English Drama contains more than 3,900 plays in verse and prose from the late thirteenth century - the likely date of the Shrewsbury Fragments - to the early twentieth. It offers exhaustive coverage of the prodigious dramatic literature of the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods, as well as Restoration plays, medieval morality plays and mystery cycles, and nineteenth-century closet dramas. In addition to works by major dramatists such as Ben Jonson, Aphra Behn, William Wycherley, Oliver Goldsmith, Richard Sheridan, Oscar Wilde and J. M. Synge, English Drama includes the dramatic writings of many more neglected writers long inaccessible in print form. A full list of works included in the collection is given in the bibliography.
The bibliographic basis of English Drama is the New Cambridge Bibliography of English Literature (Cambridge University Press, 1969–72). Annals of English Drama 975–1700, by Alfred Harbage (Routledge, 3rd ed. 1989), was used to confirm genre classification and dates for all pre-1700 plays.
The database contains works acted on or intended for the stage. It includes masques, interludes, short dramatic pieces, translations and adaptations, closet dramas, and works written for children.
Unpublished manuscript works and works in languages other than English have been excluded.
A single edition of each play has been included. Generally, this is the first authorised edition. If a contemporary edition was considered unreliable, a later edition may have been used; authorial revision or enlargement may also, in the opinion of the Editorial Board, render a later edition preferable. Where the majority of plays by an author have been taken from a later collection, the collected edition may be used for all works. It has been a general principle not to use modernised editions. In the case of every work, the edition selected is stated and full bibliographic details are given.
Each text is reproduced in full, as is accompanying text written by the playwright and forming an integral part of the play, such as epigraphs, castlists, and notes. Commendatory and prefatory poems by the playwright and others have also been included.