Posts Categorized: Off-the-shelf

Excerpt: Jonathan Bate’s preface to the RSC’s second edition of Shakespeare’s complete works

“To know Shakespeare thoroughly and read him well aloud, it was necessary to have a usable edition of his works, a text that did away with printer’s errors and the vagaries of old spelling and punctuation, that explained the more obscure words and allusions in the plays, and that was furnished with critical guidance as to the nature of Shakespeare’s genius,” writes Jonathan Bate (referring to the notable Shakespeare editor Samuel Johnson) in this excerpt from the preface to the Royal Shakespeare Company’s newly published second edition of the complete works of Shakespeare.





Excerpt: ‘Index, A History of the’ by Dennis Duncan

While doing research in the Folger collection, Dennis Duncan encountered hundreds of indexes created by early modern readers. In this excerpt from his newly published book, “Index, A History of the,” Duncan describes the fascinating variety of reader indexes he discovered, including one from an early 17th-century tract against alcohol.


The sanitized Shakespeare of Mary Lamb and Henrietta Bowdler – Excerpt: ‘Shakespeare’s Lady Editors’ by Molly Yarn

As anyone who has read Shakespeare’s plays can attest, their content is not always very appropriate for children: brutal murders, bawdy jokes, incest, etc. Editions of Shakespeare’s plays that have been designed specifically for children often omit or smooth over things that parents might find objectionable. In the 19th century, access to Shakespeare was restricted not just for children but also for young women, as Molly Yarn explores in this excerpt from ‘Shakespeare’s Lady Editors’.


The unlikely link between a sixth-century queen and Macbeth

While working on “The Dark Queens: The Bloody Rivalry that Forged the Medieval World,” Shelley Puhak stumbled across a connection between her subjects and Shakespeare. Her book is a dual biography of Brunhild and Fredegund, two queens who, as long-term regents for their underage male relatives, ruled over most of sixth-century Western Europe. Fredegund was born a slave; Brunhild was a Visigoth princess. Despite their vastly different backgrounds, they ended up as sisters-in-law and political rivals who negotiated with emperors and popes, revitalized cities, revamped tax policy, and conducted a decades-long civil war—against each other. Echoes of one conflict in that war, the 593 Battle of Droizy, have been preserved in Macbeth’s final act, when Birnam Wood arrives at Dunsinane.



The world of Italy in Shakespeare’s comedies – Excerpt: Shakespeare and the Comedy of Enchantment

Italy is the setting most associated with Shakespeare’s comedies, providing layers of dramatic potential that Kent Cartwright explores in an excerpt from Shakespeare and the Comedy of Enchantment. “‘Italy,’ as an imagined construct, contains heightened civility yet also volatility and danger; at its best it facilitates new possibilities for the self and for human relations,”… Continue Reading »


Excerpt: Learwife by J. R. Thorp

Picking up where Shakespeare’s King Lear ends, a new novel imagines the life of Lear’s wife, who in this telling has been banished for 15 years when she receives word of her family members’ deaths. Learwife by J.R. Thorp gives voice to a character who is notably absent from Shakespeare’s tragedy, which focuses on the… Continue Reading »