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How Shakespeare
Prepared Manuscripts
And What Happened Next
Cummings Guides Home..|..Contact This Site..|..Shakespeare Videos..|..Shakespeare Books
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By Michael J. Cummings..© 2003
Revised in 2006.
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Preparing a Manuscript
Writing Format: Prose, Poetry, Verse
Blank Verse
Iambic Pentameter
Stage Directions, Drama Terms
Publication of a Play

1. Preparing a Manuscript

Writing Tool:..Quill dipped in ink. A quill was the hollow, rigid shaft of a bird’s feather. The word “pen” is derived from the Latin name for “feather”—“penna.” Shakespeare and other writers of his day used a variety of quills that they dipped in an ink container (inkwell) on a stand (standish) that held all the writing materials. If a writer’s pocket lacked jingle, he invested in a goose quill. If he could afford something better, he invested in a swan quill. Writers or artists who needed quills to produce fine lines purchased crow quills. Quills from ducks, eagles, turkeys, hawks and owls also served as “word processors,” producing plays, poems, and sometimes revolution. Quills were the writing instruments of choice between 500 A.D. and 1850 A.D. (In the ancient world, writers used a variety of other instruments to write history, literature, announcements, bureaucratic records, and so on. These instruments included shaped twigs or branches that impressed words into clay, mallet-driven chisels that etched words in stone, brushes that wrote on pottery and other smooth surfaces (such as plaster and animal skins), sharpened bone or metal that inscribed words on wax surfaces, and sharpened reed stems dipped in ink that wrote on papyrus, an Egyptian water plant whose pith (the soft center of a stem) was dried and pressed to make thin sheets suitable for receiving impressions. The introduction of the quill in the 500's (an event recorded by St. Isidore, a Spanish theologian) greatly eased the task of writers, much as personal computers did when they replaced typewriters in the last half of the 20th Century.) 
Lighting:..Daylight and candlelight. Shakespeare probably tried to do most of his writing during the day, perhaps near a window, because writing at night required lit candles or an oil lamp. Candles were expensive. A writer could easily spend a day's earnings or more on candlelight illuminating the first draft of a poem or a soliloquy in a play. The alternative–oil lamps–gave off smoke and unpleasant odors. And they, too, required a pretty penny to buy, fuel and maintain. However, if Shakespeare attempted to confine all of his writing to mornings and afternoons, he probably failed. After all, as a playwright and an actor, he had to appear for the daytime rehearsals and performances of his works. Like people today, he had a "nine-to-five job" that probably forced him to moonlight. Also, passages in his plays suggest that he could have been something of an insomniac addicted to "burning the candle at both ends." In his book Shakespeare: the Biography, (New York: Doubleday, 2005) Peter Ackroyd speculates that as a result of his various employments in the theatre, [Shakespeare] was obliged to write at night; there are various references in the plays to "oil-dried lamps," to candles, and to "the smoakie light" that is "fed with stinking Tallow" (Page 273). 
Dictionaries:..No official English dictionaries existed in Shakespeare's time.  Therefore, he was free to use spellings and meanings that did not agree with accepted spellings and meanings. He could also choose from among words imported from Italy, France and other countries by seafaring traders, soldiers, tourists, and adventurers. When words did not exist to express his thoughts, Shakespeare made up his own–hundreds of them. Many of his neologisms are now in common use around the world. Jeffrey McQuain and Stanley Malless, authors of Coined by Shakespeare (Merriam-Webster, 1998), list numerous words originated by Shakespeare, including bedroom, eyeball, generous, investment, madcap, obscene, radiance, torture, unreal, and varied
Meanings: Hundreds of words used by Shakespeare have changed meanings or connotations over time. For example, "Fellow, which has friendly overtones for us, was insulting in Shakespeare's day. Phrases that were metaphors to him have often lost their coloring with us: "Since we seldom play the game of bowls, we overlook the concrete implications of 'There's the rub' [a phrase used by Hamlet in his famous soliloquy] (an impediment on the green)."–Levin, Harry. "General Introduction." The Riverside Shakespeare. G. Blakemore Evans, textual ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, Page 9.)
Sources for Plays:..History, myth, other writers. To write his plays, Shakespeare borrowed from history, mythology and other literary works, then used his genius to enliven histories and myths and improve on plots, reworking them and sometimes adding new characters, such as Beatrice and Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing, Malvolio and Sir Toby Belch in Twelfth Night, and the fool in King Lear.
How Settings Affected Writing: Because settings on an Elizabethan stage were spare, Shakespeare had to write descriptions of them into his dialogue. This handicap proved to be a boon, for it motivated Shakespeare to write some of his best descriptions. 

