March 1st

By 1622, Shakespeare’s name had grown into a reliable commodity. Printers, hoping to boost or more humbly to ensure their sales, could count on the visible presence of “Shakespeare,” “W. Shakespeare,” or “William Shakespeare,” to sell a play. This quarto of Romeo and Juliet, published for John Smithwicke, vividly preserves this fact on its title page:

And it was no less apparent to Thomas Walkley, the publisher of a quarto of Othello dating from the same year (more on this tomorrow), who in his prefatory epistle to the reader cites Shakespeare’s own growing stature as justification for the brevity of his writing: “To commend it, I will not, for that which is good, I hope every man will commend, without intreaty: and I am the bolder, because the Authors name is sufficient to vent this work.”

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