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Primary Sources

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Featured Primary Sources for the Classroom

The Folger collections include the world's largest Shakespeare collection and other early modern books and manuscripts on a wide variety of disciplines. Browse through the many documents in our archives, accompanied by teacher-generated suggestions for your classroom. Share your own ideas with colleagues from around the world.

Robert Burton. The anatomy of melancholy. Oxford, 1621

Shakespeare. King Lear. London, 1608

William Gouge. Of domesticall duties eight treatises. London, 1622

Richard Younge. The drunkard's character, or, A true drunkard with such sinnes as raigne in him. London, 1638

Anatomy of Melancholy: Causes

Anatomy of Melancholy by Robert Burton, published in 1621, identifies three types of melancholy: brain, love, and "windie," and details the causes and cures for each type. In the second section of Part I, Burton analyzes the emotional causes of melancholy. The number and variety of causes and the degree of detail in this section of the book reveal the interest in this subject during the early part of the 17th century.

Complements: Hamlet
King Lear

The 1608 quarto edition of King Lear has some significant differences with the version published in the First Folio in 1623. Some modern editions of Shakespeare's complete works print two versions of Lear - one based on each text.

Of domesticall duties

William Gouge published this book in 1622 to lay out the different expected duties of different family members. One major topic is children's duty to obey their parents. Gouge holds that children cannot act on their own behalf since they are their parents' property. He also holds that secret marriages can be made void by the church, if they are done without parental consent.

Complements: Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Taming of the Shrew

Philocothonista, or, The drunkard, opened, dissected, and anatomized

In this 1635 work, Thomas Heywood categorizes drunken men into the types of beast they become when drunk, based on the actions they take while under the influence. Categories include those who are drunk like calves and apes, dogs, sheep, and foxes. The text is somewhat light-hearted, while still being disapproving of the state of a drunkard.

Complements: Twelfth Night, Othello, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Henry IV Part 1


Check out our Primary Sources Archive for a wide range of materials sorted by topic and by play.

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