    Whenever place or time mattered [in a Shakespeare play], some references to them could be introduced into the dialogue, and if special atmospheric or dramatic effects were needed, they could be created by the poet's pen. Hence, it is to the Elizabethan stage that we are indebted in great measure for the exquisite descriptive poetry of Shakespeare. Such conditions, moreover, encouraged a greater imaginative cooperation on the part of the audience in the production of a play, and this active participation was further increased by the informality of the platform stage. With such intimacy, soliloquies, asides, and long set speeches are natural and not absurd as they are in modern theatre.–Watt, Homer A., and Karl J. Holzknecht. Outlines of Shakespeare's Plays. New York: Barnes, 1947 (Page 8).
Drafts of Plays and Censorship:..Shakespeare's manuscripts had to be submitted for approval.  After writing out a manuscript, Shakespeare (or a professional scribe) made a copy of it in which obvious errors were corrected. The two versions had special names: the original manuscript was the "foul papers" because of the blots and crossouts on it. The new version was called a fair copy. It was submitted to the Master of Revels, a government censor who examined it for material offensive to the crown. If approved, the fair copy became known as a prompt copy, which the actors used to memorize their lines. The acting company bought the prompt copy, gaining sole possession of it, after paying the writer. The company then wrote in the stage directions (exit, enter, etc.). John Russell Brown, author of Shakespeare and His Theatre (New York: Lothrop, Lee and Shepard, 1982, Page 31) discusses the circumstances under which the censor forbade the staging of one of Shakespeare's plays:
    At a time of unrest, when the Earl of Essex was challenging the Queen's [Elizabeth's] authority and armed bands terrorized the streets of London, the Chamberlain's Men [Shakespeare's company] were forbidden to perform Richard II, a play already licensed and performed, because it contains a scene in which a king is compelled to renounce his crown; in 1601, the queen's counsellors believed that this might encourage her enemies and spark off a revolution. The theatre was taken very seriously by the authorities and was allowed to deal with political issues only if they did not refer too obviously to current affairs or seditious ideas, but were set, safely, in an earlier century or, better still, in ancient Rome or foreign countries.
Alteration of the Copy:..An acting company could alter the manuscript.  With or without a playwright's approval, an acting company could change the script as it saw fit. It is possible that editors improved some of Shakespeare's manuscripts. It is also possible that they weakened the manuscripts.
Surviving Manuscripts:..No original copy, or foul papers, of a Shakespeare play survived to the present day except for a few pages of Sir Thomas More, partly written by Shakespeare. Fredson Bowers explains why the manuscripts were lost:
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    No Shakespeare manuscript is in existence. This is not surprising: they were not collectors' items. Printers would have thrown them away after setting type from them; almost twenty years passed in the Commonwealth with no public performances of plays, and the manuscripts of the disbanded theatrical companies were completely dispersed; the Great Fire of London must have destroyed some. Indeed, only a relative handful of the hundreds and hundreds of Elizabethan plays have come down to us in manuscript form, and it is our bad luck that so few of these are by major dramatists. None is Shakespeare's if we except the good possibility that one scene in the manuscript of the unacted Sir Thomas More is in his hand.–Bowers, Fredson. ''What Shakespeare Wrote.'' Approaches to Shakespeare, by Norma Rabkin. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1964 (Page 266).
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2. Writing Format: Verse, Prose, and Poetry

