Most of Shakespeare's plays, like those of his contemporaries, are based on history, or on other stories that had already been told. Bernard Shaw referred mischievously to Shakespeare's ‘gift of telling a story (provided someone else told it to him first)’. But Shakespeare almost always transformed his inherited material.
The entries on individual works name their major sources. Geoffrey Bullough's Narrative and Dramatic Sources of Shakespeare (8 vols., 1957–75) reprints the major sources with valuable critical essays on Shakespeare's use of them in each work.
Subjects: Shakespeare Studies and Criticism.