Shakespeare: The Basics

Shakespeare: The Basics

Shakespeare: The Basics

Shakespeare: The Basics


Now in its third edition Shakespeare: The Basics is an insightful and informative introduction to the work of William Shakespeare. Exploring all aspects of Shakespeare's plays including the language, cultural contexts, and modern interpretations, this text looks at how a range of plays from across the genres have been understood. Updates in this edition include:

  • Ecocritical, queer, presentist and gendered discussions of Shakespeare's work
  • Studies of new performances including Tennant and Tate's Much Ado About Nothing
  • Critical discussions of race and politics in Othello and King Lear
  • Case studies of modern film versions of Shakespeare's works
  • A chronology of Shakespeare's work and contemporary events

With fully updated further reading throughout and a wide range of case studies and examples, this text is essential reading for all those studying Shakespeare's work.


I began to write the first edition of Shakespeare: The Basics fifteen years ago with a particular purpose. Shakespeare studies at university had changed a great deal in the previous twenty years, but at that time there was no introduction to the new literary criticism that was accessible to my students.

In that first edition I began by explaining how it was no longer adequate to try to discuss Shakespeare’s plays in terms of character, plot and theme, terms which don’t have any explicit connection with history. Instead, the new critics were insisting that the plays were written and performed in a particular historical moment, and needed to be understood as embedded in the culture and society of that moment, in all its foreignness and complexity. These new critics were also particularly interested in politics, especially with regard to the situation of those who were seen to be excluded from power. Feminist criticism was and is an important part of this movement.

These ideas certainly still have a major presence in Shakespeare studies in the second decade of the twenty-first century, but they have begun to be superseded in recent years. ‘Presentist’ critics, for example, have argued that works of art are much more than a product of the time which created them, which is why they . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.