.......Shakespeare wrote his plays partly in verse and partly in prose, freely alternating between the two in the same acts and scenes. It is not unusual, in fact, for one character to address a second character in verse while the second character responds in prose. Sometimes, the same character–Hamlet or King Lear, for example–speaks in verse in one moment and in prose in another. 
......Verse is a collection of lines that follow a regular, rhythmic pattern–in Shakespeare, usually iambic pentameter, a metric scheme in which each line has ten syllables consisting of five unaccented and accented syllable pairs. In its highest form–when the language is lyrical and the content sublime–verse can become poetry, either rhymed or unrhymed. Prose, on the other hand, is the everyday language of conversation, letters, lectures, sermons, newspaper articles, book chapters, and encyclopedia articles. Prose has no rhyme or metric scheme.
......Why did Shakespeare mix verse (including poetry) and prose in his plays? That is a question that inevitably occupies anyone studying Shakespeare’s writing techniques. Before considering that question, the Shakespeare analyst first needs to learn how to identify the verse and prose passages in a play. That task is easy. Here’s why: 
......In most modern editions of the plays, each line in multi-line verse passages begins with a capital letter, and each line in multi-line prose passages begins with a small letter except the first line or a line beginning with the opening word of a sentence. In addition, verse passages have a shortened right margin, but prose passages have a full right margin. Following are examples of these visual cues in verse and prose passages from Hamlet, Prince of Denmark:

Verse Passage Spoken by Hamlet (Act III, Scene I):

To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
Prose Passage Spoken by Hamlet (Act II, Scene II):
Slanders, sir. For the satirical rogue says here that old men have gray beards, that their faces are wrinkled, their eyes
purging thick amber and plum-tree gum, and that they have a plentiful lack of wit, together with most weak hams. All which, sir, though I most powerfully and potently believe, yet I hold it not honesty to have it thus set down; for yourself, sir, should be old as I am if like a crab you could go backward.
......Now, then, what about single lines–those spoken in conversation as questions, replies, or ripostes? They are in prose if one line has no paired rhyming line or is too abrupt to contain a metric scheme. The following exchange between Hamlet and Guildenstern in Act III, Scene III, of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark contains such short lines absent of meter and rhyme. The exchange begins when Hamlet asks Guildenstern to play a wind instrument called a recorder, which resembles a flute:
HAMLET:..Will you play upon this pipe?
GUILDENSTERN:..My lord, I cannot.
HAMLET:..I pray you.
GUILDENSTERN:..Believe me, I cannot.
HAMLET:..I do beseech you.
......Obviously, these lines are too short to contain a pattern of meter or rhyme. Moreover, the content is mundane and prosaic. “I pray you” does not a poem make. For these reasons, the passage qualifies only as prose.
......But what of the multi-line passages? Why are some in verse and others in prose? The answer some Shakespeare commentators provide–an answer that is simplistic and not wholly accurate–is that Shakespeare reserved verse for noble, highborn characters and prose for common, lowborn characters. It is true that royalty and nobility often speak in verse and that peasants and plebeians–or wine-swilling hooligans, like Falstaff (Henry IV Part I and Henry IV Part II)–often speak in prose. But it is also true that noble characters, like Hamlet and Volumnia (Coriolanus), sometimes speak in prose and that lowborn characters, like the witches in Macbeth, often speak in verse. Even the lowest of the low–the beast-man Caliban in The Tempest–speaks often in verse. In The Merchant of Venice, the characters associated with the dirty world of money speak frequently in verse, and the characters associated with the rarefied world of nobility and refinement speak often in prose. Shakespeare's comedy Much Ado About Nothing is almost entirely in prose, with highborn characters only occasionally speaking in verse.
......Why, then, does Shakespeare alternate between verse and prose? 

Shakespeare used verse to do the following:

One: Express deep emotion requiring elevated language. Because nobles and commoners were both capable of experiencing profound emotion, both expressed their emotions in verse from time to time.
Two: Make wise, penetrating, and reflective observations that require lofty language. Such a passage is a famous one recited by the outlaw Jaques in Act II, Scene VII, of As You Like It. The passage–which begins with the often-quoted line “All the world’s a stage”–philosophizes about the “seven ages” of man, from infancy to senility. 
Three: Present a lyrical poem as a separate entity, like the famous song in Act V, Scene III, of As You Like It. The first stanza of that poem follows:
............It was a lover and his lass,
............With a hey, and a ho, and a hey nonino,
............That o’er the green corn-field did pass
............In the spring time, the only pretty ring time,
............When birds do sing, hey ding a ding, ding:
............Sweet lovers love the spring.
Four: Inject irony. When the highborn speak humble prose and the hoi polloi speak elegant verse, as is sometimes the case in The Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare may be saying up can be down, and down can be up. In The Merchant, the noble characters are just as reprehensible as–or perhaps even more reprehensible than–the workaday, unsophisticated characters. Portia is often depicted in critical analyses of the play as its noblest character. But a close reading of the play reveals her as a racist and a self-seeking conniver. Thus, Shakespeare makes her tongue wag in prose and verse, revealing her Janus personality.
Five: Suggest order and exactitude. A character who speaks in precise rhythms and patterns is a character with a tidy brain that plans ahead and executes actions on schedule.

