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Shake..Sphere
A Guide to the Complete Works of William Shakespeare
Summaries and Analyses of All the Plays and Poems  |  Essays, Glossaries, Lists, Quotations, Texts
Recommended as a Shakespeare Resource by The New York Times and the BBC  |  Copyright 1995-2014  |  April 2014

A Free Resource Posted by Michael J. Cummings..(mcum.mings@mail.com)
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The Plays: Summaries and Study Guides........................................................................Shakespeare Videos: Complete List
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Plot summaries of all the plays, including those of doubtful or joint authorship, such as Edward III, The Two Noble Kinsmen, Sir Thomas More (partly written by Shakespeare), and Cardenio (probably partly written by Shakespeare). Criticism, sources, settings, dates, themes, and other information.

All's Well That Ends Well Hamlet, Prince of Denmark Julius Caesar A Midsummer Night's Dream The Tempest
Antony and Cleopatra Henry IV: Part I King John Much Ado About Nothing Timon of Athens
As You Like It Henry IV: Part II King Lear Othello Titus Andronicus
Cardenio Henry V Love's Labour's Lost Pericles, Prince of Tyre Troilus and Cressida
Comedy of Errors Henry VI: Part I Macbeth Richard IIRichard III Twelfth Night
Coriolanus Henry VI: Part II Measure for Measure Romeo and Juliet The Two Gentlemen of Verona
Cymbeline Henry VI: Part III The Merchant of Venice Sir Thomas More The Two Noble Kinsmen
Edward III Henry VIII The Merry Wives of Windsor The Taming of the Shrew The Winter's Tale

The Sonnets
Background on the Sonnet Form
All the Sonnets: Texts, Summaries, Annotations

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Narrative and Complaint Poems
The Rape of Lucrece: Narrative poem resembling a revenge tragedy. Summary, analysis, setting, sources, rhyme, meter, and imagery.
Venus and Adonis: Narrative love poem. Summary, analysis, sources, rhyme,, meter, imagery, and ambiguities and double entendres. 
The Phoenix and the Turtle: Historical background, an interpretation of the poem, a discussion of symbolism, and other information.
A Lover's Complaint: Complaint poem, popular in Renaissance times. Annotated text, analysis, rhyme, meter, authorship question. A summary is included.

Shakespeare's Craft//
How Shakespeare Prepared Manuscripts: Word choice, prompt copy, printing and registration, editing, pirated plays, texts. 
Play Drafts and Censorship: What Shakespeare had to do to receive approval for a play.
Surviving Manuscripts: Do any of the original manuscripts of Shakespeare's plays survive?
Shakespeare's Writing Tools: All about Will's quills.
Anatomy of a Shakespeare Play: Divisions of the script and the stage drama with a glossary of terms.

The Worshipful Company of Stationers: Government trade organization that controlled the publishing industry.
Shakespeare's Four Writing Periods: Early, Balanced, Overflowing, and Final. 
Blank Verse and Iambic Pentameter: Explanation of the verse form of Shakespeare's plays and poems.
Prose vs Poetry in the Plays: Why Shakespeare used three modes of expression. The difference between poetry and verse.
What Is Meter in a Play or a Poem?  Explanation of iamb, trochee, spondee, anapest, and other kinds of meter.
Why Low-Tech Special Effects Made Shakespeare a Better Writer
Shakespeare's Swooping Imagery: Birds of prey help Shakespeare make apt comparisons.
Allusions to Greek and Roman Mythology
Allusions to the Bible

Shakespeare's Use of Allusions and Direct References
Thou or Thee? You or Ye? Rules governing the use of Shakespearean pronouns, including thou, thee, thy, thine, and ye.

The Theatre
Globe Theatre: Description, location, builders, actors, owners, sets, special effects, costumes, acoustics, motto of the playhouse. 
Stage Directions, Drama Terms: Definitions of alarum, aside, exeunt, exit, fair copy, foul papers, and other playwrighting terms used by Shakespeare.
Why Low-Tech Special Effects Made Shakespeare a Better Writer
Shakespeare Films: The plays on DVD.
Shakespeare in the Modern Era: The story of Harley Granville-Barker, who rescued Shakespeare from the overblown productions of the nineteenth century.
Explanation of Folio and Quarto Texts: Definitions and descriptions of these printing terms used in Shakespeare's time.
Shakespeare's Views on Acting: Speaking through Hamlet, Shakespeare presents his opinions on how actors should perform.
Shakespeare Festivals, Workshops and Theaters

