Skip to Main Content

LIT 255/321/421/422/499 and ENGL 612 : Shakespeare: Reference Shelf

research guide for TCNJ affiliates

by category of reference...

The following Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) reveal literary criticism, typically from books and book chapters. Tweaking the canned subject searches reveals even more secondary criticism published in journal articles. The key is to retain "criticism" or another subdivision as a search term (or keyword). For example, the keywords Shakespeare AND criticism if restricted to the Subject field reveal thousands of peer-reviewed articles published in Shakespeare Quarterly, Shakespeare Studies, Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900, and other journals.

Most useful LCSH:Sarah Bernhardt in Hamlet

Works by Shakespeare (primary):

Additional LCSH:

Employ LCSH in WorldCat, a "union catalog" of tens of millions of book records, to retrieve additional titles held by other libraries relevant to your Shakespeare research. Request items of interest via our interlibrary loan service.

What is a catalog?

A catalog is a "comprehensive list of the books, periodicals, maps, and other materials in a given collection, arranged in systematic order to facilitate retrieval (usually alphabetically by author, title, and/or subject). In most modern libraries, the [paper] card catalog has been converted to machine-readable bibliographic records and is available online. The purpose of a library catalog... is to offer the user a variety of approaches or access points to the information contained in the collection" (ODLIS).

Gitenstein Library's web-scale discovery service, an evolution of the online catalog (see here for a fuller discussion), continues to be your best option for finding books and e-books held by our library. It now incorporates additional source types (e.g., journal articles) from licensed databases and scholarly content from the open web.

The book titles listed below contain biographical essays and/or bibliographies (often annotated). Essays reflect scholars' collective understanding of the scholarship on Shakespeare (at the date of writing), and often introduce students to unresolved disciplinary debates. These are scholarly sources written by academics, but use them for context and secondary-source discovery. Generally it is unnecessary to cite reference works in a research paper.


Students might wish to begin their research by reading Talcott's article, "The Biographical Study of Shakespeare," published in a recent (171) volume of Shakespearean Criticism.


Find below Shakespeare companions! Note that a companion is a kind of "handbook intended to be used in connection with the study of a particular subject or field. Examples: The Cambridge Companion to Ralph Ellison and The Oxford Companion to Philosophy. This type of reference work is often an edited collection of essays" (ODLIS). Only titles published after 2000 appear on this list.




Print only:



Cambridge Companions incorporates multiple volumes on Shakespeare, ten of which are available as e-books from from Literature Online (LION).

Print only:

Six additional Cambridge companions, listed below, are available only in print.


Facts on File



A concordance is an "alphabetically arranged index of the principal words or selected words in a text, or in the works of an author, giving the precise location of each word in the text, with a brief indication of its context. Concordances are usually devoted to very well known works, such as the Bible, or to the works of major writers (Chaucer, Shakespeare, etc.)" (ODLIS). Concordances to certain plays (e.g., Antony and Cleopatra, Coriolanus, Romeo and Juliet) are available for free online. Contact me for more information.


Print only:

A dictionary is a "single-volume or multivolume reference work containing brief explanatory entries for terms and topics related to a specific subject or field of inquiry, usually arranged alphabetically. The entries in a dictionary are usually shorter than those contained in an encyclopedia on the same subject..." (ODLIS). A few of the titles listed below are better described as glossaries.











An encyclopedia is a "book or numbered set of books containing authoritative summary information about a variety of topics in the form of short essays, usually arranged alphabetically by headword or classified in some manner. An entry may be signed or unsigned, with or without illustration or a list of references for further reading" (ODLIS).

Firefly Books:


MJF Books:


A handbook is a "single-volume reference book of compact size that provides concise factual information on a specific subject, organized systematically for quick and easy access" (ODLIS). Introductions function similarly.






Print only:



Any TCNJ student conducting Shakespeare research will find this guide helpful. Students enrolled in the following Shakespeare courses will especially benefit:

  • Gender (255)
  • Sources and Contexts (321)
  • Comedies/Histories (421)
  • Tragedies/Romances (422)
  • Divided America (499)
  • Graduate Seminar (612)

Humanities Librarian

Profile Photo
David C. Murray
TCNJ Library,
Room 216