William Shakespeare remains Britain’s best-selling author. One online bookseller offers nearly 20,000 titles bearing his name, and although they include much ephemera, probably more than a thousand separate editions are currently on offer. Several established series compete for those wanting individual plays. The Arden Shakespeare is over halfway through its third series, while the Penguin and the New Cambridge are already issuing updated versions of editions published not long ago. In an age when less Shakespeare is taught at school, those who discover him later in life will need more help. It is timely to ask, what do the punters get for their money, and which edition should they choose? [...]The most notorious of the “conspicuous innovations” by the Oxford–Norton editors was a poem of seventy-two lines beginning “Shall I dye”, which Taylor ascribed to Shakespeare amid much publicity. [...] When I surveyed the response to Taylor’s ascription in a book called “Counterfeiting” Shakespeare (2002) – one title notably absent from Susan Brock’s “Further Reading” – I found that none of the many scholars who had commented on the poem supported Taylor’s attribution. To reprint it in the second edition of Shakespeare’s Complete Works is a strange rebuff to the notion of scholarly consensus. [...]
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