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Shakespeare: Criticism and commentary

A guide to resources for studying Shakespeare


To find criticism, commentary, discussion and review of Shakespeare's works, you can use the following resources:

See below for further information on how to use these resources. 

MLA International Bibliography

The MLA International Bibliography covers scholarship dealing with the following fields:

  • Literature: from all over the world, including Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, and North and South America
  • Folklore: folk literature, music, art, rituals, and belief systems
  • Language and linguistics: the study of languages from any historical period, including history and theory of linguistics, comparative linguistics, semantics, stylistics, syntax and translation
  • Literary theory and criticism
  • Dramatic arts: film, radio, television and theatre
  • History of printing and publishing
  • Teaching of language, literature, rhetoric and composition at college level (from 1998 onwards)

The most common materials listed are books, book articles and journal articles.

Cambridge Companions: Shakespeare

We have access to several Cambridge Companion titles relating to Shakespeare, including the following:


JSTOR is a valuable research resource for secondary resources.  You can use it to search and find the full text of published books and journal articles.

Use the How to Search JSTOR LibGuide for an introduction to the service or take a look at JSTOR's Vimeo channel for educational and instructional videos. 

Enter your search

You can use the Basic search box that appears at login.

Alternatively, select the Advanced Search option for additional options.

The example below shows a basic search for book and article content that includes reference to marlowe and shakespeare and ambiguity

View your search results

You can refine your results if you find too many as a result of your initial search.

You may find it useful to select the Show Snippets option. This will highlight the appearance of your search terms:


Click on the title of the journal article/book/book chapter to view the item. You can also download the item.

You can also see how many times your search terms appear across the article and link through to the pages where the terms appear, via the View Results link.


Understanding Shakespeare is a collaborative project between JSTOR Labs and the Folger Shakespeare Library.

Click next to any line of text in a Shakespeare play, and relevant articles from the JSTOR archive immediately load.

Explore the collection here.


Here is an example from Richard III. There are 17 articles within JSTOR with reference to the first line of the play:


The Text Analyzer is another useful research tool:

  • Upload a file and the tool will analyze the keywords and produce a list of JSTOR items that match those keywords
  • You can even use your phone to photograph some text and upload that for analysis!
  • You need a fairly significant piece of text, but you can use assignments, reports or journal articles
  • You will get mismatches and it will work better with some searches than others
  • If you are struggling to retrieve content from your usual search strategies, why not see if this helps.

Find out more about it here, and this brief introductory video will give you an overview of the tool.


ProQuest One Literature - Literature Online

It has been designed as the foremost platform for conducting Literary Research and incorporates Literature Online.

It contains 3 million literature citations from thousands of journals, monographs, dissertations, and more than 500,000 primary works – including rare and obscure texts, multiple versions, and non-traditional sources like comics, theatre performances, and author readings. 

Enter your terms into the search box, e.g. romanticism AND byron.

Your results are displayed divided into content type.

For example, if you would like to locate the works of Geoffrey Chaucer.

Select Author Pages option from above the search box

Enter Geoffrey Chaucer in the search box this should give search options as shown below. Select "Chaucer, Geoffrey, d. 1400" or select the Go Directly to option.


The Author Pages provides a short biography of the author, links to the primary texts, recent criticism, criticism over time and reference works. 

For example, you are searching for texts related to war and death that were published between WW1 and WW2.

  • Select Primary Texts from the left hand side tab under
  • Enter war and death in the Key words in text box and search.
  • To restrict to the date range fill in the publication dates on the left hand side as shown below.
  • Enter 1914 in the Publication Date: From box.
  • Enter 1945 in the Publication Date: To box.
  • Click Update

The Texts list of results page will be displayed, listing the author, the title of the work containing the selected words and  the line(s) containing the words.

For example, you are looking for occurrences of the word "jealousy" Literature Online will include old spellings as well for many keyword.

You can see the variants of Jealousy highlighted below:

For example, you are searching for reference material on the works of Scott Fitzgerald.

  • Select: Reference Works
  • Enter Fitzgerald, Scott into the Subject box.
  • Click Search.

The results list will display all relevant materials.

For example, you would like to hear Jayne Cortez reading her own works.

  • Scroll down to the Poets on Screen Collection and select it.
  • Search for Jayne Cortez in the search box.
  • Click on "The Guitars I used to know." You can now watch the video.


Or, you would like to listen to a Shakespearean Play.

  • Scroll down to the Shakespeare Audio Plays Collection and select it.
  • Select Shakespeare Audio Plays.
  • Under browse specific issues select 2003
  • Click on "Loves Labor Lost"

Here you can listen to the full play or select the relevant act.

For example, you are interested in learning more about poet Ezra Pound and hope to locate some of his poems.

  • Select the Author Pages from the search options above the search box.
  • Type in Pound Ezra and this should give option below for Pound, Ezra 1885-1972 and search.
  • Then select the Author page result.
  • At the bottom of the profile, you can access Primary Text, Recent Criticism, Criticism Over Time and Relevant Reference Works.

Other Shakespeare resources

Search international Shakespeare scholarship including articles, books, chapters, dissertations, editions, adaptations, and digital projects.

Included in the World Shakespeare Bibliography:

  • Books, articles, and dissertations entirely about Shakespeare
  • Books, articles, and dissertations that include a substantial discussion of Shakespeare (e.g., books and dissertations that devote a chapter—or its equivalent—to Shakespeare)
  • Stage productions of Shakespeare’s works by a professional or semiprofessional theatrical group (in listing personnel, only the following are recorded: those with speaking roles, translator, dramaturge, director, assistant director, and individuals responsible for sets, costumes, lighting, and music)
  • Reviews of books entirely or substantially about Shakespeare
  • Reviews of professional or semiprofessional stage productions of Shakespeare’s works
  • Films of Shakespeare productions (in listing personnel, only the following are recorded: those with speaking roles, director, assistant director, and individuals responsible for sets, costumes, lighting, cinematography, and music)
  • New stage, musical, dance, and video adaptations of Shakespeare’s works (in listing personnel, only the following are recorded: those with speaking roles, the author and/or translator of the adaptation, choreographer, composer, dramaturge, director, assistant director, and individuals responsible for sets, costumes, lighting, and music)

Shakespeare Survey is a yearbook of Shakespeare studies and production. 

Each volume is devoted to a theme, or play, or group of plays; each also contains a section of reviews of that year's textual and critical studies, and of the year's major British performances. 

The Bloomsbury Shakespeare archive combines research monographs with student guides and the entire 18-volume reference series Great Shakespeareans.

The Arden Critical Companions series covers themes such as Shakespeare and music, comedy, the law, and Renaissance politics, while the Continuum Shakespeare Dictionaries covers Shakespeare's Non-standard English, class and society, and the language of politics and economics in his works.

Please note that this collection contains critical and contextual works from the Arden series: the play texts themselves are available on from Drama Online.

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