How many plays did Shakespeare write?

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William Shakespeare is believed to have written at least 37 plays, as well as a collection of sonnets which remains widely read today. However, it is possible that Shakespeare wrote more plays than the ones we know about today. There are several plays which no longer exist but which are mentioned in other texts, and which many historians believe to be "lost" Shakespeare plays. Remember also that the concept of authorship was different in this period, and collaboration, between multiple writers and between writers and actors, was common. It is very likely that Shakespeare also contributed to other plays, most notably "The Book of Sir Thomas More," for which he was only one of several authors.

The First Folio of Shakespeare's works was collected by his friends shortly after he died and contains 36 plays. It was this folio which first separated Shakespeare's works into histories (such as Henry V and Richard III), comedies (such as Much Ado About Nothing and Twelfth Night) and tragedies (such as Othello and King Lear).

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Poolj - I am interested in your comment. What do you mean that "Shakespeare is Satan"? Is this merely a comment expressing your dislike of reading Shakespeare, since I am suspecting that you are a student? If you have not already done so, try watching one performed - they were written to be performed, don't forget. Lots of good plays are available on dvd and video. Also, check bookstores (online and otherwise) for modern language versions of Shakespeare. Hope this helps. I have found these to be effective in teaching Shakespeare.

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Yes, the matter is complicated and there is talk of co-written plays and lost texts, but to include these in the total is pushing it rather a lot. Of course, there are people who believe that Shakespeare wrote none of the plays at all, but the clearest anwswer to the question is that given by the earlier answerers.

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The answers above fall into a bit of a trap - the matter is far more complicated than they suggest: as there are at least two plays which we think Shakespeare wrote which have not survived.

Meres writes of "Love's Labour's Won" (a sequel, we think, to "Love's Labour's Lost") and another textual source (Humphrey Mosely) tells us of another lost play "Cardenio". No copies of either has survived.

Some scholars, moreover, think that Shakespeare wrote "Edward III", and it is now generally accepted that he wrote - at least some of - a play called "Sir Thomas More". Scholars disagree about whether the writing (which has survived) is Shakespeare's, or the work of another playwright. Some of the plays - including "Henry VIII" - which we know to be by Shakespeare, were likely also co-written with other writers.

"The Two Noble Kinsmen" is also now - though not included in the First Folio - generally believed to be by Shakespeare.

So the answer depends on who you believe. It's 38 (including "The Two Noble Kinsmen") plus (depending on what you believe) "Edward III" and "Sir Thomas More", and - if they indeed existed - "Cardenio" and "Love's Labour's Won".

So the best scholarly answer at present is 42. But who knows what time will reveal!

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Shakepeare's plays can be ordered into 3 categories:

Comedy  -  17

Tragedy  -  10

History   -   10

for a total of 37. 

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