William Shakespeare is widely considered to be the greatest writer in the English language, and the Folger exists to house and celebrate his work.
Although our collection extends beyond Shakespeare, his works are the centerpiece of the Library—and the cornerstone of its existence. A great deal of our world-class collection is devoted to his plays and poems, which we have in copies ranging from their earliest printings to the most recent editions. Researchers at the Library can consult everything from 16th-century printed books to 20th-century theatrical ephemera.
Online visitors have access to much of this material as well. We have cover-to-cover digital facsimiles of all of our early quartos, and multiple facsimiles of copies of the First Folio. We have also digitized thousands of images of Shakespeare's plays, including artists' illustrations of scenes and renderings of actors' performances. If you're looking for printed texts or images of a specific work, browse our collection of pages on Shakespeare's works for plot synopses, textual history, and selected other resources. And, of course, you can read the carefully edited texts of his plays and poems for free, online, in the same reliable versions that you buy in our Folger Shakespeare Library editions.
The Folger isn't only interested in the work Shakespeare left behind. We also collect items that tell us more about the playwright and his time. For those who share this interest in Shakespeare the man, we've collected some information about him and his life. We've also shared an overview of what Shakespearean theater is like—both in his day and since—as well as a brief account of the history of publishing Shakespeare. And you might like to browse through some of the highlights of our Shakespeare collection. Still have questions? Check out our Shakespeare FAQ, or draw on our Shakespeare publications to embark on research of your own.
As his fellow author Ben Jonson wrote of him, Shakespeare is "not of an age, but for all time." We hope that you find the Shakespeare that speaks to you, and that you, like the readers and artists who have come before us, continue to share him in the future.