. Quinn. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1966.
[St. Michael's 1st Floor Reference Area - PR2892 .C3]
This one-volume collection of thorough, alphabetically arranged entries comes with an assortment of useful appendices unavailable in Shakespeare A-Z, including a Chronology of Events Related to the Life and Works of William Shakespeare; a Genealogical Table of the Houses of York and Lancaster; and A Selected Bibliography containing criticism of Shakespeare's works. Typical entries include critics (Eliot, T.S.), plays (Henry IV, Part Two), technical terms (stage imagery), contemporaries (Marlowe, Christopher) and literary terms (rhetoric). The entries in this encyclopedia are more substantial than in Shakespeare A-Z.

Shakespeare A to Z

Shakespeare A to Z: The Essential Reference to His Plays, His Poems, His Life and Times, and More.

Edited by Charles Boyce. New York: Facts on File Publications, 1990.
[St. Michael's 1st Floor Reference Area - PR2892 .B69 1990]
More extensive and up to date but less thorough than the Reader's Encyclopedia, Shakespeare A to Z provides a wide range of brief alphabetically-arranged articles on such topics as plays (with plot summaries), character names, actors, scholars, place-names, and Shakespeare's contemporaries. The work is cross-referenced and includes a list of suggested readings at the back.

A Dictionary of Shakespeare

A Dictionary of Shakespeare.

By Stanley Wells. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.
[Available online for UofT use.]
This dictionary brings together current information about Shakespeare, from his influence at the time he was writing to his impact since then on readers, theatre-goers and writers. Besides entries on the plays, their major characters, Shakespeare's life, and his contemporaries, the Dictionary provides further entries on theatres, directors, and actors such as Edmund Kean and Peter O'Toole. In addition, this source contains comments on Shakespeare by later authors such as Jane Austen and Samuel Johnson.

The Oxford Companion to Shakespeare

The Oxford Companion to Shakespeare.

Edited by Michael Dobson and Stanley Wells. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.
[Available online for UofT use.]
With substantial entries shored up with bibliographies, this reference guide includes synopses along with notes about Shakespeare's sources, the original text, and the play's stage history. Besides entries on the plays, the Companion contains articles on key terms (Jacobean tragedy), themes (death), critics (Hazlitt), and critical approaches (Marxist).

Quotations and Obscure Words

A Shakespeare Glossary

A Shakespeare Glossary.

By C.T. Onions, enlarged and revised throughout by Robert D. Eagleson. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986.
[St. Michael's 1st Floor Reference Area - PR2892 .O6 1985.]
This alphabetical dictionary defines obscure and obsolete terms in Shakespeare's works. It also explains allusions, identifies proper names and defines outdated technical terms used in stage direction.

The Quotable Shakespeare

The Quotable Shakespeare: A Topical Dictionary.

Compiled by Charles DeLoach. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 1988.
[St. Michael's 1st Floor Reference Area - PR2892 . D37 1998.]
Using a more sophisticated and extensive range of topics than the Columbia Dictionary, this alphabetical work organizes 6,500 quotations under 1,000 topical headings. Each entry is numbered. If you can't find what you're looking for, try the character, title (e.g. The Merchant of Venice) and topic indexes at the back. These refer you to the entry numbers. All citations refer to The Riverside Shakespeare.

The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations from Shakespeare

The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations from Shakespeare.

Selected by Mary and Reginald Foakes. New York: Columbia University Press, 1998.
[St. Michael's 1st Floor Reference Area - PR2892 .F48 1998.]
Organized alphabetically by such topics as age, farewells, miracles, rivers and war, this source identifies who is speaking in which play, along with the act, scene and line numbers each quotation comes from. The List of Topics outlines the contents and a keyword index allows users to find words not included in that list. All citations refer to the Riverside Shakespeare.

Shakespeare Lexicon and Quotation Dictionary

Shakespeare Lexicon and Quotation Dictionary; A Complete Dictionary of All the English Words, Phrases, and Constructions in the Works of the Poet.

By Alexander Schmidt. Third edition. Revised and enlarged by Gregor Sarrazin. New York: Dover Publications, 1971. 2 volumes.
[St. Michael's 1st Floor Reference Area - PR2892 .S42.]
Unlike the Shakespeare Glossary, the Shakespeare Lexicon and Quotation Dictionary defines a wide range of words and phrases, both common and obscure. After the definition, each entry provides sample quotations, along with a list of all the plays (including act, scene and line numbers) containing this word. All references are to the Globe Edition.

Longman Guide to Shakespeare's Characters

Longman Guide to Shakespeare's Characters: A Who's Who of Shakespeare.

By Kenneth McLeish Harlow: Longman, 1985.
[St. Michael's 1st Floor Reference Area - PR2989 .M35 1985]
Look up Shakespeare characters by name--usually first name--to get a handy, brief character description, along with the person's key relationships with others in the play. This alphabetically-arranged source includes all of Shakespeare's characters and indicates which play (or plays) each is involved in. It also includes summaries of all 38 plays intermingled with the character entries throughout the book.

