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Shakespeare Criticism: An Annotated Bibliography

Background | Anthologies of Criticism | Book-Length Studies | Studies by Genre | Teaching and Study Guides


Background Sources

For a brief review of some of the "classics" of Shakespeare criticism:

Bloom, Edward E., ed. Shakespeare, 1564-1964: A Collection of Modern Essays By Various Hands.
An anthology of well-known writers on Shakespeare.
Location: General PR 2976.B75

Eastman, Arthur. A Short History of Shakespearean Criticism.
As the title suggests, Eastman describes the major developments in Shakespearean criticism from Ben Johnson to about 1960.
Location: General PR 2965 .E15

Siegel, Paul N. ed. His Infinite Variety: Major Shakespearean Criticism Since Johnson.
An anthology of major critics from the 18th century to the middle of the 20th century.
Location: General PR 2976 .S45


Anthologies of Criticism

Bloom, Harold, ed. William Shakespeare. 3 vols.
A collection of essays by various authors organized by genre, in the Modern Critical Views series. One volume each on the tragedies (1984), comedies and romances (1986), and histories and poems (1986).
Tragedies Location: General PR 2983 .W487 1985
Comedies Location: General PR 2981 .W49 1986
Histories and Poems Location: General PR 2982 .W48 1986

Callighan, Dympna, ed. A Feminist Companion to Shakespeare. 2001.
Essays by contemporary feminist scholars on topics involving gender in the context of racial and sexual politics. Successor to The Woman's Part (below).
Location: General PR 2991 .F45 2001

Dollimore, Jonathan and Alan Sinfield, eds. Political Shakespeare: Essays in Cultural Materialism. 2nd. Edition. 1994
A collection of essays by various authors of the Marxist/cultural materialist/new historicist persuasion.
Location: General PR 3017 .P59 1994

Lenz, Carolyn, Gayle Green 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

McDonald, Russ, ed. Shakespeare: An Anthology of Criticism and Theory, 1945-2000. 2004.
New, ambitious, large (900+ pages) anthology which attempts to cover the major critical movements of the latter half of the twentieth century with chapters ranging from New Criticism, genre theory and reader response, to psychoanalytic, historicist, feminist and gender, performance, and postcolonial criticisms. Each chapter beings with a brief description of the methodology involved, followed by 3-4 essays by well-known exponents of each approach.
Location: General PR 2970 .S495 2004

Parker, Patricia and Geoffrey Hartmann, eds. Shakespeare and the Question of Theory. 1985.
Essays mostly by deconstructionists of the mid-eighties.
Location: General PR 2976 .S3373 1985


Book-Length Studies

Bamber, Linda. Comic Women, Tragic Men: A Study of Gender and Genre in Shakespeare. 1982, rev. ed. 2003.
Study of the differing treatments given to Shakespeare's tragic heroes and comic heroines.
Location: General PR2989 .B3 1982

Belsey, Catherine. Shakespeare and the Loss of Eden: Construction of Family Values in Early Modern Culture. 1999.
Well-researched study by a British cultural historian. Belsey discusses the ways in which selected plays demonstrate changes in family dynamics during the Renaissance.
Location: General PR 3069 .F35 B45 2000

Dusinberre, Juliet. Shakespeare and the Nature of Women. 1975, rev. 1996.
A good starting point for anyone interested in the history of feminist criticism of Shakespeare. She is one of the "founding mothers" in this area.
Location: General PR 2991 .D8

Eagleton, Terry. Shakespeare and Society: Critical Studies in Shakespearean Drama. 1967.
Early work by this versatile Marxist critic. Older, but still cited.
Location: General PR 2976 .E16

Greenblatt, Stephen. Shakespearean Negotiations. 1989.
Controversial book by a leading American New Historicist and editor of The Norton Shakespeare. His goal is to demystify the view of Shakespeare as a "universal genius" by using a lesser-known non-fictional Renaissance documents to draw parallels between the plays and contemporary events.
Location: General PR 2976 .G737 1988

Jardine, Lisa. Reading Shakespeare Historically. 1996.
Essays by a solid historical critic. See also her earlier but still valuable 1989 Still Harping on Daughters: Women and Drama in the Age of Shakespeare.
Location: General PR 3024 .J37 1996

Kermode, Frank. Shakespeare's Language. 2000.
Kermode treats the development of Shakespeare's use of language, discussing the plays in chronological order.
Location: General PR 3072 .K47 2000

Kernan, Alvin. Shakespeare, The King's Playwright: Theater in the Stuart Court. 1995.
Kernan focuses on the Jacobean years of Shakespeare's career, when he was "the King's playwright" at the court of King James. Deeply embedded in the history of the time, this book is credited with being more "reader friendly" than much New Historicist writing.
Location: General PR 3095 .K47 1995

Keyishian, Harry. The Shapes of Revenge: Victimization, Vengeance and Vindictiveness in Shakespeare. 1995.
A recent contribution to the literature on this theme, this book analyses the treatment of revenge in a variety of plays, with a particular interest in the psychology of revenge.
Location: General PR 3069 .R46 K48 1995

