From Shakespeare’s shortest play (The Comedy of Errors 1,787 lines) to his longest. We take a look at ten of the longest plays he wrote and find out just how many lines each of them has…
The Top 10 Longest Plays Shakespeare Ever Wrote
10 – The Winter Tale (3,345 Lines)
Wiki Info: The Winter’s Tale is a play by William Shakespeare, originally published in the First Folio of 1623. Although it was grouped among the comedies, some modern editors have relabelled the play as one of Shakespeare’s late romances. Some critics consider it to be one of Shakespeare’s “problem plays”, because the first three acts are filled with intense psychological drama, while the last two acts are comedic and supply a happy ending.
9 – Henry V (3,368 Lines)
Wiki Info: Henry V is a history play by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written around 1599. It tells the story of King Henry V of England, focusing on events immediately before and after the Battle of Agincourt (1415) during the Hundred Years’ War.
8 – Henery VIII (3,450 Lines)
Wiki Info: Henry VIII is a collaborative history play, written by William Shakespeare and John Fletcher, based on the life of King Henry VIII of England. An alternative title, All Is True, is recorded in contemporary documents, the title Henry VIII not appearing until the play’s publication in the First Folio of 1623.
7 – Troilus and Cressida (3,576 Lines)
Wiki Info: Troilus and Cressida is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written in 1602. It was described by Frederick S. Boas as one of Shakespeare’s problem plays. The play ends on a very bleak note with the death of the noble Trojan Hector and destruction of the love between Troilus and Cressida.
6 – Antony and Cleopatra (3,630 Lines)
Wiki Info: The plot is based on Thomas North’s translation of Plutarch’s Lives and follows the relationship between Cleopatra and Mark Antony from the time of the Sicilian revolt to Cleopatra’s suicide during the Final War of the Roman Republic.
5 – Othello (3,672 Lines)
Wiki Info: Othello (The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice) is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written in 1603. It is based on the story Un Capitano Moro (“A Moorish Captain”) by Cinthio, a disciple of Boccaccio, first published in 1565.
4 – Cymbeline (3,813 Lines)
Wiki Info: Although listed as a tragedy in the First Folio, modern critics often classify Cymbeline as a romance or even a comedy. Like Othello and The Winter’s Tale, it deals with the themes of innocence and jealousy. While the precise date of composition remains unknown, the play was certainly produced as early as 1611.
3 – Coriolanus (3,820 Lines)
Wiki Info: Coriolanus is the name given to a Roman general after his more than adequate military success against various uprisings challenging the government of Rome. Following this success, Coriolanus becomes active in politics and seeks political leadership.
2 – Richard III (3,886 Lines)
Wiki Info: It is the second longest play in the canon after Hamlet, and is the longest of the First Folio, whose version of Hamlet is shorter than its Quarto counterpart. The play is rarely performed unabridged; often, certain peripheral characters are removed entirely. In such instances, extra lines are often invented or added from elsewhere in the sequence to establish the nature of characters’ relationships.
1 – Hamlet (3,901 Lines)
Wiki Info: The story of Shakespeare’s Hamlet was derived from the legend of Amleth, preserved by 13th-century chronicler Saxo Grammaticus in his Gesta Danorum, as subsequently retold by 16th-century scholar François de Belleforest. Shakespeare may also have drawn on an earlier (hypothetical) Elizabethan play known today as the Ur-Hamlet, though some scholars believe he himself wrote the Ur-Hamlet, later revising it to create the version of Hamlet we now have.