Shakespeare used prose to do the following:

One: Express ordinary, undistinguished observations coming from the surface of the mind rather than its active, ruminating interior.
Two: Make quick, one-line replies such as “Ay, my lord” that are the stuff of day-to-day conversations.
Three: Present auditory relief for audiences (or visual relief for readers) from the intellectual and connotative density of the verse passages.
Four: Suggest madness or senility. In King Lear, Lear speaks almost exclusively in verse in the first half of the play. Then suddenly, he lurches back and forth between verse and prose, perhaps to suggest the frenzied state of his aging mind. Hamlet sometimes shifts to prose in front of observers, perhaps in hopes of presenting his feigned madness as real.
Five: Depict the rambling, desultory path of conversation from a tongue loosened by alcohol, as in Henry IV Part I and Henry IV Part II.
Six: Poke fun at characters who lack the wit to versify their lines.
Seven: Demonstrate that prose has merits as a literary medium. In Shakespeare’s day, verse (and its elegant cousin, poetry) was the sine qua non of successful writing. As an innovator, Shakespeare may have wanted to tout the merits of prose. Thus, on occasion, he infused his plays with prose passages so graceful and thought-provoking that they equalled, and sometimes even surpassed, the majesty of verse or poetry passages. Such a prose passage is the following, spoken by Hamlet in Act II, Scene II:

What a piece of work is a man! how noble in reason! how infinite in faculty! in form and moving how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world! the paragon of animals! And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust? man delights not me: no, nor woman neither, though by your smiling you seem to say so.
3. Blank Verse and Iambic Pentameter

......Under Writing Format: Verse, Prose, and Poetry, you read Shakespeare wrote his plays in verse, prose, and poetry and that he used a rhythm format called iambic pentamenter. 
When his verse lines in iambic pentamenter do not rhyme, they are said to be in blank verse. (Note that Shakespeare also wrote his sonnets in iambic pentameter, but the lines had a rhyming scheme. For more information on this scheme, see sonnets.) 
......To understand iambic pentameter, you first need to understand the term ''iamb.'' An iamb is a unit of rhythm consisting of an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable. The words ''annoy,'' ''fulfill,'' ''pretend,'' ''regard,'' and ''serene'' are all iambs because the first syllable of each word is unstressed (or unaccented) and the second syllable is stressed (or accented). Iambs can also consist of one word with a single unstressed (unaccented) syllable followed by another word with a single stressed (accented) syllable. In addition, they may consist of a final unstressed syllable of one word followed by an initial stressed syllable of the next word. The following line from Romeo and Juliet demonstrates the use of iambs. The stressed words or syllables are underlined:

