At that time he was probably living again in

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The Two Noble Kinsmen. At that time he was probably living again in Stratford, in a large house called New Place that he had bought in 1597. When he died in 1616, survived by his wife and his two daughters, Shakespeare was a wealthy man. He was buried in the Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon, where his bones rest to this day. The stone over his grave reads, Good frend for Jesus sake forbeare, To digg the dust encloased heare: Blest be the man that spares thes stones, And curst be he that moves my bones. The Publication of Shakespeare’s Plays Shakespeare did not personally prepare his plays for publi- cation, and no official collection of them appeared until after his death. A collection of his sonnets, considered by critics to be among the best poetry ever written in English, appeared in 1609. Many individual plays were published during his life- time in unauthorized editions known as quartos. Many of these quartos are quite unreliable. Some were probably based on actors’ memories of the plays. Some were reprintings of so- called prompter’s copies used in production of the plays. Some may have been based on final manuscript versions pro- duced by the author. In 1623, seven years after Shakespeare’s death, his friends and fellow actors John Heminge and Henry Condell published a collected edition of thirty-five of Shakespeare’s plays. This collection is known to literary his- torians as the First Folio. In the centuries since 1623, and especially during the last century and a half, editors have worked diligently to compare the various early printed
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versions of Shakespeare’s works to determine which version or versions of each play best represent Shakespeare’s intent. Shakespeare’s Finest Achievement Fragments can be tantalizing. They tempt people, awak- ening a desire to reconstruct the missing pieces. Since very little is known of Shakespeare’s life beyond a few official records and mentions by others in diaries or letters, many people have been driven to speculate about the private life of England’s greatest author. Such speculation is made all the more difficult by the fact that Shakespeare did not write in a personal vein, about himself, but rather concentrated his vision on the lives of others. Reading his plays, or seeing them performed, we come to know many of his characters better than we know most people in our lives. A character- istic of Shakespeare’s greatness is that his work takes us on journeys into parallel universes, into other minds, so that his characters’ innermost feelings, dreams, wishes, values, moti- vations, and even contradictions become accessible. This is, perhaps, Shakespeare’s finest achievement. The Authorship of Shakespeare’s Plays The fact that Shakespeare was a commoner and led, according to the few facts we have, a rather ordinary life, has led many people to speculate that his plays were written by someone else—by the Earl of Oxford, perhaps, or by Ben Jonson, but there are good reasons to believe that Shakespeare was, indeed, the author of the plays attributed to him. One
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