Skip to Main Content

Literatures in English: Early Modern Period (1485-1660)

This page lists sources that cover multiple periods, genres, and/or nationalities. See additional resources in the "Historical Literary Period" and "Geographical Region" pages.

Full Text Collections

Folger Digital Texts. "Meticulously accurate texts" of the plays and poems from editions in the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C. Under a Creative Commons license, access is free as is downloading of the source code for non-profit projects.

Ben Jonson Online (Cambridge University Press). Jonson’s complete writings for readers of the twenty-first century, in the light of current editorial thinking and recent scholarly interpretation and discovery. It offers a clear sense, afforded by no other previous edition, of the shape, scale, and variety of the entire Jonsonian canon. At the same time, it is the first edition to use digital technology to give a dynamic insight into Jonson’s processes of composition and to reveal the editorial choices which underpin the modernized text.

Early English Books Online (EEBO) EEBO contains digital facsimile page images of virtually every work printed in England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and British North America and works in English printed elsewhere from 1473-1700 - from the first book printed in English by William Caxton, through the age of Spenser and Shakespeare and the tumult of the English Civil War. Now includes EEBO Introductions and other secondary materials.

Read about Text Creation Partnership (TCP). Although UCSD was not a member of the Text Creation Partnership consortia, the 25,000+ texts enhanced during its Phase I (2000-2009), along with texts from the Eighteenth-Century Collections Online database and the Evans Early American Imprints database, are now accessible to all users of EEBO, ECCO, and Evans. UCSD does not have access to Phase II (2010-present). You are welcome to use it at the UC Irvine and UCLA Libraries.

Early English Prose Fiction, more than 200 works written between 1500 and 1700; English Poetry, over 160,000 poems by more than 1,250 poets, and English Drama, over 3,900 plays in verse and prose, are all sections of Literature Online (LiON). Click here for a separate LibGuide devoted to the Literature Online database.

Early Modern Literary Studies: Electronic TextsA page with links to free online editions of texts from the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries.

Luminarium: Anthology of English Literature. Includes texts of almost 80 sixteenth- and seventeenth-century English authors, including Sidney, Wyatt, Marlowe, Donne, Massinger, and Jonson..

Shakespeare Quartos Archive.  A digital collection of pre-1642 editions of William Shakespeare's plays.

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare An early, but still useful, simple HTML collection of all the plays and poetry.

Literature Online (LION) Collection of Adaptations. Eleven major editions from the First Folio to the Cambridge edition of 1863-66, twenty-four separate contemporary printings of individual plays, selected apocrypha and related works and more than one hundred adaptations, sequels and burlesques from the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Encyclopedias, Dictionaries, Handbooks, Biography

Ben Jonson Encyclopedia. Ed. D. Heyward Brock and Maria Palacas. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 2016.

Encyclopedia of English Renaissance Literature.Ed. Garrett A. Sullivan, Jr. and Alan Stewart Malden, Mass.: Wiley Blackwell, 2012.

Cook, James Wyatt. Encyclopedia of Renaissance Literature. New York: Facts on File, 2006. Geisel Reference (2 West) PN 721 .C66 2006 

Smith, Emma. The Cambridge Shakespeare Guide. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge UP, 2012. For each of the plays and major poems, Smith provides a summary of the plot and major characters, the major themes, and a summary of major productions. Part II includes essays on Shakespeare's language and the theater of his time, a history of major printed editions of his texts, the apocryphal works, and a brief biography. Request it through interlibrary loan by clicking the UC Library Search link above, signing in and using the Request feature.

Wells, Stanley W. A Dictionary of Shakespeare. New York & Oxford: Oxford UP, 1998 (digital edition updated 2002). Compiled by one of the best-known authorities on Shakespeare, this dictionary offers short articles on all aspects of Shakespeare in his own time and on his impact and influence on later ages. It includes entries on the plays and the major characters, on Shakespeare's life and his contemporaries, on actors from Edmund Kean to Peter O'Toole, on theaters and directors, and comments on Shakespeare by later authors such as Austen, Johnson, Keats, and Woolf. 

Findlay, Alison. Women in Shakespeare: A Dictionary. London: Arden Shakespeare/Continuum International, 2014. More than 350 entries explore the roles of women in Shakespeare's drama, how women were represented on Shakespeare's stage, and the role of women in Shakespeare's professional and personal lives.

Gibson, Marion and Jo Ann Esra. Shakespeare's Demonology: A Dictionary, rev. ed. Bloomsbury, 2018. .

Grantley, Darryll. Historical Dictionary of British Theatre: Early Period. Lanham, Md.: The Scarecrow Press, 2013. The author, a professor of theater history at the University of Kent, offers a thorough, informative, and entertaining look at the places, plays, and people involved in British theater from 1311 to 1899.

Oxford Dictionary of Plays. Ed. Michael Patterson. New York: Oxford UP, 2005. Although not limited to the early modern period, this resource has useful information on plays by Shakespeare, Marlowe, Jonson, and their contemporaries.

Luminarium Encyclopedia Project. A project ongoing since 2001 to add contextual articles for the texts included in Luminarium (See under Full Texts).

Berger, Thomas L., William C. Bradford, and Sidney L. Sondergard. An Index of Characters in Early Modern English Drama Printed Plays, 1500-1660. Rev. ed. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1998. Geisel 2nd Fl. West Reference PR 1265.3 .B4

Smith, Bruce R., and Katherine Rowe, editors. The Cambridge Guide to the Worlds of Shakespeare. Cambridge University Press, 2016. Geisel 6th Fl. Oversize PR2976 .C295.

Wells, Stanley. Great Shakespeare Actors: From Babbage to Branagh. New York: Oxford University Press, 2015. Short essays that explain the particular talents that each performer brought to bear on Shakespeare's plays.

Portals and Websites: Early Modern Period

Early Modern Hub Has three chief components: Early Modern Resources, a research portal to websites that focus on high-quality, free-access resources suitable for advanced research, study and teaching, especially online primary sources; Early Modern Commons, an aggregator of blogs; and Early Modern News, containing information on upcoming conferences, calls for papers, a summary of major blog discussions, RSS feeds, etc. 

Iter: Gateway to the Middle Ages and Renaissance  Anot-for-profit partnership dedicated to the advancement of learning in the study and teaching of the Middle Ages and Renaissance (400-1700) through the development and distribution of online resources. Includes links to online journals, primary and secondary bibliographies, and other useful websites.

Luminarium: Renaissance Literature (1485-1603) 

Luminarium: The Seventeenth Century (1603-1660)

Both Luminarium sites have a substantial scholarly overview of the period and its literature, links to resources on a large number of individual writers and to some full texts, timelines of the period and of publications within them, review and quiz questions, etc.

Shaksper: The Global Electronic Shakespeare Conference, with extensive lists of more specific websites, blogs, and two RSS feeds.

The Marlowe Society  An overview of Marlowe's life and works, suggested readings, the full text of the Society's Newsletter and its Research Journal (starting volume 5), links to other useful sites, etc.