Women Edit Shakespeare



Bernard Hoffman for Life ©1943 at the Electric Boat Co. in New London, CT

Charlotte Endymion Porter

Born Helen Charlotte Porter (1857-1942)

She changed her name to Charlotte Endymion Porter after the Keats poem and forged a new identity as a textual scholar, journal editor, and Shakespearean.  And a poet.  And a translator. And a lyricist. 

Her life and scholarship partner was Helen Archibald Clarke (1860-1926)

They met by mail when Clarke wrote to Porter at Shakespeareana, the prestigious journal of which she was editor.

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare Reprinted from the First Folio, 13 vols. (1903-13)

Porter and Clarke hit upon a concept that had not been much considered.  Why not create an old-spellling edition of Shakespeare based primarily on the First Folio?  They explain their rationale in the preface to the first volume.  Their diplomatic transcripts complemented the photographic facsimile concept that Sidney Lee and John S. Farmer explored with early modern publications. 

 VIRGO site for the edition.

Or, by volume:

P&Cv1  P&Cv2  P&Cv3  P&Cv4  P&Cv5  P&Cv6  P&Cv7  P&Cv8  P&Cv9  P&Cv10  P&Cv11  P&Cv12  P&Cv13

G. Gregory Smith review in MLR 2 (1907)



She founded this periodical, the longest-running devoted to poetry there is. Since 1889.

Editor of Shakespeareana

This was the predecessor to the academic journals devoted to Shakespeare now, such as Shakespeare Survey, Shakespeare Studies, Shakespeare Bulletin, and Shakespeare Quarterly.

Symbolic Picture?

Both Jeanne Addison Roberts and Emma Smith have noted the strangely emblematic photograph that Porter and Clarke had taken of themselves with a set of bars between them and a First Folio.  See Roberts, "Women Editing Shakespeare," Shakespeare Survey 59 (2006): 136-46, and Smith, Shakespeare's First Folio: Four Centuries of an Iconic Book (2016)

Other Shakespeareans

Henrietta (Harriet) Marie Bowdler (1807)


She brought out The Family Shakespeare (1807) anonymously and then under the name of her husband, Thomas, a few years later. Though the edition has been long derided and their name neologized into the quintessence of prudery, many of the great Enlightenment editors felt free to censor "indecent" material or leave it unexplained. 

Mary Cowden Clarke (1868)


She and her husband Charles published their edition of Shakespeare in 1868. In 1879, they brought out The Shakespeare Key (1879), an extensive study of characterization and poetical effects in Shakespeare. She compiled the first concordance to the works. The Girlhood of Shakespeare's Heroines (1850) creates back stories for the women in the plays. This is significant for what it says about women's reception of Shakespeare. Clearly the author wanted to advocate female agency and self-empowerment. 

Anna Jameson (1832)


Shakespeare's Heroines (1832) is probably the first real exploration of how Shakespeare constructed the feminine. Jameson anticipated Mary Cowden Clarke's feminist The Girlhood of Shakespeare's Heroines. As with theological controversies involving Grandmother Eve, Shakespeare scholarship allowed women a safe space to create discourses about empowerment, oppression, and self-determination. 

Katharine Lee Bates (1894)


Bates (1859-1929) was a scholar, poet, and songwriter. She was chair of the English department at Wellesley College. In The Students' Series of English Classics, she edited MND, MV, and AYL, and pursued other Shakespeare scholarship. 

She wrote "America the Beautiful"

Agnes Latham (1957)


Latham (1905-96) was the sole female editor in the Second Arden edition, just as there had been only one woman chosen for the First Arden. Una Ellis-Fermor was co-general editor of the series for its first twelve years (1946-58). 

Latham's text was As You Like It (1957). Her introduction to the play is highly recommended. 

Her obituary in the Independent

Grace R. Trenery (1924)


Trenery was the only woman asked to edit a text for the First Arden Shakespeare, Much Ado about Nothing (1924). In his parallel passage version of Ado (1929), Professor Alphonso Gerald Newcomer, Stanford University, took issue with one of her readings, with all the condescension he could muster before he died (see above photo)

Wait! There's More


Una Ellis-Fermor

General editor of Second Arden 1946-58

Alice Walker

Textual Problems of the First Folio (1953)

Troilus and Cressida for the New Cambridge Shakespeare (1957)

"The 1622 Quarto and the First Folio Texts of Othello," Shakespeare Survey 5 (1952)

Anne Righter Barton

She wrote the introduction to the comedies in The Riverside Shakespeare

She edited the New Penguin Shakespeare The Tempest (1968) and wrote the introduction for Hamlet in the same series (1980)

"Was Shakespeare a Chauvinist?" New York Review of Books, 1981

Her obituary in the Telegraph

(Pictured at left)

Norton Shakespeare

Katherine Eisaman Maus, Jean Howard

Howard is the general editor of  the Bedford Shakespeare

more more more


The "new" New Cambridge Shakespeare

Women editing: Janis Lull, R3; Ann Thompson, Shr., M. M. Mahood, MV; Kathleen Irace, Ham. Q1; Christina Luckyj, co-editor, Oth.; Elizabeth Story Donno, TN; Judith Weil, co-editor, 1H4; Patricia Tatspaugh, co-editor, TNK; Dorene DelVecchio, co-editor, Per.; Susan Snyder and Deborah Curren-Aquino, WT.

Shakespeare in Production series: Cynthia Marshall, AYL; Elizabeth Schafer, TN, Shr.; Frances A. Shirley, Tro.; Emma Smith, H5; Julie Hankey, Oth.; Christine Dymnowski, Tmp.

