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Stanley Wells

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Stanley Wells
Wells in 2012
Born (1930-05-21) 21 May 1930 (age 94)
EducationKingston High School
Alma materUniversity College London;
Birmingham University
Occupation(s)Shakespearean scholar, writer, professor and editor
Known forEditor of the Oxford Shakespeare and New Penguin Shakespeare
Spouse(s)Susan Hill, separated 2011
AwardsSam Wanamaker Award

Sir Stanley William Wells, CBE (born 21 May 1930) is an English Shakespearean scholar, writer, professor and editor who has been honorary president of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, professor emeritus at Birmingham University, and author of many books about Shakespeare, including Shakespeare Sex and Love, and is general editor of the Oxford Shakespeare and New Penguin Shakespeare series. He lives in Stratford-upon-Avon and was educated in English at University College London (UCL).


Wells was born in Hull, the son of Stanley Cecil Wells MBE and Doris Wells.[1][2] His father was a bus company traffic manager.[3] Wells was educated at the Kingston High School grammar school in Hull.[2] Wells took a degree in English at University College, London. He was invalided out of national service for the RAF in 1951.[4] He became a Hampshire school teacher before moving to Stratford to complete his PhD. He was awarded his PhD in English by Birmingham University in 1961.[5]

He was Professor of Shakespeare Studies and director of the Shakespeare Institute (University of Birmingham) 1988–1997, and is now emeritus professor of Shakespeare Studies.

Wells is co-editor (with Gary Taylor, John Jowett and William Montgomery) of the Oxford Complete Works and (with Michael Dobson) the Oxford Companion to Shakespeare, and has been general editor of the Oxford Shakespeare series since 1978.[6] He edited several volumes for the New Penguin Shakespeare series.[7]

In 2009, Wells revealed the existence of the Cobbe portrait. He stated his belief, based on three years of research, that the portrait is a true portrait of Shakespeare, painted from life.

On 20 October 2009, Wells appeared on BBC 4's comedy panel show It's Only a Theory – defending the prevailing opinion within contemporary Shakespeare studies that "The plays of William Shakespeare were written by William Shakespeare of Stratford-Upon-Avon" and debunking the theory that Shakespeare's plays were written by some of his contemporaries.

In June 2010, Wells was awarded the Sam Wanamaker Award by Shakespeare's Globe, an award given annually in the name of the Globe's founder Sam Wanamaker to celebrate work which has increased the understanding and enjoyment of Shakespeare.

In 2013, together with Rev. Dr. Paul Edmondson, he called upon the Dean and Chapter of Westminster Abbey to remove the question mark which appears in place of a date of death in the memorial window to Christopher Marlowe in Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey.[8]

Personal life[edit]

Wells remains married to novelist Susan Hill, though separated in 2011,[9] and the couple was once considered part of the "Gloucestershire mafia" set of well-connected writers and socialites.[10] He is the father of author Jessica Ruston and of Clemency Wells. Imogen, Hill and Wells' second-born child, died in infancy.[10]


Wells was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2007 Birthday Honours for services to literature.[11] He was knighted in the 2016 Birthday Honours for services to scholarship.[12]

Wells was awarded an honorary DLitt by the University of Warwick in 2008.

In 2016, he was awarded the President's Medal by the British Academy "for his lifetime service to the study, knowledge and enjoyment of William Shakespeare".[13]

Commonwealth honours[edit]

Country Date Appointment Post-nominal letters
 United Kingdom 2007 Commander of the Order of the British Empire CBE
2016 Knight Bachelor Kt


Honorary degrees
Location Date School Degree Gave Commencement Address
 England 2008 University of Warwick Doctor of Letters (D.Litt.) [14]


Location Date Institution Award
 England June 2010 Shakespeare's Globe Sam Wanamaker Award
 United Kingdom 2016 British Academy President's Medal

Major publications[edit]

  • Re-Editing Shakespeare for the Modern Reader (1984)
  • The Oxford Dictionary of Shakespeare (1998)
  • Shakespeare in the Theatre: An Anthology of Criticism (2000)
  • Shakespeare: The Poet and his Plays (2001)
  • The Oxford Shakespeare: King Lear (2001)
  • Shakespeare For All Time (2002)[15]
  • The Oxford Shakespeare: The Complete Works (with Gary Taylor, 1986, 2005)
  • Shakespeare & Co. (2006)
  • Shakespeare, Sex, and Love (2010)
  • Shakespeare Beyond Doubt (editor with Paul Edmondson, 2013)
  • Great Shakespearean Actors (2015)
  • The Shakespeare Circle (editor, 2016)
  • All the Sonnets of Shakespeare (with Paul Edmondson, 2020)


  1. ^ "About Stanley Wells". Archived from the original on 20 September 2012. Retrieved 12 September 2012.
  2. ^ a b "WELLS, Prof. Stanley William", Who's Who 2012, A & C Black, 2012; online edn, Oxford University Press, Dec 2011 ; online edn, Nov 2011 accessed 11 Sept 2012
  3. ^ Reyburn, Ross. "The Saturday Interview: Professor Stanley Wells – He's a Dedicated Bard Brain of Britain" in The Birmingham Post (England), 23 November 2002.
  4. ^ Kidd, Charles, ed. "Prof Stanley Wells, CBE Authorised Biography" Archived 8 February 2013 at the Wayback Machine, Debrett's People of Today.
  5. ^ "Old Joe" (PDF). www.birmingham.ac.uk. 2016. Retrieved 22 October 2020.
  6. ^ "Grammar, Style, and Usage". Writing Explained. Archived from the original on 15 December 2010.
  7. ^ Sir Stanley Wells - Shakespeare Birthplace Trust website
  8. ^ Edmondson, Paul, and Stanley Wells, Shakespeare Bites Back (2011), Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, pp. 21–2, 38.
  9. ^ Kean, Danuta (4 March 2017). "Susan Hill: 'I am not pro-Trump! Really? Do people think that of me?'". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 January 2018. Six years ago
  10. ^ a b Eden, Richard (8 December 2013). "Husband of The Woman in Black author Susan Hill exits, stage left". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 24 January 2018.
  11. ^ "No. 58358". The London Gazette (Supplement). 16 June 2007. p. 9.
  12. ^ "No. 61608". The London Gazette (Supplement). 11 June 2016. p. B2.
  13. ^ "British Academy announces 2016 prizes and medal winners". The British Academy. 27 September 2016. Retrieved 24 July 2017.
  14. ^ "List of all Honorary Graduates and Chancellor's Medallists".
  15. ^ Holden, Anthony. "All Wells End Well", review of Shakespeare For All Time. The Guardian, 1 December 2002.