But,soft! what light through yonder windowbreaks?
Here are two more lines from Romeo and Juliet that also demonstrate the use of iambs: 
Iwillnot fail: 'tis twenty years tillthen.
Ihaveforgot why I did call theeback.
        When a line has five iambs, it is in iambic pentameter. The prefix ''pent'' means ''five.'' (A figure with five sides is called a ''pentagon''; an athletic competition with five track-and-field events is called a ''pentathlon.'') The suffix ''meter'' (in ''pentameter'') refers to the recurrence of a rhythmic unit (also called a ''foot''). Thus, because the above lines contain iambs, they are ''iambic.'' Because they contain five iambs (five feet) they are said to be in iambic pentameter. Finally, because the words at the end of each line don't rhyme, the lines are said to be in unrhymed iambic pentameter, or blank verse. 
        Blank verse was modeled after ancient Greek and Latin verse. It was first used in 1514 in Renaissance Italy by Francesco Maria Molza. In 1539, Italian Giovanni Rucellai was the first poet to label the unrhymed iambic pentameter in his poetry as blank verse (versi sciolti in Italian). Henry Howard, the Earl of Surrey, first used blank verse in English in his translation of Vergil's epic Latin poem The Aeneid. The first English drama in blank verse was Gorboduc, or Ferrex and Porrex, staged in 1561, by Thomas Sackville and Thomas Norton. It was about an early British king. Later in the same century, Christopher Marlowe and William Shakespeare turned blank verse into high art when they used it in their plays. Marlowe used the verse form in Doctor Faustus, Tamburlaine, and Edward II. Shakespeare used it in all of his plays. In Germany, Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729-1781) popularized blank verse in his poem "Nathan the Wise" ("Nathan der Weise"), published in 1779. 
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4. Stage Directions and Drama Terms
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Act: One of the main divisions of a play. Shakespeare's plays each have five acts. Each act is subdivided into scenes. An act generally focuses on one major aspect of the plot or theme. Between acts, stagehands may change scenery, and the setting may shift to another locale. 
Alarum: Stage direction indicating the coming of a battle; a call to arms
Arras: Tapestry hung on the stage to conceal scenery until the right moment. In Hamlet, an arras played a crucial role. Polonius hid behind one to eavesdrop on a conversation between Hamlet and his mother, Queen Gertrude. When Hamlet saw the tapestry move, he stabbed at it, thinking King Claudius was behind it, and killed Polonius.
Aside: Words an actor speaks to the audience which other actors on the stage cannot hear. Sometimes the actor cups his mouth toward the audience or turns away from the other actors. An aside serves to reveal a character's thoughts or concerns to the audience without revealing them to other characters in a play. Near the end of Hamlet, Queen Gertrude raises a cup of wine to her lips during the fencing match between Hamlet and Laertes. King Claudius had poisoned the wine and intended it for Hamlet. In an aside, Claudius–unwilling to warn Gertrude in an effort to preserve his innocence–says, "It is the poison'd cup: it is too late." 
Catchword: In published Shakespeare plays in earlier times, a single word on the bottom of the right side of every page. This word was the first word appearing on the next page.
Chorus: The chorus was a single person who recited a prologue before Act I (and sometimes a passage between acts) in Henry V, Henry VIII, Troilus and Cressida, and Romeo and Juliet. Generally, the chorus informed the audience of action offstage or outside the time frame of the play.
Dramatis Personae: List of the characters in a play. Such a list is found at the beginning of each Shakespeare play. 
Enter:Stage direction indicating the entrance onto the stage of a character or characters.
Epilogue: Short address spoken by an actor at the end of a play that comments on the meaning of the events in the play or looks ahead to expected events; an afterword in any literary work.
Excursion:Stage direction indicating that a military attack is taking place. The opening of Scene II in Act III of King John contains such a stage direction. 
Exeunt: Stage direction indicating the departure of two or more characters from the stage.
Exit:Stage direction indicating the departure of a character from the stage.
Flourish: Music usually introducing the entrance or exit of a king or another important person. The music may consist of a short trumpet passage. 
Fair Copy: Play manuscript after it has been edited. 
Foul Papers: Original manuscript of a playwright which was later edited.
Gallery: Roofed seating area of a theatre, such as the Globe, that resembled the grandstand of a baseball park. The Globe had three galleries that could accommodate 2,000 to 3,000 playgoers.
Hautboys: Stage direction indicating that entering characters are playing hautboys (OH bwah), which are Elizabethan oboes 
Induction: Preface or prelude to a play. The Taming of the Shrew contains an induction that precedes the main plot. 
Master of Revels: Government censor who examined all plays for offensive material
Prologue: Introduction of a play. In Henry V, a chorus (one person) speaks a prologue that encourages the audience members to use their imaginations to create what an Elizabethan stage cannot: battlefields, clashing swords, the might of warriors. Shakespeare writes, "Think when we talk of horses, that you see them printing their proud hoofs i' the receiving earth."
Promptbook or Prompt Copy: Edited version of a play in which an acting company inserted stage directions.
Re-Enter: Stage direction indicating the re-entrance onto the stage of a character or characters.
Scene: (1) Time and place of the action in a play; (2) part of an act in a play that usually takes place in one location.
Sennet: Trumpet flourish to introduce the entrance of a character, such as King Lear (Act 1).
Soliloquy: Long passage in which a character reveals his thoughts to the audience but not to other characters. Hamlet's famous "To be or not to be" speech is an example.
Solus: Stage direction indicating a character is alone on the stage.
Stationers' Register: Book in which the English government required printers to register the title of a play before the play was published. The full official name of the Stationers' Register was the Hall Book of the Worshipful Company of Stationers.
Tiring House: Dressing rooms of actors behind a wall at the back of the stage. To tire means to dress–that is, to attire oneself. Sometimes, the wall of the tiring house could stand as the wall of a fortress under siege.
Torches: Stage direction indicating that entering characters are carrying lit torches.
Within: Stage direction indicating that a person speaking or being spoken to is behind a door or inside a room.
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Shakespeare Study Guide in Book Form