Third Arden Shakespeare

Women editing: Katherine Duncan-Jones, Son., co-editor of Poems;  Virginia Mason Vaughan, co-editor, Tmp.; Suzanne Gossett, Per.; Claire McEachern, Ado; Juliet Dusinberre, AYL; Ann Thompson, co-editor of Ham.; Gretchen Minton, co-editor of Tim.; Barbara Hogdon, Shr.; Sandra Clark and Pamela Mason, Mac.; Valerie Wayne, Cym.; Helen Wilcox, AWW; Lois Potter, TNK; Suzanne Gossett and Helen Wilcox, AWW, Valerie Wayne, Cym.

Thompson is co-General Editor of the series. See her essay  "Feminist Theory and the Editing of Shakespeare," in Shakespeare, Feminism and Gender, ed. Kate Chedzoy (2001) 

Third Pelican Shakespeare

 Women editing: Mary Beth Rose, TGV; Frances E. Dolan, Err., AYL, WT, R3; Claire McEachern, AWW, Jn.,H5, 1H4, 2H4; Janis Lull, introductions to 1H6, 2H6, 3H6

New Oxford Shakespeare

Women Editing: 

Terri Bourus: introductory essay, Arden of Faversham, Tit., MND, MM, Ant., WT

Anna Pruitt: Tit., Shr., R2, 1H4, Ado, STM; commentary on STM, Shr.

Sarah Neville: TGV, Err., 1H6, JC, MWW

Kate McPherson: running commentary on Err., Per.


New Yorker article on the New Oxford Shakespeare

And More Still


Helena Faucit, Lady Martin

Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (1769)


An Essay on the Writings and Genius of Shakespear (1769)

Her championing of smallpox inoculation.  

(pictured at left)

Charlotte Ramsay Lennox

She was known for her novel The Female Quixote (1752), published anonymously but praised by Dr. Johnson and other men of letters (volume 1   volume 2).  Her contribution to Shakespeare studies was Shakespear Illustrated (1754), an examination of the sources for the plays, the first of its kind. 

volume 1  volume 2  volume 3

Sources for the previous material

Some of the information here was first presented in Women Making Shakespeare: Text, Reception and Performance, edited by Virginia Mason Vaughan, Gordon McMullen, and Lena Cowen Orlin (2013):

Valerie Wayne, “Remaking the Texts: Women Editors of Shakespeare, Past and Present”;  Neil Taylor, “ ‘To be acknowledged, madam, is o’erpaid’: Women’s Role in the Production of Scholarly Editions of Shakespeare”; H. R. Wouldhuysen, “Some Women Editors of Shakespeare: A Preliminary Sketch.”  

Evelyn Mary Spearing Simpson (1885-1963)


Miss Spearing, Born Scholar

Evelyn Mary Spearing (standing, age 22) was an excellent textual scholar whose father, James (1844-1932, seated at left) supported her inclinations to pursue an academic career. She was not a Shakespearen per se, but produced scholarship devoted to the Seneca His Tenne Tragedies (1581) playwrights, co-edited the monumental Ben Jonson (1925-50), and produced her excellent The Sermons of John Donne, 10 vols. (1962), with George Potter. 


Becoming Mris. Evelyn Simpson

She attended  Newnham College, Cambridge, became a fellow there, and taught at St. Hugh's College, Oxford, and then at Bedford College. Her role model seems to have been Professor Minna Steele Smith, one of the many women on that faculty who encouraged her. She then married Percy Simpson (1865-1962), twenty years her senior, in 1921. There were two children, Edward and Mary. She resigned her position at Oxford and began work on her edition of Donne. Percy was the co-editor of Ben Jonson with C. H. Herford (1866-1931). Upon Herford's death, Evelyn put aside her own work and helped her husband with his, a massive and important project in some disarray, given the circumstances and Percy's diverse materials. She was then co-editor and lent her considerable editorial acumen to the project, which would never have been finished without her.  After 1950, she turned her full attention to Donne. When Percy entered his final illness, she tended to him, and then asked George Potter to assume full responsibility for the project for a time. Upon her death, her colleague finished the Sermons, and in a classy move, put her name first in the editorial line, as he should have.


Encountering John Studley, Willy Bang, and the V. A. D.

By 1912, Evelyn had made a thorough study of the Oxford and Cambridge schoolboy translations of Seneca's plays into fourteeners from the mid-sixteenth century. She had planned several separate editions of these interrelated tragedies. She sought the advice of W. W. Greg, who was happy to help, and created an impressive bibliographical treatise on the texts of all ten plays, The Elizabethan Translations of Seneca's Tragedies (1912 ). She finished one volume, [John] Studley's Translations of "Agamemnon" and "Medea" (1913) under the auspices of the editor Willy Bang at the University of Louvain for his series, Materialien zur Kunde des älteren englischen Dramas. The Germans had always been interested in Shakespeare, and were equally enthused with other early modern English playwrights. 

Bang was impressed with Evelyn.  She had prepared a second volume of Studley's translations of Hippolytus and Hercules Oetaeus. However, the German atrocities in Belgium--rape, murder, mass slaughter, mustard gas--included the destruction of much of the University at Louvain and its Press. This included the proofs for her new volume, which the bombs and fires found. Though Bang, her husband, and her father urged her to take up the project again, other circumstances interposed themselves.

Evelyn joined the V. A. D. (Voluntary Aid Detachments) of nurses in France in 1915-16, a dangerous undertaking indeed. She wrote an account of her experiences in From Cambridge to Camiers under the Red Cross (1917), favorably reviewed by none other than Virginia Woolf in TLS

She published a bibliographical study of Alexender Nevile's translation of Oedipus (1560) in MLR (1920)

She was very, very impressive.

Much of the information above was summarized from the best account of Evelyn Mary Spearing Simpson, written by Chanita Goodblatt, a great Donne scholar. Here is a link to the essay, in preview rather than in full view. 

An online biography of Spearing Simpson.