Shakespeare wrote 38 plays and numerous sonnets. It is not just the breadth of his work that makes Shakespeare the greatest British dramatist, but the beauty and inventiveness of his language and the universal nature of his writing. Shakespeare is performed today because his writing still speaks to audiences all over the world.
Judi Dench as Isabella and Alec McCowen as the King in Richard II, Old Vic Theatre, London, 1960, photograph by Houston Rogers
Ben Thomas as King Lear, Talawa Theatre Company, London, 1994
Claire Bloom as Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, Old Vic Theatre, London, 1952, photograph by Houston Rogers
Albert Finney as Hamlet, Old Vic Theatre, London, 1975
Cut-out characters from Shakespeare, chromolithograph printed by Siegmund Hildesheimer & Co, England, circa 1890. Museum no. S.2-2008
Top left: Sarah Siddons as Lady Macbeth and William Charles Macready as Macbeth from Macbeth Act II, Scene 2.
Top right: Henry Irving as Benedick and Ellen Terry as Beatric from Much Ado About Nothing, Act IV, Scene 1.
Bottom left: Madge Kendal (née Robertson) (1849-1935) as Rosalind and her husband, William Henry Kendal (1843-1917) as Orlando from As You Like It, Act IV, Scene 1.
Bottom right: David Garrick as King Lear and Miss Younge (Mrs Elizabeth Pope) (1744?-1797) as Cordelia in King Lear, Act IV, Scene 7.
Cut-out characters from Shakespeare, chromolithograph printed by Siegmund Hildesheimer & Co, England, circa 1890. Museum no. S.1-2008
Top left: William Terriss (1847-1897) as Romeo and Mary Anderson (1859-1940) as Juliet embracing on the balcony in Romeo and Juliet, Act III, Scene 5.
Top right: Mary Eastlake as Ophelia and Wilson Barrett as Hamlet from Hamlet, Act IV, Scene 5.
Bottom left: Signor Tommaso Salvini as Othello and Charlotte Cushman as Desdemona from Othello, Act III, Scene 3.
Bottom right: G V Brooke as Shylock and Helen Faucit at Portia from The Merchant of Venice, Act IV, Scene