Public Domain

Public domain describes works that are not restricted by copyright and are free to use without a license or fee. Works can enter the public domain in several ways, including being assigned to the public domain by their author, works that are unable to be copyrighted, and works that have had their copyright expire.

How do you know if a copyright has expired? (Cornell University. Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the United States. Ed. Peter B. Hirtle. Cornell University, 1 Jan. 2015. Web. 14 Dec. 2015. <>.)

  • For works published after 1977, the general copyright rule is that an item will not fall into public domain until 70 years after the death of the author.
    • If works are anonymous or corporate, works will typically enter the public domain 95 years after the date of publication or 120 years from the date of creation.
  • All works published in the United States prior to 1923
  • All works published without a copyright notice prior between 1923 and 1977
  • All works published without a copyright notice from 1978 to 1989, and without subsequent registration within 5 years

Plays in the Public Domain

Project Gutenberg

  • Project Gutenberg is a free resource that offers over 50,000 works in the public domain in ebook format. Among these works are several hundred plays, including the works of William Shakespare, Dante Alighieri, Bernard Shaw, and many others.

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare

  • Created by an alumni of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, this website offers electronic copies of the works of William Shakespeare. 

One Act Plays

  • Offers a selection of plays in the public domain.

American Variety Stage

  • Covering 1870-1920, contains a collection of playscripts made available through the Library of Congress. 

Monologues in the Public Domain

Monologue Archive

  • Collection of public domain monologues organized by gender and genre. 

Shakespeare's Monologues

  • Collection of Shakespeare's monologues organized by gender, play, and genre. 

Instant Monologues

  • Offers a selection of classic monologues in the public domain as well as original, royalty free monologues.