Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Shakespeare: Accessing the texts online

A guide to resources for studying Shakespeare


To access Shakespeare's works online, you can use the following resources:

Use EEBO if you want to view a facsimile of the original work.

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

EEBO - Early English Books Online

EEBO is an excellent resource for primary research.

It contains full-texts of early printed books from the 16th and 17th centuries.

You can view the material as originally published, in order to appreciate the text in its original form and also examine similarities and differences between variant versions of the texts.

Comprehensive online help is available to help you make the most of the service.


Please note: In order to search the full document text of items in EEBO, you will need to change the drop down box next to the search box from 'Anywhere except full text' to 'Anywhere'

Starting from the EEBO Home Screen select the Advanced Search option and complete the search form.

Please note: In order to search the full document text of items in EEBO, you will need to change the drop down box next to the search box from 'Anywhere except full text' to 'Anywhere'

You can use the Look up Authors option to help you complete the search form.


The illustration below shows you how to Look for and select Shakespeare from the list

Once you have selected the author click Add to search to continue.

You can also enter your own search terms into a box without using the Look up feature.

In this example, add to your search by manually entering  richard third into the Document Title box

Click on Search once you have added all your search concepts.

You do not just have to search by author and/or title.

You could search by themes such as cunning, disguise, despair, intrigue etc. and discover how these themes appear in the literature across the database. You can add these to the keywords search box.

Please note: In order to search the full document text of items in EEBO, you will need to change the drop down box next to the search box from 'Anywhere except full text' to 'Anywhere'

Once you have run your search you will see a list of matching search results.

If you retrieve too many results you can go back and Refine your search

You can also choose the most relevant results, by using the checkboxes and adding them to your Marked List.

You have a two different view display options either Full Text PDF or Image full text.

Not all formats are available for each item - they will vary between items.

You can adjust the image size if you wish to analyse it in greater detail.

For further information on how to use EEBO, please visit the links below:

EEBO libguide

EEBO webinar tutorial (44 mins)

Sample searches - examples of searching by keyword, author, etc.

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.

English Poetry

English Poetry is an archive of English verse. You can search by keyword, title or first line of the poem, poet, or browse the complete contents of the database.

Starting from the English Poetry home screen select the Advanced Search option.

For example, enter sonnets OR sonnet* in the Publication Title search box. And Shakespeare in the Author Search Box

Click search to retrieve the results and find the sonnet required.  


Alternatively you can search for the first line or the title of a poem. 

Enter the details in the first line / title search box.  e.g. “Shall I compare thee to a summers day?”

Click search to retrieve the results.

To view the full item click on the link.

From the Advanced Search you can also Look up Authors e.g. Shakespeare.


To browse everything in English Poetry, click on Publications tab:

Oxford Scholarly Editions Online

Oxford Scholarly Editions Online gives access to primary texts from writers between 1485-1901.

Browse by Work, Edition or Author.

Once you are inside the full text of a work you can:

  • Move through the play with the arrows  at the top of the page. 

  • Shrink the left-hand navigation bar by clicking the little arrow at its top, if required. 

  • Hide the notes if you prefer by unchecking the notes box on the title bar

  • Click on the note symbols at the ends of the lines to scroll the notes pane to the right place. 

The three little tabs on the left help you navigate around the work or edition.

  • The magnifying glass tab lets you search, jump to a print page, see the pdf of that original print page, or jump to a location in the text. 
  • In the Location box, enter 3.3.57 if you want to go to Act III Scene iii line 57

At the top right of the tool bar you'll find pdf and printer icons for saving or printing.  

  • If you highlight some text and choose ‘Copy and cite’ from the pop up menu, you’ll be able to automatically add a citation and the URL to the text you highlighted, so you can copy the lot: convenient for note-taking.


Run a 'Quick search' across works, titles, authors, and full text.

For example, search "to be or not to be"

You can refine your results using the options on the left hand side; for example, choose to refine where your keyword appears by checking the relevant box under 'Show Hits Within'. You can also refine by author, genre or date.

Jump to a precise location in a text, e.g. Shakespeare Sonnet 18, or Marlowe, Faustus, 12.81


Drama Online

Drama Online contains many hundreds of plays from the very earliest Greek works right up to the present day, including the Arden Shakespeare editions.

In addition there are background and contextual works on playwrights, theatre movements, genres, practitioners and periods.

Use the primary navigation bar to browse the list of plays and other content, playwrights, genres and periods. 

Quick Search
The Quick Search box appears in the top of every page on the site apart from in the play/book. Enter your term into the box and select Search (or just press the Enter key). Quick Search performs a full-text search on all content types on Drama Online.

Search Filters 
When you have your search results displayed, use the filters on the left hand side to refine your search even further. For example a search on 'Epic Theatre' can be further refined by looking at epic theatre from a specific period, author, theme or setting. Or you can choose to only look at plays to do with epic theatre.

Advanced Search 
You can use the Advanced Search tool to conduct more specific search enquires by entering one or more search criteria. Boolean AND, OR and NOT are supported (e.g. shakespeare AND tragedy). Use quotation marks (" ") to find an exact phrase (e.g. "Merchant of Venice"). Use asterisks to match partial words in fields (e.g. stage*).

Search within this text 
Once you have selected a play or other text to read in Drama Online in you can then use the Search With this Text feature in the Reader to conduct specific searches only within the text you are reading.

The Arden Shakespeare scholarly note icons explained:

Commentary notes  provide explanations of vocabulary, literary or biblical references, theatrical interpretations and, where relevant, extracts from Shakespeare’s source material. Commentary notes  are represented by the speech icon: Commentary notes button 

Textual notes are designed to let readers know when the edited text diverges from the early edition(s) on which it is based. Wherever this happens the note will record the rejected reading of the early edition(s), in original spelling, and the source of the reading adopted in this edition.  Textual notes are represented by the book icon: Textual notes button 

Footnotes are revealed on mousing over the text and will be revealed when clicked on. 

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

Contact Us