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The tragedy of King Richard the third.
1597

STC 22314, title page

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STC 22314, title page
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Images that are under Folger copyright are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. This allows you to use our images without additional permission provided that you cite the Folger Shakespeare Library as the source and you license anything you create using the images under the same or equivalent license. For more information, including permissions beyond the scope of this license, see Permissions. The Folger waives permission fees for non-commercial publication by registered non-profits, including university presses, regardless of the license they use. For images copyrighted by an entity other than the Folger, please contact the copyright holder for permission information.

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Creator: William Shakespeare
Title: The tragedy of King Richard the third. Containing, his treacherous plots against his brother Clarence: the pittiefull murther of his iunocent [sic] nephewes: his tyrannicall vsurpation: with the whole course of his detested life, and most deserued death. As it hath beene lately acted by the Right honourable the Lord Chamberlaine his seruants.
Date: At London : printed by Valentine Sims, [and Peter Short] for Andrew Wise, dwelling in Paules Chuch-yard [sic], at the signe of the Angell, 1597.
Repository: Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, DC, USA
Call number and opening: STC 22314, title page
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Item Creator
William Shakespeare
Item Title
The tragedy of King Richard the third. Containing, his treacherous plots against his brother Clarence: the pittiefull murther of his iunocent [sic] nephewes: his tyrannicall vsurpation: with the whole course of his detested life, and most deserued [...]
Item Date
At London : printed by Valentine Sims, [and Peter Short] for Andrew Wise, dwelling in Paules Chuch-yard [sic], at the signe of the Angell, 1597.
Repository
Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington DC, USA
Call Number
STC 22314, title page

Institution Rights and Document Citation

Terms of use
Images that are under Folger copyright are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. This allows you to use our images without additional permission provided that you cite the Folger Shakespeare Library as the source and you license anything you create using the images under the same or equivalent license. For more information, including permissions beyond the scope of this license, see Permissions. The Folger waives permission fees for non-commercial publication by registered non-profits, including university presses, regardless of the license they use. For images copyrighted by an entity other than the Folger, please contact the copyright holder for permission information.

Copy-specific information
Creator: William Shakespeare
Title: The tragedy of King Richard the third. Containing, his treacherous plots against his brother Clarence: the pittiefull murther of his iunocent [sic] nephewes: his tyrannicall vsurpation: with the whole course of his detested life, and most deserued death. As it hath beene lately acted by the Right honourable the Lord Chamberlaine his seruants.
Date: At London : printed by Valentine Sims, [and Peter Short] for Andrew Wise, dwelling in Paules Chuch-yard [sic], at the signe of the Angell, 1597.
Repository: Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, DC, USA
Call number and opening: STC 22314, title page
View online bibliographic record

Richard III was first printed in 1597, and the title page enumerates the various exploits to be found within, including Richard’s “treacherous Plots,” the “pittiefull murther of his innocent nephews,” his “tyrannicall vsurpation,” and of course his “most deserued death.” The imprint states that it was printed by Valentine Simmes, although he only produced seven sheets, sharing the work with Peter Short, who produced five sheets. The first edition text is about two hundred lines shorter than the First Folio text, and possesses a number of significant textual variations, and so it was once considered a so-called “bad quarto,” albeit marginally. Scholars no longer use such distinctions, though, and whatever the origin of the text, its immediate success attests to the popularity of Shakespeare’s version of a notorious historical narrative.

When Richard III was first performed it was a sensation, and it has continued to be one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays. The central role, the charismatic and seductive villain, was closely identified with the lead actor in Shakespeare’s company, Richard Burbage, and it confirmed his status as a star in the early modern theater. At the time it was the longest play Shakespeare had written, and it would only be surpassed by Hamlet.

The publisher of the first edition was Andrew Wise, who registered his right to the title on October 20, 1597. In the late 1590s, no stationer was selling more Shakespeare than Wise, who acquired and published what would become the three most popular Shakespeare plays in print—Richard III, Henry IV, Part 1, and Richard II—all of which he published multiple times in a few years around the turn of the century. The title page of the first edition does not name an author, but when Wise published the second edition the next year, he added the name “William Shake-speare,” an indication that Wise thought attribution would help sell the play. Whether Wise was fortunate or canny, his investments helped turn Shakespeare from a best-selling poet into a blockbuster playwright.

The copy shown above is held at the Folger Shakespeare Library, and is one of five known to exist according to the English Short Title Catalogue.

Written by Adam G. Hooks

Adam G. Hooks, Selling Shakespeare: Biography, Bibliography, and the Book Trade (Cambridge University Press, 2016).

William Shakespeare, Richard III (1597), ed. W. W. Greg (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1959).

 

Last updated March 26, 2018