Anthologizing Shakespeare, 1593-1603

Research output: Book/ReportBook


Anthologizing Shakespeare, 1593–1603 is a reading of Shakespeare’s first decade in print, from Venus and Adonis to Hamlet, through the Elizabethan anthologies that featured his work. Between 1599 and 1601, five anthologies included writing by Shakespeare, whether whole lyric poems or shorter commonplace extracts. This book reveals the critical importance of Shakespeare’s ‘anthology period’, for him, and for literary culture more broadly. It reconstructs the fierce literary squabbles that period witnessed, where questions of authorship and style were fought out in print and onstage. It also explores the culture of commonplacing from which these anthologies emerged, to argue that the thought of being anthologized exerted a longer and deeper influence on Shakespeare’s writing. Shakespeare was writing for readers, which means he was writing for anthologizing readers: readers who would extract choice passages and copied them out in their notebooks. He appealed to the reading habits of his contemporaries, inviting and frustrating them, and using them to open up the innermost concerns of his poems and plays. Taking the Elizabethan anthologies as its cue, this book presents readings of some formative works in Shakespeare’s career: Venus and Adonis, Lucrece, Love’s Labour’s Lost, Richard II, Hamlet, ‘Let the bird of lowdest lay’, and the Sonnets. Each of them uses anthologizing to open up different questions: questions of classical literature and the schoolrooms in which it was taught; of rhetoric, aesthetics, and commonplacing’s unintended consequences; and of the afterlife that he and his writings might win—at least in parts.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages320
ISBN (Electronic)9780191964534
ISBN (Print)9780192868497
Publication statusPublished - 13 Apr 2023


  • Shakespeare
  • Renaissance drama
  • Renaissance poetry
  • History of reading
  • Anthologies
  • Commonplace books
  • Humanism
  • Humanist education
  • Poets' War


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