British Library Treasures in Full: Shakespeare in Quarto
Main The basics Background The Afterlife The Texts Expert views References Links Glossary Partners
Print Comparing Texts
View comparison table View a comparison table of all the texts available  

View one text

Select a play
Select a quarto
Select a copy

Compare with another text

Select a play
Select a quarto
Select a copy
How to compare the texts

You can view the Shakespeare quartos on this site separately or you can compare any two copies.

If you choose to see one copy at a time, you will get two pages on the screen as you would if you had the book open in front of you. To read the text you may have to enlarge the image by clicking on it or using the enlarge icon.

There are 3 drop down lists for you to select the copy you want to view. Drop down list 1 gives you the plays in alphabetical order of title. Not all of Shakespeare’s plays are included, because not all were published in quarto. Drop down list 2 gives you publication dates for quartos of the play selected. Drop down list 3 allows you to select a specific copy of the quarto edition selected. For a few plays, there is only one copy.

Go will take you to the first page of the play. Most of the quarto editions have no act or scene divisions. If you want to view a particular part of the play, leaf through until you find the section you want. There are links to the beginning of acts from the play summaries under Shakespeare in Quarto. Most of these link to the earliest quarto of each play.

There is also a comparison table for all 107 quarto copies available on this website. This is in alphabetical order of title, but it can be sorted by edition date, provenance, or shelfmark. Click on the play title to view a specific copy.

You can also compare the text of any two of the 107 copies. To do this, select a copy from the ‘View one copy’ drop down lists on the left hand search form above. Then select another copy from the ‘Compare with another text’ drop down lists on the right hand search form above. Even different copies of the same edition may not be exactly the same, because of the way the quartos were printed.

If you choose to compare two copies, you will see one page from each side by side. Go will take you to first page of each play. If you want to compare the same part of the text in two copies, you will have to leaf through both until you find the text you want.

Magnify image Shows an enlarged view of the page, opening in a new window. The left and right hand pages are enlarged independently, and open in separate windows, for easier comparison.

Show the next or previous page. When viewing one copy, these icons move two pages at a time, as if turning the page of the book. When viewing two copies, the icons on the left hand side move the left hand copy, and those on the right the right hand copy. These icons also appear in the enlarged view.

As well as these icons, you can display any page directly by entering its page number in the 'go to page' boxes at the bottom of the screen.

Help Gives details of the pagination of the quarto curently displayed.

print Gives a printer-friendly version of the pages.

NEW Comparing the Hamlet quartos

You can now use the pilot Shakespeare Quartos Archive website to see full reproductions and transcriptions of 32 copies of the five earliest editions of Hamlet. You can view quartos separately, or alongside any number of copies. You can search, annotate, make public or private sets of annotations, create exhibits or character cue line lists, and download and print text and images. Try it at

Home  The basics  Background  The Afterlife  The texts 
Expert views  References  Links  Glossary  Partners