Neely, Carol. Broken Nuptials in Shakespeare's Plays. 1985, rpt. 1994.
A pioneering study of this subject, this is another reader-friendly book which has paved the way for later critical works. Still useful.
Location: General PR 3069 .L6 N44 1993

Parker, Priscilla. Shakespeare From the Margins. 1996.
This original and eccentric work focuses on linguistic, cultural, and canonical issues, considering "marginal" plays in non-chronological order, approaching major plays through the less canonical. Raises important questions about critical practices.
Location: General PR 2997 .P8 P37 1996

Roberts, Jeanne. The Shakespearean Wild: Geography, Genus, and Gender. 1991.
Roberts examines the boundaries between "culture" and "wild", both in the geographical and social senses. She sees the struggle further as a gendered one, with woman as the patriarchy-threatening outsider.
Location: General PR 3039 .R58 1991

Ryan, Kiernan. Shakespeare. 3rd. ed. 2002.
This British critic discusses Shakespeare's work from a cultural materialist point of view, with a chapter on each major genre.
Location: General PR 2976 .R93 2001

Weimann, Robert. Author's Pen and Actor's Voice. 2000.
An expert on the Renaissance theater, Weimann is interested here in the "doubleness" of "pen and voice", or writing and performance. Treats a number of plays in their historical/theatrical context with an eye to the differences between the nature of textual and stage production.
Location: General PR 3034 .W45 2000


Studies by Genre

The Comedies and Romances

Adams, Roberts. Shakespeare: the Four Romances. 1989.
One of the few book-length studies of the late romances as a group.
Location: General PR 2981.5 A33 1989

Bryant, J.A., Jr. Shakespeare and the Uses of Comedy. 1986.
Has chapters on 14 of the major comedies. Bryant resists what he sees as the compartmentalizing of the comedies into subdivision and prefers to deal with them from the viewpoint of their universal values, seeing them as all of a piece.
Location: General PR 2981 .B75 1986

Collins, Michael J., ed. Shakespeare's Sweet Thunder: Essays on the Early Comedies. 1997.
A good collection of recent essays on the early comedies including a chapter on teach the early comedies.
Location: General PR 2981 .S435 1997

Gay, Penny. As She Likes It: Shakespeare's Unruly Women. 1994.
A theater historian treats the issue of how contemporary actors portray women's roles in Shakespeare, especially if their feminist interpretations are at odds with established (male) theatrical models.
Location: General PR 2991 .G 38 1994

Hillman, Richard. William Shakespeare: The Problem Plays. 1993.
One of the Twayne English Author Series studies, this volume has chapters on Trolius and Cressida, All's Well that Ends Well, and Measure for Measure. Hillman is particularly interested in how Shakespeare challenges our ideas of genre.
Location: General PR 2981.5 H55 1993

Mangan, Michael. A Preface to Shakespeare's Comedies, 1594-1603. 1996.
Designed as an introduction to the comedies, this book begins with a general section on the social contexts of comedy, followed by useful chapters on A Midsummer Night's Dream, Ado, As You Like It, and Twelfth Night. Focuses on the middle period, so-called "festive comedies".
Location: General PR 2981 .M36 1996

Ornstein, Robert. Shakespeare's Comedies: From Roman Farce to Romantic Mystery. 1986.
Lucid, reader-friendly book on the comedies, emphasizing character and theme. Also treats Shakespeare's transformation of his source materials.
Location: General PR 2981 .O76 1986

Ryan, Kiernan, ed. Shakespeare: The Last Plays. 1999.
Like Adam's work, this volume treats the four late romances but in the form of a collection of critical essays representing various current theoretical perspectives (new historicist, feminist, psychoanalytical, postmodern - separately and in combination).
Location: General PR 2981.5 .S48 1999

Teague, Frances. Acting Funny: Comic Theory and Practice in Shakespeare's Plays. 1994.
A collection of essays centered on the idea of the comic in Shakespeare. (Not all are about comedies as such.) Essays on Othello, All's Well that Ends Well, The Tempest, and Falstaff, plus a useful introductory survey of the history of criticism of Shakespeare's comedies. Note: Although written earlier, the works by C.L. Barber (Shakespeare's Festive Comedies, 1959) and Northrop Frye (A Natural Perspective: The Development of Shakespearean Comedy and Romance, 1965) remain important and are often cited.
Location: General PR 2981 .A28 1994

The Tragedies

Dollimore, Jonathon. Radical Tragedy: Religion, Ideology, and Power in the Drama of Shakespeare and His Contemporaries. 1984.
Book of the dynamics of ideology and power from the perspective of a leading British cultural materialist scholar.
Location: General PR 658 .T7 D6 2004

Garner, Shirley Nelson and Madelon Sprengnether. Shakespearean Tragedy and Gender. 1996.
An anthology of essays by recent feminist critics on gender issues in Shakespearean tragedy.
Location: General PR 2983 .S4498 1996

Mack, Maynard. Everybody's Shakespeare: Reflections Chiefly on the Tragedies. 1993.
Writing for a general audience, Mack looks mainly at the 7 major tragedies with an eye toward what has made them last, despite differences in historical period, customs and values.
Location: General PR 2983 .M326 1993

