Folios and Quartos (Shakespeare)

From Academic Kids

William Shakespeare's earliest published plays are referred to as folios or quartos according to the size of the book, folios being large, tall volumes and the quartos smaller and squarer. (See Bookbinding.)

The folio format was reserved for expensive, prestigious volumes. During Shakespeare's lifetime, stage plays were not generally taken as seriously as other literature and not considered worthy of being collected into folios. The plays printed while he was alive were printed as quartos.

During his lifetime eighteen of Shakespeare's 38 plays were published in quartos -- for example, Othello appeared in 1622. Over half of these have been designated as "bad" quartos because their texts are significantly different and often shorter than the "good" versions. Shakespeare does not seem to have taken any interest in the publication of his plays and it has been suggested that these "bad" quartos were pirated by unscrupulous printers, though this is difficult to prove. One theory is that their texts are extremely corrupt as a result of their reconstruction from memory by a member, or members, of their cast. However, all texts of plays at this time contain errors.

It was not until 1616, the year of Shakespeare's death, that Ben Jonson defied convention by issuing a folio collection of his own plays and poems. Seven years later the folio volume Mr. William Shakespeare's Comedies, Histories & Tragedies appeared, this edition is now called the First Folio. This volume was reprinted three times in the 17th century; the Second Folio in 1632, the Third in 1663 and the Fourth in 1685. The Third Folio added several plays, including Pericles, Prince of Tyre for the first time, as well as several others not now considered to be by Shakespeare (see Shakespeare Apocrypha).

First Folio (1623): Thirty-six plays, eighteen printed for the first time, were arranged by John Heminges and Henry Condell (fellow actors of Shakespeare) into sections of comedies, histories and tragedies. Because Shakespeare was already dead, he was not available to oversee the editing of the text. Many of the plays in the folio omit lines that can be found in quarto versions, and include misprints and textual corruption. The Folio is no more a definitive text than the collection of quartos.

External link

  • First Folio ( - HTML version of this title.
  • First Folio ( - plain vanilla text from Project Gutenberg

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