So many different editions of Shakespeare's work have appeared over the centuries that you might ask the question "What's so special about this RSC 'Collectors' Edition', and is it worth the very high asking price?"
The answer is an unequivocal "Yes": this edition of the complete works of the Bard really is a bit special.
For the core 36 plays, Bate and Rasmussen have gone back to the text of the 1623 first folio compiled by Shakespeare's acting colleagues and titled "Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies". Until now the iconic first folio was never edited in full for more than 300 years; Bate and Rasmussen are to be commended on an excellent job. This edition also contains a number of other works not included in the first folio such as `The Phoenix and the Turtle', `The Rape of Lucrece', the complete sonnets and lesser known plays such as `The Two Noble Kinsmen' and `Pericles'.
Each play is preceded by a (typically four or five pages in length) introduction to its context, history and dramatic structure. These short essays are textbook examples of explanatory clarity which communicate the essentials whilst avoiding getting bogged down in academic minutiae.
At the foot of each page are notes in small type, identified by numbered line to render tiresome text markers redundant. This is a fine solution to the problem of clarifying Shakespeare's arcane vocabulary and meaning for the 21st century reader, as the notes on the actual page are immediately accessible and do not interfere with reading-flow, often the case when notes are collected in a separate section at the end of the book or chapter. The notes here are relevant, helpful and easy to understand.
At an impressive 2,576 single-columned pages the book is massive, with a quality, hardcover binding. It has a tasteful contemporary feel and is a superb artefact in its own right, quite apart from the contents.
In summary, this 'Collectors' Edition' offers you the best volume of `Complete Works' of indisputably the most famous poet/playwright in the history of the human race. It's worth the asking price if you buy it for keeps: it will last a lifetime and will likely be the only Shakespeare you'll ever need.