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Palgrave Macmillan

Reading Shakespeare

ISBN 9780230230125
Publication Date January 2013
Formats Hardcover Paperback Ebook (EPUB) Ebook (PDF) 
Publisher Palgrave Macmillan

This brief yet comprehensive introduction offers a clear narrative of Shakespeare's writing career. The book examines the texts of twenty widely-studied plays, and the Sonnets, illuminating both their original contexts and their later reception. Lucidly written, with no jargon, this is an invaluable overview of Shakespeare's life and works.

MICHAEL ALEXANDER is Emeritus Professor of English Literature, University of St Andrews, UK. He is a poet and translator and has international experience of teaching English literature, both medieval and modern. He is the author of Palgrave's bestselling A History of English Literature now in its second edition and his Penguin translations of Beowulf and other Old English poems have sold a million copies.

First Things
Career in brief
Play and page
Printed Books
Posthumous Publication
The Recorded Life
Stratford and Family
What kind of Scene?
Immediate Predecessors
First Plays
Love's Labour's Lost
Romeo and Juliet
A Midsummer Night's Dream
Richard II
Henry IV
Henry V
The Merchant: Changing Contexts
To the Globe
Much Ado About Nothing
Julius Caesar
As You Like It
Twelfth Night
Shake-speare's Sonnets
Horatio's Question: Hamlet
Taken to Extremes
Problem plays
Measure for Measure
King Lear
Antony and Cleopatra
Late Romances
The Winter's Tale
The Tempest
His supposed point of view
'Read him therefore'
Order of Composition
Chronology of Publication
Further Reading
Abbreviations and References


'There are other good short introductions to Shakespeare, but few are as 'helpful' (Alexander's aim) and none packs so much - and with such elegance - into the space. Infinite riches in a little room.' - Times Literary Supplement
'In barely 160 pages, he provides wonderfully succinct introductions not only to more than half of Shakespeare's plays, but also to the Sonnets, the biography, and the theatre of his day … Alexander is interested in the heart of the matter, not its fringes, and his book explores it with admirable insight and concision.' - Lukas Erne, Around the Globe
'Reading Shakespeare almost always finds something new to say about this multi-faceted genius...Michael Alexander provokes thought throughout this fascinating little book.' - Alexander Lucie-Smith, The Tablet 'Alexander makes his reader – who is as likely to be a student as not – think about the relation of character and role, about what is "problematic" in a problem play or "historical" in a history, and about the different cadences of comedy and tragedy even within a single drama. Reading Shakespeare may be aimed at a campus market, but is likely to be appreciated by a passionate reader of the plays for whom familiarity has led to inattention but who is, as this wise commentator makes clear, a quite sufficient audience.' - Brian Morton, Glasgow Herald 'A miracle of compression and readability, covering so much of Shakespeare so illuminatingly ... No other author of a comparable book brings quite the Alexander mix of gifts to the task of seeing Shakespeare whole.' - Ewan Fernie, Professor and Chair of Shakespeare Studies, The Shakespeare Institute, University of Birmingham, UK
'A concise, informed, and lively introduction to Shakespeare's life, times, theater, and plays.' – Richard McCoy, Professor of English at Queens College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York, USA
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