This guide helps readers make sense of the most commonly taught writer in the world. One approach to Shakespeare is as a dramatist while another approach is to think of him as essentially a poetic writer. The tension between these two views is a theme in this book because it helps us to reflect upon changing literary and critical trends. This is primarily a book for readers of Shakespeare who most commonly experience Shakespeare-on-stage through imagined performances in their own heads.
The book starts with a brief explanation of how Shakespeare's writings have come down to us as a series of scripts for actors in the early modern theatre industry of London. The first half of the book then interrogates Shakespearean genres, while the second half examines different critical approaches to his plays via the four key issues of authorship, performance, identity and materialism. The book returns repeatedly to such questions as: 'what has changed since Shakespeare's time?', 'to what uses has Shakespeare been put?', and 'what value is in Shakespeare?' - questions that go to the heart of why we study Shakespeare.
•A chronology of Shakespeare's career as an actor/dramatist that locates him within the theatre industry of his time.
•New readings of twelve plays that form a core of the Shakespeare canon: A Midsummer Night's Dream, Much Ado About Nothing, Richard 2, Henry 5, Hamlet, Othello, All's Well that Ends Well, The Winter's Tale, Macbeth, Measure for Measure, The Tempest, and Timon of Athens.
•Critical analyses organized by genre (comedies, histories, tragedies, and romance) and by four key critical approaches: authorship, performance, identities, and materialism.
•An extensive resources section, including a glossary of the important critical terms that are often used in debates about Shakespeare.