The best Shakespeare books (for every type of reader)

Whether you're completely new to Shakespeare and wondering where to start, the Bard's biggest fan looking for a beautiful edition of your favourite work, or somewhere in between the two, here's our guide to the best Shakespeare books.

There's a reason why Shakespeare's plays are still the most performed in the world, more than 400 years after they were written. Comedy, tragedy, romance, history, politics, murder: all of life (and death) is here. And there's no better way to really appreciate and immerse yourself in his language than by taking the time to read it at your own pace. If you're looking to buy some of Shakespeare's work in book form, you're in the right place. Here's our guide to the best Shakespeare books for every type of reader. 

For those new to Shakespeare

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

by William Shakespeare

The perfect introduction to Shakespeare’s world of magic, exuberance, beauty and imagination, it’s no surprise A Midsummer Night’s Dream is his most performed play. The action takes place in an enchanted forest inhabited by fairies and sprites. Hermia’s father wants her to marry Demetrius, and Demetrius is in love with her. . . but Hermia loves Lysander, and he loves her. And then there’s Hermia’s friend Helena, who loves Demetrius. Their tangled love lives are made even more complicated by the interference of Oberon, King of the Fairies, his wife Titania and the impish sprite, Puck. There are spells, misunderstandings, disguises and love potions in this most entertaining of Shakespeare’s plays.  

Shakespeare's most romantic work

Romeo and Juliet

by William Shakespeare

The ultimate love story: often copied, never bettered. In fourteenth-century Verona, a city torn apart by feuds and gang warfare, Romeo and Juliet fall madly in love. But their families are sworn enemies and the two young lovers are caught in a crossfire of hostility, revenge and intolerance. A heady mix of passion, violence, comedy and tragedy, this is a story that grips from start to finish. 

The Sonnets

by William Shakespeare

Shakespeare’s Sonnets are the greatest exposition of love in all its guises ever written in the English language; meditations on love, longing, jealousy, betrayal and infatuation, conveyed in the most beautiful and moving poetry. Whether you want to shout out your love or worship from afar; your heart has been broken or you’re in the first flush of romance, you’ll find beauty, solace and inspirational beauty in this slender book. 

And the most tragic tragedies


by William Shakespeare

And finally Hamlet, one of the most performed plays in the world. Hamlet, prince of Denmark, meets with his father's ghost, who alleges that his own brother, now married to his widow, murdered him. But is his father telling the truth? Tormented by doubt and introspection, Hamlet feigns madness to test the ghost’s accusation and plots brutal revenge against his uncle. But his apparent insanity wreaks havoc on innocent and guilty alike and by the end of the play, both Hamlet and his Uncle – and quite a few others –are dead.  

King Lear

by William Shakespeare

Elderly King Lear decides to divide his kingdom up between his three daughters, based on how much they can show that they love him. Cordelia, the youngest and most loving, refuses to play the game. The other two, the evil Regan and Goneril, vie for control of the kingdom. Fuelled by greed they eventually cast their own father out into a storm where he descends into madness. A shocking, wild and desperately moving play.

For history buffs

Henry V

by William Shakespeare

Demonstrating that Shakespeare's plays have plenty to say about contemporary life, Henry V is set in the early fifteenth century when the English were restless and dissatisfied with the status quo. There’s a new king on the throne, the young Henry V, known for his wild adolescent years. So we have a disgruntled population, an untamed young royal and a new king. Sound familiar? Henry V, however, grows into his royal role to become a forceful and impressive leader. He wages war on France culminating in the famous battle of Agincourt, gaining victory over the French. Henry V is a magnificent study of both conflict and diplomacy. 

For fans of the supernatural

The Tempest

by William Shakespeare

The Tempest weaves magic and the supernatural into a profound story about politics, power and human nature. Prospero has long been exiled from Italy and banished to a remote island with his daughter Miranda, where there lives an invisible sprite, Ariel, and the fearsome Caliban, son of a witch. Prospero harnesses his magical powers to conjure up a treacherous storm so that his sworn enemies, including his brother Antonio, are shipwrecked on the island. There follows a play filled with murderous plots, drunken confusion, love and redemption. 

The funniest Shakespeare play

Much Ado About Nothing

by William Shakespeare

Much Ado About Nothing is Shakespeare’s most mature comedy and perhaps that’s why it’s really endured. At the heart of the play is the relationship between Beatrice and Benedick. Theirs is a classic set up familiar to any rom com fan – with razor sharp wit, they bicker, they fight and they take verbal swipes at each other, but does all this squabbling mask their true feelings? Of course it does! It’s down to their friends to turn them around and have them fall in love. With the usual ingenious sub plots, here’s a hugely entertaining comedy with a message about misunderstandings, love and deception.