A Dictionary of the Characters & Proper Names in the Works of Shakespeare

A Dictionary of the Characters & Proper Names in the Works of Shakespeare; With Notes on the Sources.

By Francis Griffin Stokes. New York: Dover Publications, 1970.
[St. Michael's 1st Floor Reference Area - PR2892 .S67]
In general, use the Longman Guide for quick character information. The Stokes Dictionary entries, by contrast, lack clarity. The advantage of this dictionary, however, is the extras: besides containing entries on all the characters in the plays, this book lists and explains place-names, names used as allusions and most other proper names used in the plays. In each entry, the dictionary refers you to the related play, act, scene and line. In addition, some entries make references to first editions and sources.

Shakespeare: A Hundred Years on Film

Shakespeare: A Hundred Years on Film.

By Eddie Sammons. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2004.
[E.J. Pratt Library Reference Area - PR3093 .S26 2004]
This is the most important guide on the subject available, including not only films of Shakespeare's plays, but also filmed stage performances and films based on or inspired by his works. The films are categorized by the plays they depict.

Contemporaries and Sources

Who's Who in Shakespeare's England

Who's Who in Shakespeare's England.

By Alan & Veronica Palmer. New York : St. Martin's Press, 1999.
[E.J. Pratt Library Reference Area - PR2910 .P3 1999]
This work identifies the real-life historical contemporaries of the playwright: prominent English men and women from 1590 to 1623.

A Topographical Dictionary to the Works of Shakespeare and his Fellow Dramatists.

By Edward H. Sugden. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1925.
[Robarts Library 4th Floor Reference Area - PR2892 .S8]
This Topographical Dictionary provides a long list of place-names (e.g. towns, countries, rivers and streets) accompanied by a brief article about each and an exact reference to their mention in Shakespeare's plays. The Topographical Dictionary also includes several place-names which occur in Milton and Spenser, as well as a bibliography of related sources.

Narrative and Dramatic Sources of Shakespeare

Narrative and Dramatic Sources of Shakespeare.

By Geoffrey Bullough. London: Routledge and Paul, 1957.
[St. Michael's Library 2nd Floor Stacks - PR2952 .5 B8]
This eight volume set sketches the context in which Shakespeare wrote each of his plays, shows the relationship between the plays and sources Shakespeare drew on to develop his plots and characters, and demonstrates how he adapted and in the end went beyond these sources. The set includes introductory essays for the plays and a categorized bibliography at the end of each volume.

The Harvard Condordance to Shakespeare

The Harvard Concordance to Shakespeare.

Compiled by Marvin Spevack. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1973.
[St. Michael's 1st Floor Reference Area - PR2892 .S6]
Using the modern spelling of The Riverside Shakespeare, this alphabetical computer-generated concordance covers every word in all of Shakespeare's plays and poems, and shows the context in which each word appears. For example, the word "idleness" appears in 10 different plays: in Two Gentlemen of Verona, it shows up in Act I, Scene I, line 8: "wear out thy youth with shapeless idleness." Each entry consists of 3 main columns: the rows of lines containing the word; an abbreviation for the play each is in; and the act, scene and line numbers. There's a list of symbols and abbreviations at the beginning of the book. The Harvard Concordance is basically a slightly abbreviated version of volumes 4 through 6 of A Complete and Systematic Concordance to the Works of Shakespeare.

A Complete and Systematic Concordance to the Works of Shakespeare

A Complete and Systematic Concordance to the Works of Shakespeare.

Compiled by Marvin Spevack. Hildesheim: G. Olms, 1968- 9 volumes.
[E.J. Pratt Library Reference Area - PR2892 .S6]
This nine-volume computer-generated concordance from The Riverside Shakespeare is the most comprehensive of its kind. Volumes 4 through 6 cover all of Shakespeare's plays and poems while the other volumes include drama and character concordances, stage directions, speech prefixes, and variants.

A Complete Concordance or Verbal Index to Words, Phrases and Passages in the Dramatic Works of Shakespeare

A Complete Concordance or Verbal Index to Words, Phrases and Passages in the Dramatic Works of Shakespeare-with a Supplementary Concordance to the Poems.

By John Bartlett. London: Macmillan ; New York: St. Martin's Press, 1956.
[St. Michael's 1st Floor Reference Area - PR2892 .B43]
Similar to the Harvard Concordance and equally thorough, this work is alphabetical by the word being examined and further broken down by the play it is found in. Unlike the Harvard Concordance, the Complete Concordance or Verbal Index contains a separate concordance for Shakespeare's poems--as opposed to his plays--at the end of the book.


RhymeZone Shakespeare Search.

[Available online for free.]
Using this Shakespeare search engine, you can look or browse for words and phrases in Shakespeare's work.

Shakespeare: A Bibliographical Guide

Shakespeare: A Bibliographical Guide.