Shakespeare's Life
.Biography: 5,300-word essay (with documentation) on the private and public lives of Shakespeare.
The Shakespeare Children: Nutshell profiles of Shakespeare's brothers and sisters and his own children.
Was Shakespeare Catholic? Summary and discussion of evidence suggesting that Shakespeare was a lifelong Roman Catholic.
What Did Shakespeare Look Like? How Did He Sound? Information on Shakespeare's physical appearance and voice, along with links to 24 images.
Shakespeare's Last Will and Testament: Complete text of Shakespeare's final words.
Was Shakespeare a Seafarer?.Ships are important turning points, or plot catalysts, in many of Shakespeare plays.
Fascinating Facts About Shakespeare

Shakespeare's Times
.London in 1600: Everyday Life, Occupations: What everyday life was like for Shakespeare and other London residents. Included is a glossary of occupations..
The Age of Shakespeare: Shakespeare lived during a time of experiment, invention, discovery, and revolution. This essay looks at the major events of the epoch. 
Shakespeare's Taverns: Whenever an ill humor oppressed Shakespeare in London, he could count on a tavern to revitalize his spirits.

Glossaries and Lists
Chronology of Shakespeare's Works: List of the probable dates when Shakespeare wrote his plays and poems.
Curses and Insults in Shakespeare's Plays

Shakespeare's Characters as Symbols: List of Shakespeare characters representing themes or motifs.
Shakespeare Festivals, Workshops and Theaters: List of Shakespeare events in the U.S. and foreign countries.
Glossary of Animals and Animal Parts in Witches' Brew (Macbeth): Definitions and descriptions of terms.
Glossary of Allusions to Greek and Roman Mythology

Shakespeare DictionaryGlossary of Archaic and Difficult Words: Definitions and usage of words in Shakespeare's plays and poems.
Glossary of Drama Terms: Definitions of alarum, aside, exeunt, and other playwrighting terms used by Shakespeare.
Glossary of Elizabethan Occupations: From actor, apothecary, armorer, and cordwainer to skinner, tiler, and washerwoman.
Glossary of Feudal Terms
Glossary of Literary Terms: All the major literary terms explained, from allegory to zeugma.

Glossary of Musical Instruments in Shakespeare's Time
Glossary of Stage Directions
List of Globe Theatre Actors: The names of the twenty-six actors who performed most frequently in Shakespeare's plays.
Anatomy of a Shakespeare Play: Divisions of the script and the stage drama with a glossary of terms.
Fascinating Facts About Shakespeare
Kings and Queens of England: The royal line from the first monarch to the present.
Lord Mayors of London: 1590-1616: List of all the lord mayors during Shakespeare's time in London.
Royalty and Nobility: How They Ranked
Thou or Thee? You or Ye? Rules governing the use of Shakespearean pronouns, such as thou, thee, thine and ye.
What Is Meter in a Play or a Poem?

Authorship: Why de Vere and Others Don't Measure Up
Who Quilled Shakespeare? Debates flourish today on whether William Shakespeare really wrote the plays and poems attributed to him. Among those promoted as the true author of the plays and sonnets are Edward de Vere, Sir Henry Neville, Christopher, Marlowe, Francis Bacon, William Stanley, and Queen Elizabeth I. This essay maintains that evidence against Shakespeare is weak and that there is no reason to doubt that William Shakespeare of Stratford was indeed the author of the plays and sonnets.

Complete Texts, Concordances, Research Sources

The Complete Works: The plays, sonnets, and other poems
New on This Site: The Complete Annotated Text of Macbeth With Numbered Lines

New on This Site: The Complete Annotated Text of Romeo and Juliet With Numbered Lines
Explanation of Folio and Quarto Texts: Definitions and descriptions of these printing terms used in Shakespeare's time.
Quarto Editions of the Plays: Early editions that preceded the publication of the First Folio, a collection of plays published in 1623. 
First Folio and Early Quartos, U of Virginia: Free access to texts of great importance to researchers.
Concordance: Open Source: Find any word or phrase in Shakespeare's works.
Shakespearean Prompt Books: U of Virginia
Sources of Shakespeare Information

For the price of a bag of flour, you can buy the Kindle edition of Yale University's Complete Plays of Shakespeare, The book contains critical analysis, illustrations, comments, biographical background, and historical information. This edition enables the reader to search all the plays for any word or phrase.

