New features

All texts available in a First Folio or Quarto edition

We included the main Folio and Quarto variants in the first edition of the book, and now add a transcription of the whole text of each play and poem in their original form, using the First Folio and (for the plays that were not included in that Folio, and for the poems) their earliest Quarto.

These are shown in two forms: a parallel presentation, showing the original form of each line in the modern edition; and an independent presentation, in which the text is seen as a whole without any adaptation to the modern edition. For details of the process, see here.

All distinctive First Folio or Quarto spellings

We've now included the original text spellings of all words in the Glossary entries where these differ from the modern spelling.

For example, the Folio text of Coriolanus includes such forms as meere (mere), yssues (issues), Enui'd (envied), peece (piece), and Inforce (enforce).

Forms of this kind are now shown in the relevant Glossary entry, as well as alongside the line in the Folio/Quarto text.

If there's no Folio/Quarto spelling noted, the spellings of the word in the original text and in the modern version are identical.

The Circles are now interactive

These diagrams show the Circles within which people move during a play, so that their relationships to each other, either individually or in groups, can be better understood. They proved to be one of the most popular features of the original book, so we've now made these interactive.

Click on the name of a character who has a speaking part in a play to display all the lines of that character.

All the lines
a character says

We included line counts for each character in the first online edition. We retain this feature in the new edition, but supplement it by displaying all the lines spoken by a character, either in a whole play or in an individual scene. You find these by clicking on a name, either in the play's Circles or in the list of characters by part size or by scene (in Starting Points).

This captures the spirit of the cue-scripts used by Elizabethan actors, and provides a convenient source for anyone wanting to obtain an overview of what a character says throughout a play - or, for actors, an indication of how many lines have to be learned! The lines are shown both in the modern edition and in the Folio or Quarto text.

Choosing a character name from the list presents all the lines that the character says.
Choosing a play title will take you to the first place in the play where that character speaks.

Further links to 
Topics and Themes

We've extended the functionality of the Themes and Topics areas: clicking on a reference takes you directly to the part of the play in which the example occurred. 

We've also added definitions to any words or phrases where the meaning is not immediately obvious (such as i'fecks in the Swearing panel).

We've also added all the proper names in the Themes section into the glossary, so that their definitions appear alongside their use in the texts. Most of these names haven't changed their meaning since Shakespeare's day - such as the gods of mythology, astrological terms, and British place names - but this feature will help anyone who is unfamiliar with these domains.

Searching now avoids 'not found' responses

In the first edition, if enquirers typed a word incorrectly, or used a spelling not in the modern edition, they would get a 'not found' search result.

We've now rebuilt the search engine to offer users a 'did you mean?' feature, which removes such dead-ends.

Act and scene lengths in words as well as lines

In the previous version of the site, we showed the number of lines for each act and scene.
Now, in the Starting Points area of the site, we also show the number of words per scene - especially useful when looking at scenes wherre there are short verse lines or where speeches are in prose.
All lists can now be viewed in ascending or descending order.

Auto-complete glossary and speaker search

We've added an auto-complete function to glossary searches so that you can immediately see related glossary entries. Try typing a word…
It’s also now possible to see an alphabetical list of all the glossary items that occur within a single play.

We've also added auto-complete to the speaker search in Advanced Search, so that you can find a name quickly. Start typing MA... and up come Malvolio, Maecenas, and others. Clicking the name you want takes you straight to the search.

Finding nearby words

Using our Advanced Search, it's now easy to see if a particular word is being used nearby a search word - such as happy near to fair - within the same line - or up to four adjacent lines.
This feature can also be used to search through the database as a whole, or for your own selection of particular texts or speakers.

Works - by title or year created

You can now order the Works as you wish to view them, alphabetically or by the best guesstimate year of creation.

Searching selected plays or characters

Using our Advanced Search, it’s now easy to find all instances of a word used in a particular play  - or set of plays -  or in a particular poem - or set of poems - or by a particular character - or set of characters.

For example, we can discover whether the word ''love'' is used more in Romeo and Juliet (133 times) or Two Gentlemen of Verona (144 times). Or, within the former, which of the lovers uses the word more often (Juliet 31, Romeo 45).

New print options

In addition to downloading or printing the part of the site you’re working on, it’s now possible to cut and paste the modern or original text, with or without the definitions and key-line numbers. 

Mobile / tablet adaptive

The Shakespeare’s Words site is now mobile-adaptive, so you can now explore Shakespeare's works like never before on your mobile device, cell-phone, or tablet. We couldn’t afford an App, but at least now fits in your pocket. 

6x faster...

Thanks to hardware developments over the past decade (not to mention some sophisticated Czech-based programming) the site now runs at least SIX times faster than its previous incarnation. 

And depending on your connection speed, as much as TEN times faster than 2.0...

The thesaurus


The Thesaurus is the opposite of the Glossary. When consulting the Glossary, you know the word and you want to find out what it means. When consulting the Thesaurus, you know the meaning, and you want to find out which Shakespearean words express it.

This is a Thesaurus of all the senses of the English content words we put into our Glossary. So it doesn't include: 

  • grammatical words (such as of, withthou and whereat)
  • exclamations and calls (such as holla and sessa)
  • words that characters get wrong (malapropisms)
  • words in Latin, French, or other languages.

It is a guide only to the words in the Shakespeare's Words Glossary and not an account of the way these words might be used elsewhere in the canon or in Early Modern English as a whole. For example, we include Shakespeare’s use of mother to mean 'womanish qualities', but not in its ordinary sense of 'parent'. And with a concept, such as 'colour', we include only those items where the meaning differs in some way from Modern English (such as brown, dun, paly).

The Thesaurus contains 58,363 items, grouped into 31,358 entries.

How to use the Thesaurus
When you look up a word in the Glossary, you are usually given two or three glosses - for example, scrip is glossed as 'bag, pouch, wallet'.

If you then look up bag in the Thesaurus, you'll see scrip and the other words in the Glossary used for the notion of carrying something in a small container: bladder, cloak-bag, mail, poke, and purse. You can click on any of these words to see their meaning and where Shakespeare uses them.

It's important to look at the quotations as well as the Glossary definitions, as these provide the context for the glosses. For example, bag containing the great seal shows purse (n.). Clicking on this will take you to the Glossary entry, and there you'll see the Headword locations where it's used - only in Henry VIII.

Sometimes, because of the alphabetical ordering of the headwords, related items can be separated. For example, when searching for leg, the words leg and legs are separated by legend, legal, and other items.



Some uses of the Thesaurus

You can see in one place all the Glossary words that relate to a particular meaning - all the words to do with 'anger', for instance, or 'archery'. We already include a few themes like weapons and swearing in our Topics section. The Thesaurus extends this approach to all the meanings covered by the Glossary.

You can explore Shakespearean English in a more systematic way - for example, finding the words for 'high quality' (such as delicate and true) along with those for 'low quality' (such as meagre and base).

You can find a Glossary word whose meaning you vaguely remember - a 'mischievous boy', perhaps? Or if you've forgotten a name, but you know it's something to do with 'weeping'?
  • Look up mischievous or boy and you'll find wag.
  • Look up weeping and you'll find Niobe.

Want even more new features?

While completing the update and redesign of this 3.0 of, we were already wondering about what the 4.0 might include. 

For this iteration, we've built in all the suggestions for new features that we've been sent over the past ten years. 

We now welcome further thoughts about what would make this site even more useful. Videos? Quartos? Original Pronunciation? 

Please send any and all (Shakespeare-related) suggestions, requests, and ideas to us via our Contact us  page, & we'll do what we can to accommodate.

Until anon!