Books About Shakespeare

The recent spate of PBS shows about Shakespeare’s canon made me think about the best, or better, Shakespeare texts. Lit Crit. What works. What doesn’t work.

The simplest way to look at it, though? My “go to” Shakespeare reference will be Bloom’s Shakespeare, the invention of the human.

I might’ve read the whole thing, once upon a time, but I can’t recall that. However, and to this day, it’s still the standard reference for me as it is a concise essay that deals with one, fairly strict, interpretation of the play. It’s like a condensed form of a college lecture, hitting high points and forgoing the microscopic trivia.

If I have a question about a play, this is the first place I’ll start, besides the text itself.

As background material, the best biography I’ve read about Shakespeare is probably Peter Ackroyd’s Shakespeare: the biography.

Accessible and slightly less “academic” in tone, which, in turn, makes the material more palatable. Judging by the dog-eared pages and pencil column notes, I might still use this material for references.

The final piece in the puzzle, and one that I’m currently a big fan of? The Truth Will Out, book with a slight rustic flavor to it, as it’s part of the great “Who really wrote Shakespeare” debate.

What makes this part of my accepted canon of Shakespeare Lit Crit is solid scholarship and an engaging tale. Lack of substantial proof, i.e., it wouldn’t stand up in an American court of law.

But still, the work prompts the best of the authorship debates and examines the canon with a different light.

Books About Shakespeare

Other Shakespeare Books?
This Wooden O, and the PBS special about Henry IV, Henry V reminded me that the tale of the rebuilding of Shakespeare’s Globe, at first shunned by English Theatre, is now the toast for performance.

Greenblatt’s Will in the World is the good, standard, work-man-like Shakespeare scholarship. More readable that most.

The Shakespeare Thefts is the odd one out, as it traces the history of the rare, first folio manuscripts. Out of a print run of what, a couple of hundred? Where are they now, collectors, collections, myth and intrigue.(1)

    (1) I ‘inherited’ a second folio script, and that I donated to the University of Texas, special collection.