........Shakespeare: a Guide to the Complete Works is now available in hardback and paperback. It incorporates virtually all of the information on this web site, including plot summaries of all the plays. It also gives dates and sources of each play, describes the setting and characters, discusses imagery, identifies themes, points out the climax, and provides historical background wherever necessary. In addition, it discusses and analyzes the sonnets, as well as other poems written by Shakespeare. 
........Among the many additional features of the book are essays, glossaries, explanations of versification and iambic pentameter, and a section on the Globe Theatre.
........Your purchase of this book will help maintain this web site as a free resource for teachers and students. You can order the book directly from the publisher's web site or from Amazon.com

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5. Publication of  a Play
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 ........The publishing industry operated under the control of the Worshipful Company of Stationers, a trade organization which the government established and supervised in order to guard against printing subversive books or books unduly critical of the Crown. If a play met government standards–that is, if it did not attempt to inflame the people against the crown–a publisher could print and sell the play. Authors of plays often had misgivings about committing their work to print.
    The plays of the first professional companies [in Shakespeare's day] were written mainly by actors themselves. . . . The players were reluctant to allow their dramas to be printed. They apparently thought that if a play could be read, few people would wish to see it acted. They may also have feared that their plays, if printed, would be appropriated for acting by rival companies. This reluctance explains the fact that only eighteen of Shakespeare's plays were printed during his lifetime. They were published in small pamphlets called quartos, which sold for only sixpence a piece.–Alden, Raymond MacDonald. A Shakespeare Handbook. Revised and enlarged by Oscar James Campbell. Freeport, N.Y.: Books for Libraries, 1970 (Page 74).
For a detailed discussion of publishing formats–in particular, folio and quarto texts–click here.
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Plays on DVD (or VHS) 
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Play Director Actors
Antony and Cleopatra (1974) Trevor Nunn, John Schoffield Richard Johnson, Janet Suzman
Antony and Cleopatra BBC Production Jane Lapotaire 
As You Like It (2010)  Thea Sharrock Jack Laskey, Naomi Frederick
As You Like It (1937)  Paul Czinner Henry Ainley, Felix Aylmer
The Comedy of Errors BBC Production Not Listed
Coriolanus BBC Production Alan Howard, Irene Worth
Cymbeline Elijah Moshinsky Claire Bloom, Richard Johnson, Helen Mirren
Gift Box: The Comedies BBC Production Various
Gift Box: The Histories BBC Production Various
Gift Box: The Tragedies BBC Production Various
Hamlet (1948)  Laurence Olivier Laurence Olivier, Jean Simmons
Hamlet (1990)  Kevin Kline Kevin Kline
Hamlet(1991)  Franco Zeffirelli Mel Gibson, Glenn Close
Hamlet (1996)  Kenneth Branagh Kenneth Branagh, 
Hamlet (2009) Gregory Doran David Tennant, Patrick Stewart, Penny Downie
Hamlet (1964)  John Gielgud, Bill Colleran Richard Burton, Hume Cronyn
Hamlet (1964)  Grigori Kozintsev Innokenti Smoktunovsky
Hamlet (2000)  Cambpell Scott, Eric Simonson Campbell Scott, Blair Brown
