Tales from Shakespeare

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1922 frontispiece illustration for Tales from Shakespeare
Romeo and Juliet, Arthur Rackham

Tales from Shakespeare is an English children's book written by brother and sister Charles and Mary Lamb in 1807.[1]

The book is designed to make the stories of Shakespeare's plays familiar to the young.[1] Mary Lamb was responsible for the comedies, while Charles wrote the tragedies; they wrote the preface between them. Marina Warner, in her introduction to the Penguin 2007 edition, says that Mary did not get her name on the title page till the seventh edition in 1838.

Publication history[edit]

Tales from Shakespeare has been republished many times. It was first published by the Juvenile Library of William Godwin (under the alias Thomas Hodgkins) and his second wife, Mary Jane Clairmont, who chose the illustrations, probably by William Mulready[2][3][4]. Later illustrators included Sir John Gilbert in 1866, Arthur Rackham in 1899 and 1909,[5] Louis Monziès in 1908,[6] Walter Paget in 1910,[7] and D. C. Eyles in 1934.[5]

In 1893-4, the book was supplemented with some additional tales by Harrison S. Morris, and was re-published in the USA as a multi-volume set with colour plate illustrations.[8] As noted in the authors' preface, "[Shakespeare's] words are used whenever it seemed possible to bring them in; and in whatever has been added to give them the regular form of a connected story, diligent care has been taken to select such words as might least interrupt the effect of the beautiful English tongue in which he wrote: therefore, words introduced into our language since his time have been as far as possible avoided."


The book contains the following tales:

  1. The Tempest (Mary Lamb)
  2. A Midsummer Night's Dream (Mary Lamb)
  3. The Winter's Tale (Mary Lamb)
  4. Much Ado About Nothing (Mary Lamb)
  5. As You Like It (Mary Lamb)
  6. Two Gentlemen of Verona (Mary Lamb)
  7. The Merchant of Venice (Mary Lamb)
  8. Cymbeline (Mary Lamb)
  9. King Lear (Charles Lamb)
  10. Macbeth (Charles Lamb)
  11. All's Well That Ends Well (Mary Lamb)
  12. The Taming of the Shrew (Mary Lamb)
  13. The Comedy of Errors (Mary Lamb)
  14. Measure for Measure (Mary Lamb)
  15. Twelfth Night (Mary Lamb)
  16. Timon of Athens (Charles Lamb)
  17. Romeo and Juliet (Charles Lamb)
  18. Hamlet, Prince of Denmark (Charles Lamb)
  19. Othello (Charles Lamb)
  20. Pericles, Prince of Tyre (Mary Lamb)

In fiction[edit]

Graham Greene uses Tales from Shakespeare for a book code in Our Man In Havana.[9]

Tales From Shakespeare is referenced in the 2018 film The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society.


  1. ^ a b Drabble, Margaret (1985). Oxford Companion to English Literature. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 545. ISBN 0 19 866130 4.
  2. ^ Williams, Marcia (15 October 2013). Miller, Naomi (ed.). Reimagining Shakespeare for Children and Young Adults. Routledge.
  3. ^ William Mulready, from The Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 39.
  4. ^ Richmond, Velma Bourgeois. Shakespeare as Children's Literature: Edwardian Retellings in Words and Pictures. p. 17.
  5. ^ a b Norman Wright and David Ashford, Masters of Fun and Thrills: The British Comic Artists Vol. 1, Norman Wright (pub.), 2008, p. 65
  6. ^ Published by Boston : D. C. Heath & Co., 1908
  7. ^ "Full Citation". University of Florida Digital Collections. University of Florida. Retrieved 27 July 2012.
  8. ^ Lamb, Charles; Lamb, Mary; Morris, Harrison S (1893). Tales from Shakespeare including those by Charles and Mary Lamb with a continuation by Harrison S. Morris. J.B. Lippincott Company (Philadelphia).
  9. ^ "Our Man In Havana by Graham Greene". Penguin Random House. Retrieved 14 August 2017.

External links[edit]