Click on the play to open a popup that summarizes the sources Shakespeare used in composing each play.

The tragedies:

Footnotes

  1. Titus Andronicus

    Sources:

    • Metamorphoses, Ovid; translated by Arthur Golding (1567) - Book VI
    • Thyestes, Seneca; translated by Jasper Heywood (1560)
    • Probable source:
    • The History of Titus Andronicus. Anon. n.d. - The Tragical History of Titus Andronicus
    • Plutarch's Parallel Lives; translated by Sir Thomas North (1579) - (The Life of Scipio Africanus)

    Analogues:

    • A Lamentable Ballad, Anon.
    • The History of Titus Andronicus. Anon. n.d. - The lamentable and Tragical History of T. Andronicus (ballad)
  2. Romeo and Juliet

    Source:

    • The Tragicall Historye of Romeus and Juliet, Ar[thur] Br[ooke] (1562)
  3. Julius Caesar

    Sources:

    • "The Life of Julius Caesar," Plutarch's Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romanes; translated by Sir Thomas North (1579) - "The Life of Marcus Brutus," "The Life of Julius Cæsar," and "The Life of Marcus Tullius Cicero"

    Possible sources:

    • The First Booke of the Annales of Cornelius Tecitus; translated by R. Grenewey (1598)
    • The Civil Wars, Appian of Alexandria, translated by W.B. (1578)
    • Cæsar's Revenge, Anon. (1607)
    • Il Cesare, Orlando Pescetti (1594)

    Analogues:

    • Cæsar Interfectus, Richard Eedes
    • The Myrroure for Magistrates, - Caius Julius Cæsar, J. Higgins (1587)
    • The Governour, Sir Thomas Elyot (1531)
    • The Histories of Sallust; translated by Thomas Heywood (1608)
    • The Roman History of Velleius Paterculus; translated by Sir R. LeGrys (1632)
    • The Historie of Twelve Cæsars, Suetonius; translated by Philemon Holland (1606)
    • The Roman Histories of Florus; translated by E. M. B[olton] [1619]
  4. Hamlet, Prince of Denmark

    Source:

    • Historiae Danicae, Saxo Grammaticus; translated by O. Elton (1894)

    Probable source:

    • A Warning for Faire Women, Anon. (1599)

    Possible sources:

    • The Romane Historie, Titus Livius; translated by Philemon Holland (1600)
    • Seneca, His Tenne Tragedies, edited by Thomas Newton (1581)
      - Agememnon, translated by John Studley (1566)
      - Troas, translated by Jasper Heywood (1581 edn.)
    • Eulogies of Men Famous for Warlike Virtue, Paolo Giovio (1575)
    • The Tragedie of Dido Queene of Carthage, Christopher Marlowe and Thomas Nashe (1594)

    Possible historical source:

    • The murder of Franceso Maria I, Duke of Urbino - Luigi Gonzaga protests his innocence, Pietro Aretino apologizes to Luigi Gonzaga.

    Analogues:

    • The Hystorie of Hamblet, Anon. (1608)
    • Henrici Scotorum Regi Manes..., I.G. (John Gordon) (1587)
    • Fratricide Punished (Der bestrafte Brudermord), Anon.

    The St. Alban's Chronicle

    Tarltons Newes out of Purgatorie, Anon. (c.1590)

    The Conflict of Conscience, Nathaniel Woods (1581)

    The Countesse of Pembroke's Arcadia, Sir Philip Sidney (1590)

    Probable historical allusions:

    C.S.P Foreign, Queen Elizabeth I, 1588, July- December

    C.S.P. Domestic, Queen Elizabeth I, 1598-1600

    A Polish Ambassador (1597)

  5. Othello, the Moor of Venice

    Source:

    Gli Hecatommithi, G.B. Giraldi Cinthio (1566)

    Probable source:

    The Generall Historie of the Turkes, Richard Knolles (1603)

    Possible source:

    Certaine Tragicall Discourses of Bandello; translated by Geoffrey Fenton (1567)

  6. King Lear

    Sources:

