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Home :: Archive :: 1990 :: September ::
Basic Shakespearean Criticism (145)
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 1, No. 59. Sunday, 16 Sep 1990.
 
Date:         Sun, 16 Sep 90 12:12:25 EDT
From:         Ken Steele <
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Subject:      Recommended Criticism
 
 
     After sifting through the hundreds of articles and books
logged in my Shakespeare database, I've come up with a
reasonably short list of basic introductory criticism which I
consider interesting, important, and influential.  (Naturally the list
implicitly reflects my own interests and, perhaps, biases).
 
     If you're interested in a single Shakespearean play, perhaps
the best source of information is the introduction to a scholarly
edition -- the free-standing New Arden, New Cambridge, and
Oxford editions are often superb sources of information and
further references -- and I'd also recommend G.B. Evans' *Riverside
Shakespeare* as a good single-volume introduction to Shakespeare,
with plenty of illustrations, facsimiles, and also the texts and
considerable textual and lexical annotation.  The recent Oxford
*Complete Works* offers a wonderful General Introduction, but
virtually no introduction or annotation for the plays themselves.
The Oxford *Textual Companion*, on the other hand, is the single
most valuable and current textual resource available anywhere, at
any price (although the price tag is hefty) -- but this is for
students with particularly textual interests.
 
     Perhaps the *best* introduction to Shakespeare and his
context I've found is *The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare
Studies*, edited by Stanley Wells (1986) and containing work by
some prominent scholars and summarizing the current state of
knowledge.  (A *Cambridge Companion to Renaissance Drama* is
apparently forthcoming.)  The previous edition also contains some
useful articles which are different, though not entirely outdated:
it's *A New Companion to Shakespeare Studies*, edited by Kenneth
Muir and Samuel Schoenbaum (1971).  If you're after a more
comprehensive bibliography on a specific subject, I'd recommend
using the index of Larry S. Champion's *The Essential Shakespeare:
An Annotated Bibliography of Major Modern Studies* (Boston: G.K.
Hall & Co., 1986).
 
     The list of central classics of Shakespearean criticism could
go on forever, of course (just take a look at Champion!).  A short
list of those which I found particularly inspiring would have to
include these:
 
     Barber, C[esar] L[ombardi], and Richard P. Wheeler. *The
     Whole Journey: Shakespeare's Power of Development*. 1986.
     Reprint. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989.
 
     Bentley, G[erald] E[ades]. *The Profession of Dramatist in
     Shakespeare's Time, 1590-1642*. Princeton: Princeton
     University Press, 1971.
 
     Rabkin, Norman. *Shakespeare and the Common Understand-
     ing*. 1967.   Reprint. Chicago: University of Chicago Press,
     1984.
 
     Schoenbaum, Samuel S.  *William Shakespeare: A Compact
     Documentary Life*. New York: Oxford University Press, 1977.
 
     Slater, Ann Pasternak. *Shakespeare the Director*. Totowa,
     NJ: Barnes & Noble, 1982.
 
 
A few intriguing works examining Shakespeare's use of language
and poetry are the following:
 
     Bradbrook, M[uriel] C. *Shakespeare and Elizabethan Poetry:
     A Study of his Earlier Work in Relation to the Poetry of the
     Time*. 1951. Reprint. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
     1979.
 
     Clemen, Wolfgang. *The Development of Shakespeare's
     Imagery*. 1951. Reprint. London: Methuen, 1966.
 
     Halliday, F.E. *The Poetry of Shakespeare's Plays*. London:
     Methuen, 1954. Reprint. London: Gerald Duckworth, 1964.
 
     Hibbard, G.R. *The Making of Shakespeare's Dramatic Poetry*.
     Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1981.
 
 
Good introductions to Shakespeare's playhouses are these:
 
     Gurr, Andrew. *Playgoing in Shakespeare's London*.
     Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987.
 
     Gurr, Andrew. *The Shakespearean Stage, 1574-1642*. 2nd ed.
     Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980.
 
     Styan, J.L. *Shakespeare's Stagecraft*. 1967. Reprint.
     Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984.
 
 
If you're interested in Shakespeare's plays as originally published,
the most convenient and/or reliable facsimiles are these:
 
     Hinman, Charlton [J.K.]. *The Norton Facsimile: The First
     Folio of Shakespeare*. New York: Norton, 1968.
 
     Allen, Michael J.B., and Kenneth Muir. *Shakespeare's Plays in
     Quarto: A Facsimile Edition of Copies Primarily from the
     Henry E. Huntington Library*.  Los Angeles: University of
     California Press, 1981.
 
 
If you're at all curious about textual issues (the current debate
over Shakespearean revision, and the two versions of *King Lear*,
for example), I'd heartily recommend the following:
 
     Honigmann, E[rnst] A[nselm] J[oachim]. *The Stability of
     Shakespeare's Text*.  London: Edward Arnold, 1965.
 
     *The Division of the Kingdoms: Shakespeare's Two Versions of
     King Lear*. Edited by Gary Taylor, and Michael Warren, 45-
     58. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986.
 
     Urkowitz, Steven. *Shakespeare's Revision of King Lear*.
     Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1980.
 
Another textual/bibliographical influence I've found it hard to
escape is Randall McLeod (Random Cloud), for example his "UN-
Editing Shak-speare." *Sub-Stance* 33/34 (1982): 26-55.
 
     Of course, the best way to keep up with current trends is to
browse in *Shakespeare Quarterly* and *Shakespeare Studies*, and
particularly valuable is the annual bibliography published by *SQ*.
 
     That's the list of those works which I use most frequently, or
most heartily endorse to undergraduates, I think.  The level of
one's interest and preparation may dictate some modifications.  I'd
be interested in the basic works recommended by other members
in order to supplement my own list (particularly if I've not heard
of them).
 
                                                Ken Steele
                                                University of Toronto
 

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