Expressions and Quotations
Famous Sayings From Shakespeare: Fool's paradise, one fell swoop, cold comfort, and other expressions originated by Shakespeare.
Shakespeare Quotations for All Occasions : A page of quotations from Shakespeare's plays and poems on a variety of subjects.
Curses and Insults in Shakespeare's Plays
Glossary of Archaic and Difficult Words: Definitions and usage of words in Shakespeare's plays and poems.

Essays and Short Articles
Shakespeare and Medicine: Discussion of Shakespeare’s knowledge of both physical and mental illness. A glossary of afflictions appears at the end of the essay.
Shakespeare and the Bible: Discussion of Shakespeare's allusions to Scripture.

Shakespeare and Music: Discussion of the role of singers, instrumentalists, and dancers in Shakespeare's plays.
Shakespeare, Shylock, and Anti-Semitism: This essay centers on the Anti-Semitism of Christians in The Merchant of Venice.

Why Hamlet Did Not Become King of Denmark: Why did Claudius, not Hamlet, accede to the throne of Denmark in Hamlet, Prince of Denmark?
Romeo and Juliet: Why the Capulets and Montagues Hate Each Other
Titus Andronicus: Shrewd Business Coup: This bloody play attracted theatergoers and made big profits.
Troilus and Cressida: Tragedy of Ignorance: The real tragedy in this play lies in the major characters' ignorance of who they are and what spurs them to action.
In Macbeth, True is False and Fair Is Foul: The world of Macbeth and his wife is a world of contradiction. Good is bad. True is false. Light is dark.
Fate vs Free Will in Shakespeare's Works: Is an individual in complete control of his destiny?

The Suicides of Romeo and Juliet: Had the lovers lapsed into insanity?
Why Low-Tech Special Effects Made Shakespeare a Better Writer
Shakespeare's Ships: Ships are important turning points, or plot catalysts, in many of Shakespeare plays.
Hamlet and Oedipus: Hamlet exhibits the symptoms of an Oedipus complex in his relationship with his mother, Gertrude, and stepfather-uncle, Claudius.
Shakespeare's Swooping Imagery: Birds of prey help Shakespeare make apt comparisons.
Portia: Mean, Detestable Hypocrite: Close examination of The Merchant of Venice reveals its leading lady as deeply flawed and detestable.
How Shakespeare Prepared Manuscripts
What Is Meter in a Play or a Poem?
Explanation of Folio and Quarto Texts: Definitions and descriptions of these printing terms used in Shakespeare's time.
Shakespeare's Openings: The openings of Shakespeare's plays are magical keys that open doors into the labyrinth of the human mind.
Shakespeare's Blunders: Shakespeare's plays are not without shortcomings. This essay discusses them.
Was Shakespeare a Plagiarist? Evidence indicates that Shakespeare is innocent of all charges of plagiarism. 
Authorship Question
Feudalism: This page explains feudalism, which was in force medieval England--a setting for several Shakespeare plays.
Shakespeare's Use of Allusions and Direct References
Shakespeare's Four Writing Periods: Analysis of Shakespeare's four writing periods: Early, Balanced, Overflowing, and Final. 
Blank Verse and Iambic Pentameter: Explanation of the verse form of Shakespeare's plays and poems.
Prose vs Poetry and Verse in Shakespeare's Plays
Curses and Insults in Shakespeare's Plays


Do you know the meaning of these Shakespearean words? bezonian, exsufflicate, kersey, lakin, lozel, mome, quoif, and roynish?


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Castles and Kings: the Age of Feudalism
Feudalism: Gallant knights, beautiful princesses, and clashing swords are the stuff of many Shakespeare plays, notably his histories. This page explains feudalism. 
Royalty and Nobility: How They Ranked
Kings and Queens of England: The royal line from the first monarch to the present.




Free Resources for Writers

Links to online or downloadable resources to assist students, teachers, and professional writers.
How to Write a Research Paper on Any Topic





About the Developer of This Site
Michael J. Cummings, a native of Williamsport Pa., was a public-school teacher, journalist, freelance writer, author, and college instructor before retiring and devoting his time to writing. He graduated from King's College in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., and undertook additional studies at Elmira (N.Y) College and Lycoming College in Williamsport. He also underwent training at the American Press Institute. Mr. Cummings is the author of five books and more than 2,500 newspaper and magazine articles. Among those he interviewed were former U.S. President George W. Bush, actors Peter Ustinov and Dennis Weaver, Merrill-Lynch chairman William Schreyer, and Indy race-car champion Rick Mears. Mr. Cummings continues to reside in his hometown. He welcomes feedback at mcum.mings@mail.com