In 1978 Oxford University Press established a Shakespeare department under the directorship of Stanley Wells with the aim of producing a multi-volume edition (the Oxford Shakespeare), with detailed scholarly and critical apparatus, and also a freshly edited text of the Complete Works, to be issued in both original and modern spelling. The first volumes of the multi-volume edition appeared in 1982; the series now appears in paperback in the Oxford World's Classics series.
The Complete Works appeared in 1986, with Stanley Wells and Gary Taylor as General Editors. Its breaks from tradition, based largely on the belief that some of the plays survive in both unrevised and revised texts, and that where possible the more theatrical version is to be preferred, include the printing of two texts of King Lear, one based on the 1608 quarto, the other on the First Folio; Folio-based texts of Hamlet and Othello; the use of the name ‘Oldcastle’ instead of ‘Falstaff’ in 1 Henry IV, a radical reconstruction of the text of Pericles; a thorough rethinking of stage directions; and (for the modern-spelling edition) the first attempt at a rational system of modernizing spelling. The editorial decisions are explained in the Textual Companion (1987). The Oxford text forms the basis for the Norton edition.
Subjects: Shakespeare Studies and Criticism.