Henry V (1989)  Kenneth Branagh Kenneth Branaugh, Derek Jacobi
Henry V( 1946)  Laurence Olivier Leslie Banks, Felix Aylmer
Henry VI Part I BBC Production Peter Benson, Trevor Peacock
Henry VI Part II BBC Production Not Listed
Henry VI Part III BBC Production Not Listed
Henry VIII BBC Production John Stride, Claire Bloom, Julian Glover
Julius Caesar BBC Production Richard Pasco, Keith Michell
Julius Caesar (1950)  David Bradley Charlton Heston
Julius Caesar (1953)  Joseph L. Mankiewicz Marlon Brando, James Mason
Julius Caesar (1970)  Stuart Burge Charlton Heston, Jason Robards
King John BBC Production Not Listed
King Lear (1970) Grigori Kozintsev Yuri Yarvet
King Lear (1971) Peter Brook Cyril Cusack, Susan Engel
King Lear (1974)  Edwin Sherin James Earl Jones
King Lear (1976)  Tony Davenall Patrick Mower, Ann Lynn
King Lear (1984)  Michael Elliott Laurence Olivier, Colin Blakely
King Lear (1997)  Richard Eyre Ian Holm
Love's Labour's Lost (2000) Kenneth Branagh Kenneth Branagh, Alicia Silverstone 
Love's Labour's Lost  BBC Production) Not Listed
Macbeth (1978)  Philip Casson Ian McKellen, Judy Dench
Macbeth BBC Production Not Listed
The Merchant of Venice BBC Production Warren Mitchell, Gemma Jones
The Merchant of Venice (2001)  Christ Hunt, Trevor Nunn David Bamber, Peter De Jersey
The Merchant of Venice (1973) John Sichel Laurence Olivier, Joan Plowright
The Merry Wives of Windsor (1970)  Not Listed Leon Charles, Gloria Grahame
Midsummer Night's Dream (1996)  Adrian Noble Lindsay Duncan, Alex Jennings
A Midsummer Night's Dream  (1999) Michael Hoffman Kevin Kline, Michelle Pfeiffer
Much Ado About Nothing (1993)  Kenneth Branaugh Branaugh, Emma Thompson
Much Ado About Nothing (1973)  Nick Havinga  Sam Waterston, F. Murray Abraham
Othello (2005)  Janet Suzman Richard Haines, John Kaki
Othello (1990)  Trevor Nunn Ian McKellen, Michael Grandage
Othello (1965)  Stuart Burge Laurence Olivier, Frank Finlay
Othello (1955)  Orson Welles Orson Welles
Othello (1983)  Franklin Melton Peter MacLean, Bob Hoskins, Jenny Agutter
Ran  (1985) Japanese Version of King Lear  Akira Kurosawa Tatsuya Nakadai, Akira Terao
Richard II (2001)  John Farrell  Matte Osian, Kadina de Elejalde
Richard III (1912)  André Calmettes, James Keane  Robert Gemp, Frederick Warde
Richard III - Criterion Collection (1956)  Laurence Olivier Laurence Olivier, Ralph Richardson
Richard III (1995)  Richard Loncraine Ian McKellen, Annette Bening
Richard III BBC Production Ron Cook, Brian Protheroe, Michael Byrne
Romeo and Juliet (1968)  Franco Zeffirelli Leonard Whiting, Olivia Hussey
Romeo and Juliet (1996)  Baz Luhrmann Leonardo DiCaprio, Claire Danes
Romeo and Juliet (1976)  Joan Kemp-Welch Christopher Neame, Ann Hasson
Romeo and Juliet BBC Production John Gielgud, Rebecca Saire, Patrick Ryecart
The Taming of the Shrew Franco Zeffirelli Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton
The Taming of the Shrew Kirk Browning Raye Birk, Earl Boen, Ron Boussom
The Taming of The Shrew Not Listed Franklin Seales, Karen Austin 
The Tempest Paul Mazursky John Cassavetes, Gena Rowlands
The Tempest (1998) Jack Bender Peter Fonda, John Glover, Harold Perrineau,
Throne of Blood (1961) Macbeth in Japan  Akira Kurosawa Toshirô Mifune, Isuzu Yamada
Twelfth Night (1996)  Trevor Nunn Helena Bonham Carter
Twelfth Night BBC Production Not Listed
The Two Gentlemen of Verona BBC Production John Hudson, Joanne Pearce
The Winter's Tale  (2005)  Greg Doran Royal Shakespeare Company
The Winter's Tale BBC Production Not Listed