    • The Second Booke of the Historie of England, Raphael Holinshed (1587)
    • The Mirror for Magistrates, John Higgins 1574)
    • The Faerie Queene, Edmund Spenser (1596)
    • The True Chronicle Historie of King Leir..., Anon. (1605)
    • A Declaration of egregious Popish Impostures, Samuel Harsnett (1603)
    • The Countesse of Pembrokes Arcadia, Sir Philip Sidney (1590)

    Probable source:

    • Historia Anglicana, Geoffrey of Monmouth

    Possible sources:

    • 'An Historical Description of the Iland of Britaine', William Harrison
    • Remaines Concerning Britaine, William Camden (1606)
    • Albion's England, William Warner (1598)

    Possible historical source:

    • The Annesley Case - a. Sir John Wildegos to Lord Cecil, b. Sir Thomas Walsingham to Lord Cecil, c. Corcell Annesley to Lord Cecil, d. Epitaph on Brian Annesley
  7. Macbeth

    Source:

    • The Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland, Raphael Holinshed (1587 edn.) - "The Chronicle of Scotland" (Macbeth)", "The Description of Scotland (Ancient Scottish customs)," "The Chronicles of England (Young Siward)", and "The Chronicles of England (Edward the Confessor)"

    Probable source:

    • Rerum Scoticarum Historia, George Buchanan

    Possible sources:

    • De Origine, Moribus, et Rebus Gestis Scotorum, John Leslie (1578)
    • Medea, Seneca; translated by John Studley (1566)
    • Agememnon, Seneca; translated by John Studley (1566)

    Analogues:

    • Vertumnus Sive Annus Recurrens, Matthew Gwinn (1607)
    • A Continuance of Albions England, William Warner (1606)
    • An Alphabet of Tales, Estienne de Besançon.
    • The Chronicle of Andrew Wyntoun
    • [The Show of Kings]
      - A Defensative against the Poyson of Supposed Prophecies, Henry Howard (1583)
      - A Letter of Nicolas Pasquier
    • [Blood-stained hands]
      - Gesta Romanorum, Anon.
      - Thomas of Reading, Thomas Deloney (1600)
  8. Antony and Cleopatra

    Sources:

    • Pultarch's Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romanes; translated by Sir Thomas North (1579) - "The Life of Antonius"
    • The Civil Wars, Appian of Alexandria; translated by W.B. (1578)

    Probable sources:

    • Plutarch; translated by Sir Thomas North (1603) - The Life of Octavius Cæsar Augustus
    • The Tragedy of Cleopatra, Samuel Daniel (1599 edition)

    Analogues:

    • Pharsalia, Lucan - "The tenth Booke"
    • The Roman Histories of Florus; translated by E.M. B[olton] [1619]
    • The Tragedy of Antonie, Robert Garnier; translated by Mary Herbert (Sidney) (1595)
    • The Antiquities of the Jews, Flavius Josephus; translated by T. Lodge (1602)
    • The Deeds of Cæsar, Anon. [13th century]
    • Cleopatra, G.B. Giraldi Cinthio (1583)
  9. Coriolanus

    Source:

    • Plutarch's Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romanes; translated by Sir Thomas North (1579) - "The Life of Caius Martius Coriolanus"
    • Versions of Menenius' Fable

    Probable source:

    • The Romane Historie of T. Livy; translated by Philemon Holland (1600)

    Possible sources:

    • The Roman Histories of Florus; translated by E.M.B. [1621 edn.]
    • Accounts of Historical Sources: (Factual Sources)
    • Annales, or A Generall Chronicle of England, begun by John Stow (1631)
    • The Great Frost, [Thomas Dekker?] (1608)
  10. Timon of Athens

    Source:

    • Plutarch's Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romanes; translated by Sir Thomas North (1579) - "The Life of Marcus Antonius" and "The Life of Alcibiades"

    Possible sources:

    • Campaspe, John Lyly (1584)
    • The Dialogue of Timon, Lucian, from the Italian version by N. da Lonigo (1563)

    Analogues:

    • Timone, M.M. Boiardo (1487)
    • The Palace of Pleasure, W. Painter (1566) - The Twenty-Eighth Novell
    • Theatrum Mundi, P. Boaistuau; translated by John Alday (1566?)
    • Timon, Anon. (after 1601)