This shouldn't be called the "complete" Shakespeare, but "complete plus". Typically for Delphi, they've added a wealth of extra material that adds richness to the text. I'm working through Macbeth, for example, and the Chronicles by Holinshead that Shakespeare uses as a source reveals just what a transformation he wrought. And how revealing is the political background to the play outlined by Samuel Johnson in his notes - James I's accession to the throne and the Gunpowder Plot. And then there's the additional Shakespeare, in the form of the apocryphal plays and poems. I didn't even know this stuff existed! This collection will help me explore the immortal Bard for decades to come.
I suppose that, if you dug hard enough, you'd be able to save yourself a couple of quid and get all of this stuff, including the extras and the apocryphal works, for free. I started down that road, but what you get is a lot of different formats of varying quality, many without active ToCs - which makes navigation a decided chore, if not practically impossible. And what about searching? If I wanted to find a particular word in one play, for example - no problemo. But what if I wanted to find if the Bard had ever used it? Only a complete collection will perform that trick in no time, and Delphi's ToC is as detailed and therefore as useful as I've come to expect from them.
I said that maybe you could find all of the material in this collection for free, but actually I seriously doubt it. For £1.87, quite frankly it's not worth looking, even without the objection in the previous paragraph. And what additional material! One literary genius - be it Johnson, Tolstoy, Coleridge or Victor Hugo - speaking about another is worth it on its own. There are then three layers: the 16th century Shakespeare, mediated by the 18th, 19th or 20th century Hazlitt or Shaw, speaking to us in the 21st. That's a fascinating study by itself.
A previous reviewer has castigated the edition for its errors, which make it "useless". I didn't put the word "errors" in speech marks, because undeniably there are some. I'm not enough of a Shakespeare buff to pick wrong words (and with the variety of sources available, especially for "King Lear", this task must be a fraught one indeed), but the formatting could do with improvement. A minor glitch concerns stage directions, which occasionally aren't differentiated from the text. In Macbeth Act I scene 3, for example, according to Delphi's text the Third Witch says "Here I have a pilot's thumb / Wreck'd as homeward he did come / Drum within". Obviously the last two words haven't been italicised as they should have been. There are several examples scattered throughout the text, and I'm guessing that would apply throughout the collection.
A more serious criticism concerns my inability to point you, gentle reader, to the exact line number for the reference above. There are no line numbers in the text, which makes it awkward when you come across (for example) a reference to Thomas Middleton's authorship of Act IV Scene 1 lines 39-43 and 125-132 (the first being Hecate's lines). Mere counting doesn't seem to get me anywhere sensible with the second lot of lines. It would be good to have line numbers, as all printed editions seem to do.
However, I think the reviewer's negative comments are completely off the mark. If he was a Shakespeare scholar looking to weigh the significance of every word, fair enough - every error would be serious. But I'm not, and I'm guessing that most of you aren't either - we're general readers, for whom 98% accuracy is enough. But then, if he was a Shakespeare scholar he wouldn't be using an edition like this, but rather a critical one with all the critical apparatus of extensive and scholarly footnotes. Delphi's edition is more than fit for purpose, which is why I'm giving it five stars despite my (minor) criticisms above.
There's another reason for the five stars despite the errors. Delphi updates their editions for free - frequently, as you can see from their website. I've just done that with this Shakespeare, and I didn't even purchase it from Delphi direct, but from Amazon. I thought I'd put Delphi to the test, so I emailed Amazon's support department and asked for the free update. Within 24 hours it was on my Kindle. This free updating is Delphi's advantage over any other complete collection I've come across, and it's the reason why I've learned since I got my Kindle for Christmas to stick with them unless there's a reason a darn sight more compelling than any of the negative ones I've written about here. And no, I have no connection with Delphi - I've just been walking around in a perpetual daze over the last couple of months at how much is available for free on Kindle, and how much you can get for next to nothing - with Delphi, it seems, being the pick of the crop.