Edited by Stanley Wells. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990.
[St. Michael's 1st Floor Reference Area - PR2894 .S445 1990]
Arranged by topic (such as Shakespeare in Performance, Hamlet or The Early Comedies), this book consists of 19 bibliographic essays covering all of Shakespeare's work, each followed by lists of relevant books, essays and journal articles. The lists are organized into different printings of Shakespeare's works, general studies and-most useful of all-criticism.



Compiled by David Bevington. Arlington Heights, Ill.: AHM Publishing, 1978.
[St. Michael's 1st Floor Reference Area - PR2885 .A8]
The advantage of this bibliography over its rival by Stanley Wells is its breadth: the book is crammed with far more books, essays, and journal articles. Like the Wells guide, the Bevington bibliography is organized by general topic in the first half (such as Shakespeare's life, Shakespeare on film and the Principles of Tragedy) and into Shakespeare's works in the second half. What this bibliography lacks are the short introductory essays that accompany the lists of sources in Shakespeare: A Bibliographical Guide.

The Essential Shakespeare

The Essential Shakespeare: An Annotated Bibliography of Major Modern Studies.

By Larry S. Champion. Toronto: Maxwell Macmillan Canada, 1993.
[E.J. Pratt Library Reference Area - Z8811 .C53 1993]
In this work, Larry Champion aims to identify the most important works of Shakespeare scholarship produced in the 20th century. Annotating more than 1,800 studies of the playwright and his works, the book is broken down into such categories as sonnets, history plays and tragedies: each of these subdivides into bibliographic types like reference works, criticism and stage history. The Essential Shakespeare includes author, title, and subject indexes.

Shakespeare and the Classical Tradition

Shakespeare and the Classical Tradition: An Annotated Bibliography, 1961-1991.

By Lewis Walker. New York: Routledge, 2002.
[E.J. Pratt Library Reference Area - PR 3037 .W35 2002]
[Robarts Library 13th Floor Stacks - PR 3037 .S55 2002X]
This bibliography has collected 3,210 works in English published between 1961 and 1991 that treat the classical influence in Shakespeare's work. The bibliographic entries have been organized into three sections: general bibliographies, surveys and reference works; general works; and sections on individual works. Entries consist of books, articles, book chapters, essays, dissertations, other bibliographies, and reference works. Many have been annotated in such detail that just scanning the selections will give you a quick grasp of the scholarship available.

Finding Journal Articles

To find articles in scholarly journals, the best place to go is an article database. To find articles related to your subject area, go to and under the Subjects A to Z tab scroll down to your subject area i.e. Literatureand click GO. You'll find a list of online databases containing relevant articles, as well as other online resources such as encyclopedias, dictionaries and research guides. Besides finding articles, article databases also round up book reviews, book chapters, dissertations and even book titles. In most cases, you can limit your search to articles if that is all you want. How do I find articles?

The Shakespeare Collection

The Shakespeare Collection.

Gale Thomson Corporation, 2006.
[Available online for UofT use.]
Start with this collection's advanced search screen for scholarly criticism on Shakespeare's work. For more information, see the entry for this title under Brief Reference.

Annual Bibliography of English Language and Literature

Annual Bibliography of English Language and Literature (ABELL).

[Available online (1892 - 2004) for UofT use.]
This index should be the first stop for anyone looking for articles on Shakespeare's work. Packed with more than 840,000 records, ABELL refers you to journal articles, books, essay collections, book reviews, and doctoral dissertations. Another advantage is scope. Covering American, British and Commonwealth literature, as well as some material in languages besides English, ABELL is one of the two major indexes for English students-the other is the MLA International Bibliography.


MLA International Bibliography.

[Available online (1963 - present) for UofT use.]
This database, along with ABELL, is a key Shakespeare source. It covers criticism related to literature, linguistics and folklore from 1921 to the present, and contains more than 1-million citations to journal articles, series, books, working papers and conference proceedings. Most of the materials indexed before 1963 are American.


ITER: Gateway to the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.

[Available online for UofT use.]
ITER is great for finding criticism on Shakespeare's works and other literature written during the Middle Ages and Renaissance (from 400 to 1700). Using an interface similar to the UofT Catalogue, you can search for articles, as well as books, essays, catalogues, abstracts, bibliographies and reviews.

Shakespeare Index

Shakespeare Index: An Annotated Bibliography of Criticial Articles on the Plays 1959-1983.

Edited by Bruce T. Sajdak. Millwood, N.Y.: Kraus International, 1992. 2 volumes.
[St. Michael's 1st Floor Reference Area - PR2894 .S25 1992]
What this excellent print index gives you is quick references to specific subjects in Shakespeare. Unlike an online index, where you might end up searching for hours, this 2-volume set allows you to find citations to articles on such focused subjects as: alchemy in Act 2, Scene 7 of Antony and Cleopatra, Caliban and allegory in The Tempest, and jealousy and transformation in Othello. The Shakespeare Index actually consists of a wide variety of indexes--that's why it's so helpful. You can look up articles by theme (e.g. Political, Economic, Social and Cultural Background), play, author, character, scene and subject. The only tricky part is getting used to the reference abbreviations (such as M, T, HH and YY) the index uses--but these are all listed in the Contents pages in volume 1.