The Complete Works of William Shakespeare First Folio printed 1623 by Isaac Iggard and Edward Blaunt. Most Shakespeare teachers tell you if you want to get at the true meaning of Shakespeare’s language, don’t use any modern adaptation, use the Folio, which can be found in the reference section of your library, or online at the Shoenburg Center for Electronic Texts. My advice is, look to the Folio for real text analysis, but while you’re learning your lines, keep a modern edition handy (the Folio has some very confusing spelling).
William Shakespeare, the Life, the Works, The Treasures by Catherine MS Alexander. This book is produced in collaboration with the Royal Shakespeare Company. This book has information on all the periods of Shakespeare’s life, which is why it is the only book I’ve found with printed reproductions of documents from Shakespeare’s time. It has audio from several RSC productions as well as pictures.
This best-selling book by the venerable professor of Shakespeare at Harvard University, gives a tremendous amount of information of the world that Shakespeare wrote about. Unfortunately, it also contains hundreds of preposterous theories about Shakespeare’s own life.
Speak the Speech! By Rhona Silverbush and Sami Plotkin. The perfect resource for an auditioning actor- it has detailed analysis of some of Shakespeare’s greatest and most famous monologues. It also provides clues to unlocking Shakespeare’s elaborate iambic pentameter.
Speaking Shakespeare by Patsy Rodenburg
This book has an air of authority; it was written by the Director of Voice at the Royal National Theatre in London. In addition to giving excellent analysis of some of Shakespeare’s speeches, the book gives both vocal and physical exercises to improve your ability to deliver Shakespeare’s lines with body and voice.
The Essential Shakespeare Handbook by Leslie Dunton-Downer & Alan Riding. This is a great companion to the plays- it has nice concise plot summaries, production histories, and interesting tidbits like showing the ratio of prose to verse for every play. I use it for every play I study.
Shakespeare’s Lexicon and Quotation Dictionary by Alexander Schmidt. A Shakespeare junkie’s best friend. It has every word and I mean every word used in the 36 plays included in the First Folio. It gives a definition and cites the play that the word is from just like a regular dictionary. Not terribly exciting, but terribly useful for anyone who wants to know what all those 400 year old words mean. Don’t worry, it’s also online.
This is more than just a glossary- it also has charts of the play’s major characters, and useful appendices on things like mythology, pronunciation, literary devices, and even guides to things like the Humours and Elizabethan currency that modern people are unfamiliar with. I used it as a primary resource for Romeo and Juliet
Playing Shakespeare A televised master class with the Royal Shakespeare Company from 1983. It’s thrilling to watch the actors talk about their experiences in the past, see them give performances live, and receive notes that all actors can appreciate from legendary Shakespearean director John Barton.
Working Shakespeare Another master class, this time with English and American actors such as Claire Danes and Samuel L. Jackson. The class is run by Cicely Barry, who ran as voice director for the National Theatre. It is exciting to see American Actors who are looking at Shakespeare passages that they’ve never seen before, and see their interpretations improve.
The Essential Shakespeare Live A collection of 30 years of performances by the Royal Shakespeare Company. Some very famous actors perform on this album including Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart, Judi Dench, and Lawrence Olivier.
Beyond Books- Romeo and Juliet– http://www.beyondbooks.com/sha91/5.asp
This is an educational resource for the whole play that has info on all the characters, great way to refresh your memory. It also has a link to the Folio text of R &J from the Shoenburg Center (listed below) so you can research the play, and then read it.
Internet Shakespeare Editions http://ise.uvic.ca/index.html
The BEST resource on the web, it has links to Shakespeare’s folio, hundreds of articles on the stage, Shakespeare’s life, it’s a Shakespeare encyclopedia online!
The Royal Shakespeare Company http://www.rsc.org.uk/home/default.aspx
The official website of the top Shakespeare performers in the world- production notes, teacher’s guide to every play, and videos of rehearsals.
The Globe Theatre– http://www.shakespeares-globe.org/ Official website of the new Globe Theatre- it has production notes, what plays are being performed, and information on internships and jobs.
The Shoenburg Center for Electronic Texts http://dewey.library.upenn.edu/SCETI/PrintedBooksNew/index.cfm?TextID=firstfolio&PagePosition=2 This is a complete copy of Shakespeare’s first Folio that you can access like a book by clicking on the various chapters. As I said before, the Folio was written before approved spelling so be warned, the original text of Shakespeare’s plays are hard to read because of their bizarre spelling.
Saccio, Peter. “Shakespeare: The Word and the Action Dartmouth College, VA: 2001. I found this lecture as a recording in the Wayne County Public Library. The lecture is excellent, delivered by a former actor-turned scholar who in this lecture series, explains all of the great ideas of Shakespeare’s plays in a perfectly natural, intelligent, and very entertaining way.