Until now, with the release of the Folger Digital Texts, readers in search of a free online text of Shakespeare’s plays had to be content primarily with using the Moby™ Text, which reproduces a late-nineteenth century version of the plays. Many ordinary readers assume that there is a single text for the plays: what Shakespeare wrote.But Shakespeare’s plays were not published the way modern novels or plays are published today: as a single, authoritative text.
The editors of the Moby™ Shakespeare produced their text long before scholars fully understood the proper grounds on which to make the thousands of decisions that Shakespeare editors face.
The Folger Library Shakespeare Editions, on which the Folger Digital Texts depend, make this editorial process as nearly transparent as is possible, in contrast to older texts, like the Moby™, which hide editorial interventions.
We still struggle to keep up with a writer who could think a mile a minute, whose words paint pictures that shift like clouds.
These expertly edited texts are presented to the public as a resource for study, artistic adaptation, and enjoyment.
Readers who want to know more about Shakespeare and his plays can follow the paths these distinguished scholars have tread by visiting the Folger either in-person or online, where a range of physical and digital resources exists to supplement the material in these texts.
I commend to you these words, and hope that they inspire.
The friar will send Romeo word to be at her family tomb when she awakes.
The plan goes awry, and Romeo learns instead that she is dead.
Editors choose which version to use as their base text, and then amend that text with words, lines or speech prefixes from the other versions that, in their judgment, make for a better or more accurate text.