Interpreting Shakespeare

William Shakespeare (1564 - 1616) is probably the most famous English playwright and poet - whose life has been open to interpretation almost as much as his works. The Archives Hub includes descriptions of archival material relating to Shakespeare's life - including questions of identity and authorship - and also material relating to many translations, adaptations, and performances of his works:

"Pictures out of doors" : images of performances

Detail of photo of Roy Hudd as Bottom. Copyright Donald Cooper

Roy Hudd in A Midsummer Night's Dream, Talbot/Farnsworth, New Shakespeare Company, May 1991 (Donald Cooper, photographer). Copyright Donald Cooper.

Detail of photo of Paul Bradley as Bottom. Copyright Donald Cooper

Paul Bradley in A Midsummer Night's Dream, Strachan/Surrey, New Shakespeare Company, June 2000 (Donald Cooper, photographer). Copyright Donald Cooper.

The images above may be used for educational purposes only, any commercial use of this material requires the permission of the copyright holder. Part of the Designing Shakespeare collection. This collection can be searched and browsed online via the Performing Arts Data Service web site at

Detail of photo of Berwick Kaler as Bottom. Copyright The New Shakespeare Company

Berwick Kaler in A Midsummer Night's Dream, New Shakespeare Company, 1982. Copyright The New Shakespeare Company; courtesy of the Shakespeare Institute Library, University of Birmingham.

"Speak of me as I am": life, identity and authorship

  • Marion Harry Spielmann (1858-1948): art journalist and author of The portraits of Shakespeare (1907)
  • Alan Keen (fl. 1940-1955): London bookseller and manuscript dealer, author of The annotator: the pursuit of an Elizabethan reader of Halle's Chronicle, involving some surmises about the early life of William Shakespeare (1954)
  • Sir Edwin Durning-Lawrence (1837-1914): Member of Parliament for Truro, and author of Bacon is Shakespeare (1910) and The Shakespeare myth (1912)
  • Shakespeare Commemorative Service: held at Southwark Cathedral, April 23rd 1909; the service was organised by Ralph Winnington Leftwich, MD (1849-1919), author of Bacon is not Shakespeare (1912) and The evidence of disease in Shakespeare's handwriting (1918)
  • Charlotte Stopes (1841-1929): one of the founders of the Shakespeare Association in 1914, and author of The Bacon-Shakespeare question answered (1889)
  • Edmund Malone (1741-1812): author and critic who exposed the Shakespeare forgeries of William Henry Ireland (1777-1835)
  • Sydney Race (fl.1879-1958): journalist who researched the Shakespeare forger John Payne Collier (1789-1883)

"Bless thee! thou art translated": translations and adaptations

  • John Cadvan Davies (1846-1923): Wesleyan minister, who translated As you like it into Welsh
  • Julius Nyerere (1922-1999): former Tanzanian president, who translated Julius Caesar into Swahili
  • Renaissance Films: the actor and director Kenneth Brannagh (born 1960) was one of the founders of this film company, which produced Henry V (1989)
  • Unpublished Screenplay Collection: unpublished screenplays and shooting scripts for film adaptations of Shakespeare plays; includes West Side story (1961), King Lear (1971), and Romeo and Juliet (1996)
  • Sir John Gielgud (1904-2000): the actor's performance of Macbeth's "Tomorrow" speech formed part of a Kyogen dance event in Tokyo in 1991
  • "Shakespeare: the animated tales": animated series for television (1990-1992), with members of the Royal National Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company providing the voices
  • Berliner Ensemble: adaptation of Coriolanus by Bertholt Brecht (1898-1956), staged in 1964

"There's magic in the web of it": links

"Like quills upon the fretful porpentine": suggested reading

Links are provided to records on Copac for these items. Copac is the free, web based national union catalogue, containing the holdings of many of the major university and National Libraries in UK and Ireland plus a number of special libraries. For more information about accessing items see the FAQs on the Copac website.

  • Complete Works of William Shakespeare. Records on Copac
  • Peter Ackroyd Shakespeare: The Biography. Records on Copac
  • Bernard Grebanier The Great Shakespeare Forgery: A New Look at the Career of William Henry Ireland . Records on Copac
  • David Selbourne The Making of A Midsummer Night's Dream: An Eye-witness Account of Peter Brook's Production from First Rehearsal to First Night . Records on Copac
  • Samuel Schoenbaum.Shakespeare's Lives. Records on Copac
  • Joseph Sobran Alias Shakespeare: Solving the Greatest Literary Mystery of All Time. Records on Copac
  • Michael Wood In Search of Shakespeare. Records on Copac

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