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Shakespeare for Beginners

General Introductions | Biographical Works | Reference Works | Critical Works | Web Sites

General Introductions

Armstrong, Karen. Studying Shakespeare: A Practical Guide. 1998.
Includes chapters on studying Shakespeare in depth as well as how to first approach it.
Location: General PR 2987 .A76 1998    

Bevington, David. Shakespeare. 2002.
A good, recent introductory book, written by an eminent Shakespeare scholar and editor for a non-specialist audience. Organized around Shakespeare's portrayals of each stage of human life, from infancy to old age.
Location: General PR 2976 .B44 2002

Frye, Northrop. Northrop Frye on Shakespeare. 1986.
Another good place to start. This book is based on a series of lectures Frye has given to undergraduates in English at the University of Toronto. Some one taped them and persuaded Frye to oversee their publication. The result is lucid, intelligent, well informed, and very accessible without being in any way "dumbed down". Frye takes a king of mythic/narrative/comparative approach.
Location: General PR 2976 .F67 1986

Kermode, Frank. The Age of Shakespeare . 2004.
A new book by an experienced critic, this study puts Shakespeare in the context of his time. Brief but insightful.
Location: General PR 3095 .K466 2004

Kermode, Frank. Shakespeare's Language. 2000.
As the title suggests, Kermode focuses on Shakespeare's use of language, the art of his poetry, but Kermode is also a fine analyst and critic. Somewhat more technical than Shakespeare and His Age and than Frye, but very interesting. Covers all the plays.
Location: General PR 3072 .K47 2000

Biographical Works

Honan, Park. Shakespeare: A Life. 1998.
Another recent Shakespeare biography, published by Oxford University Press. This one is longer and more detailed than the others, but well regarded.
Location: General PR 2984 .H65 1998

Schoenbaum, Samuel. William Shakespeare: A Compact Documentary Life. 1987.
One of the "go-to" books for information about Shakepeare's life. Schoenbaum sticks to the known facts without wild theorizing, very concret and reliable. Based on contemporary records.
Location: General PR 2894 .S33 1987

Southwork, John. Shakespeare the Player: A Life in the Theatre. 2000.
If you want a more recent biography, this one is interesting and very readable. It focuses on Shakespeare as an actor and man of the theater in the Renaissance.
Location: General PR 2984 .S648 2000

Reference Works

Shewmaker, Eugene F.Shakespeare's Language: A Glossary of Unfamiliar Words in Shakespeare's Plays and Poems. 1996.
Useful guide to Shakespeare's vocabulary, grammar and syntax.
Location: Reference PR 2892 .S447 1996

The First Folio of Shakespeare. 1968.
If you want to see what the First Folio looked like, this is a facsimile edition.
Location: General PR 2751 .A15 1968

Muir, Kenneth. The Sources of Shakespeare's Plays. 1978.
Interesting description of how Shakespeare transformed what he read into great drama, with something on each play.
Location: General PR 2952 .M84 1978

Palmer, Alan and Victoria Palmer. Who's Who in Shakespeare's England. 1999.
A useful reference source for unfamiliar names.
Location: General PR 2910 .P3 1999

Saccio, Peter. Shakespeare's English Kings. 2nd ed. 2000.
Indispensable book if you want to read more of the histories. Saccio discusses the relationship between each play and the known historical facts on which it is based. He concludes with a good final section on current scholarship on the history plays.
Location: General PR 2982 .S2 2000

Shakespeare for Students. 3 volumes. 2000.
Each entry includes an introduction, principal characters, plot synopsis, principal topics, character studies, conclusion, overviews, and other topics appropriate to each play.
Location: Reference PR 2987 .S47

Critical Works

Bloom, Harold, ed. William Shakespeare. The tragedies. 1985.
Part of Modern Critical Views series. Very popular with students.
Location: General PR 2983 .W487 1985

Bloom, Harold, ed. William Shakespeare. Comedies and Romances. 1986.
Part of Modern Critical Views series. Very popular with students.
Location: General PR 2981 .W49 1986

Bloom, Harold, ed. William Shakespeare. Histories and Poems. 1986.
Part of Modern Critical Views series. Very popular with students.
Location: General PR 2982 .W48 1986

Callaghan, Dympna, ed. A Feminist Companion to Shakespeare. 2001.
Essays by well-known contemporary feminist Shakespeareans on topics involving gender in the context of racial and sexual politics.
Location: General PR 2991 .F45 2001

Lenz, Carolyn, Gayle Grene and Carol Neely, eds. The Woman's Part: Feminist Criticism of Shakespeare. 1980.
Well-known anthology of essays by pioneering feminist critics through the 1970s.
Location: General PR 2991 .W6 1980

Ryan, Kiernan. Shakespeare. 3rd ed. 2001.
A good discussion of Shakespeare from the cultural materialist point of view. Clear, interesting, often controversial (and confrontational), but not jargon-ridden like some criticism of this type. Not exactly an easy read, but repays the effort.
Location: General PR 2976 .R93 2001

Shakespearean Criticism: Excerpts from the Criticism of William Shakespeare's Plays and Poetry, from the First Published Appraisals to Current Evaluations. 1984-
Useful for looking up or checking facts or critical statements, this multi-volume work is found in the Reference section. Volumes 1-10: a historical overview of critical responses to each of Shakespeare's works, from varying viewpoints. Volumes 11-26: perfomance history of plays via reviews and other eyewitness accounts. Volumes 27-56: criticism after 1960, organized around topics like religion, politics, and war. Volumes 57-present: recent criticism of 4 different works per volume, plus cumulative topic and chapter entries covering multiple works.
Location: Reference PR 2965 .S44

Web Sites

The Librarian's Index to the Internet has a huge list of excellent web site about Shakespeare and his works. Click on the picture below for the list!

Christine Kickels, Associate Professor and Librarian
Annotations written by Deborah Gutschera, Associate Professor
Created August 17, 2004

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