Mangan, Michael. A Preface to Shakespeare's Tragedies. 1992.
Like the companion volume on the comedies, a useful introduction to the tragedies. Sections on Shakespeare's England, the theater of his time, and critical essays on Hamlet, Othello, and MacBeth.
Location: General PR 2988 .M335 1991

McAlindon, T. Shakespeare's Tragic Cosmos. 1991.
Sees the tragic cosmos as one in which duality and polarization are more crucial than the idea of a stable, universal hierarchy. Covers the 7 major tragedies.
Location: General PR 2983. M37 1996

Zimmerman, Susan, ed. Shakespeare's Tragedies. 1998.
Recent anthology of essays on the tragedies by important contemporary critics, most of which are historicists (in the "New Casebooks Series" by St. Martin's Press).
Location: General PR 2983 .S4495 1998

The Histories

Holderness, Graham. Shakespeare: The Histories. 2000.
Holderness studies Hamlet, Richard III, Henry VI Part 1, Henry V, Henry IV, and Richard II out of chronological order, focusing on their 1590's context and the contrast between their ideas of masculine power and the female rule of Elizabeth I. Finds the differences more compelling than the similiarities.
Location: General PR 2982 .H594 2000

Levine, Nina S. Women's Matters: Politics, Gender and Nation in Shakespeare's Early History Plays. 1998.
Levine sees the earlier histories as providing more challenging views of women than the later plays, modifying the frequently held view that women in the histories are marginalized or silenced. Using contemporary documents in the new historicist manner to make connections with Elizabethan England.
Location: General PR 2982 .L48 1998

Norwich, John Julius. Shakespeare's Kings: The Great Plays and the History of England in the Middle Ages, 1337-1485. 1999.
Detailed account of the relationship between the historical events of the 14th and 15th centuries and Shakespeare's Henry VI-Richard III and Richard II-Henry V tetralogies.
Location: General PR 2982 .N67 1999

Rackin, Phyllis. Stages of History: Shakespeare's English Chronicles. 1990.
Rackin discusses the history plays in the context of the Renaissance in which they were written and performed, over 100 years after the events themselves had transpired.
Location: General PR 2982 .R34 1990

Saccio, Peter. Shakespeare's English Kings. 2nd ed. 2000.
More compact than Norwich, but covers the same material. Good final section on current scholarship on the history plays.
Location: General PR 2982 .S2 2000

Spiekerman, Tim. Shakespeare's Political RealismL The English History Plays. 2001.
Unlike studies focusing on Shakespeare as rooted in his historical milieu, Spiekerman looks at Shakespeare's political themes as universals, equally relevant to modern times.
Location: General PR 2982 .S63 2001


Teaching and Study Guides

Bergeron, David M. and Geraldo U. de Sousa. Shakespeare: A Study and Research Guide. 3rd rev. ed. 1995.
Offers background reading and suggestions for further reading.
Location: General PR 2894 .B44 1995

Courson, H.R. Teaching Shakespeare with Film and Television: A Guide. 1997.
Gives recent information and advice on using film in the classroom.
Location: General PR 2987 .C68 1997

Davis, Lloyd, ed. Shakespeare Matters: History, Teaching, Performance. 2003.
Includes information about performances.
Location: General PR 2965 .S43 2003

Frey, Charles. Making Sense of Shakespeare. 1999.
For a work which takes an oral interpretation approach and gives tips on what he calls "sense reading" in the classroom.
Location: General PR 2976 .F664 1999

Hunt, Maurice, ed. Approaches to teaching Shakespeare's The tempest and other late romances. 1992.
Location: General PR 2981.5 .A67 1992

Kastan, David Scott, ed. A Companion to Shakespeare. 1999.
Offers background reading and suggestions for further reading.
Location: General PR 2910 .C66 1999

McMurtry, Jo. Shakespeare Films in the Classroom: A Descriptive Guide. 1994.
Includes information about choosing and using Shakespeare films in the classroom.
Location: General PR 2987 .M36 1994

Sammons, Eddie. Shakespeare: A Hundred Years on Film. 2004.
Gives the most recent information on Shakespeare films.
Location: General PR 3093 .S26 2004

Wells, Stanley, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare. 1986.
Offers background reading and suggestions for further reading.
Location: General PR 2976 .C29 1986

The C.O.D. Library also has access to the following series:

Shakespeare Quarterly, the leading journal in Shakespeare studies, microfilm since 1976, and bound volumes 1950-1975. Online access through the database, Periodical Abstracts for the years 1994 to present.

Shakespeare Studies
, an international volume of essays, studies and reviews dealing with the cultural history of early modern England and the place of Shakespeare's production in it. Full-text from 1986 through the database, Academic Search Premier.

Shakespearean Criticism: Excerpts from the Criticism of William Shakespeare's Plays and Poetry, from the First Published Appraisals to Current Evaluations. (Gale Research, 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


Christine Kickels, Associate Professor and Librarian
Compilation and annotation done by Deborah Gutschera, Associate Professor of English
August 16, 2004

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