Shakespeare creates history

William Shakespeare (1564–1616)
Mr. William Shakespeares comedies, histories, & tragedies: published according to the true originall copies (the ‘First Folio’)
London: printed by Isaac Jaggard and Edward Blount, 1623

Shakespeare based many of his plots on the lives and deaths of historical rulers: titles of his plays name one Roman emperor, one queen of Egypt, one king in Britain (Cymbeline, or Cunobelinus, rather than the better-known King Lear, the latter being most likely an invention of Geoffrey of Monmouth), one king of Scots and seven kings of England. His cycle of plays dealing with the contention between the English royal houses of York and Lancaster in the fifteenth century culminates with Richard the third, thought to have been composed around 1592. The historical plays continue to influence our view of actual events today. By drawing on propagandistic Tudor accounts of the last Plantagenet monarch, Shakespeare popularised a vigorously disputed version of Richard’s character and physiognomy: the prevailing view of the king as an ugly, scheming tyrant owes much to Shakespeare’s depiction of him. This copy of the First Folio was given to Cambridge University Library by Samuel Sandars (1837–1894), who also endowed the Sandars Readership in Bibliography at the Library.

The volume has been digitised and can be viewed by clicking ‘Open Digital Library’ below.

SSS.10.6, title page