William Shakespeare

First Folio

The First Folio refers to the first printed collection of thirty-six of Shakespeare’s plays. After Shakespeare died in 1616, two of his friends from the King’s Men theater company, John Heminge and Henry Condell, began compiling Shakespeare’s plays in one volume. Heminge and Condell separated the plays into three categories, which are reflected in their title for the collection. “Mr. William Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies” was completed in 1623. “Folio” refers to the large size of the paper used for the collection. Folio printing was expensive, and was reserved for important works. The First Folio is considered the most reliable source of Shakespeare’s original language. Today, when we call a play a comedy, history, or tragedy, we are referring to its designation in the First Folio. However, scholars have subsequently added two more categories, Romances and Problem Plays, to describe plays that don’t neatly fit their First Folio designations.