Theater archives

Researching the Bard: All the World’s a Website


“To be or not to be, I, there’s the point.” Yes, even Shakespeare had to write a few drafts to get things right. Thanks to the British Library, everyone can now see from the comfort of their own computer screen what the Bard’s eraser missed. The library recently put online digitized copies of 93 quarto editions of 21 of the plays. Scholars regard these as rehearsal scripts, texts put together on the basis of actors’ recollections or working drafts. Will the easy availability of this material ( have any impact on productions?

“Absolutely,” says Jeffrey Horowitz, artistic director of Theater for a New Audience, which is presenting Coriolanus beginning February 12. “The differences between what’s in the quartos and what’s been handed down is often profound, and you used to have to go to special libraries with special permission and wear rubber gloves to see them.” Director Karin Coonrod, however, need not sweat over researching such textual comparisons for her production: No quarto edition of Coriolanus exists.