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Shakespeare in the Royal Library

This year marks 400 years since William Shakespeare (1564 – 1616) died. He is England’s greatest literary figure and his plays and poems are known worldwide. His works and his world are well represented in the Royal Library.

An engraving of William Shakespeare. Bust length with a lace collar and embroidered doublet. With To the Reader by Benjamin Jonson printed in letterpress below.   The plate was originally engraved for the first complete publication of Shakespeare's p

[William Shakespere] ©

As an actor, playwright and shareholder of the theatre company the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, which later became the King’s Men, Shakespeare performed and wrote both for the London theatres and the royal court. From The Merry Wives of Windsor, one of Shakespeare’s Comedies performed before Elizabeth I, it is clear that Shakespeare knew Windsor. He made a link between himself and the town which came to be of particular importance to royal residents of Windsor Castle.

The Royal Library is rich in books that show the world in which Shakespeare was writing, and holds important copies of Shakespeare’s works collected over four centuries. The interest shown in Shakespeare by British monarchs and their families who have read, depicted, viewed and even performed in his plays, spans from Elizabeth I to Elizabeth II.

Martin Droeshout (1601-after 1639)

[William Shakespere]

Attributed to John Cheere (d. 1787)

William Shakespeare

Crispijn de Passe the Elder (1564-1637)