This Is Shakespeare (Hardcover)
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An electrifying new study that investigates the challenges of the Bard’s inconsistencies and flaws, and focuses on revealing—not resolving—the ambiguities of the plays and their changing topicality
A genius and prophet whose timeless works encapsulate the human condition like no other. A writer who surpassed his contemporaries in vision, originality, and literary mastery. A man who wrote like an angel, putting it all so much better than anyone else. Is this Shakespeare? Well, sort of. But it doesn’t tell us the whole truth. So much of what we say about Shakespeare is either not true, or just not relevant.
In This Is Shakespeare, Emma Smith—an intellectually, theatrically, and ethically exciting writer—takes us into a world of politicking and copycatting, as we watch Shakespeare emulating the blockbusters of Christopher Marlowe and Thomas Kyd (the Spielberg and Tarantino of their day), flirting with and skirting around the cutthroat issues of succession politics, religious upheaval, and technological change. Smith writes in strikingly modern ways about individual agency, privacy, politics, celebrity, and sex. Instead of offering the answers, the Shakespeare she reveals poses awkward questions, always inviting the reader to ponder ambiguities.
About the Author
EMMA SMITH is professor of Shakespeare Studies at Oxford University. She has published widely on Shakespeare and other early dramatists. She lives in Oxford, England.
Advance Praise from the U.K.:
“I admire the freshness and attack of her writing, the passion and curiosity that light up the page.”
—Hilary Mantel, author of Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies
“If I were asked to recommend one guide for readers keen on discovering what’s at stake in Shakespeare's plays, This Is Shakespeare would be it.”
—James Shapiro, author of The Year of Lear: Shakespeare in 1606
“Brilliantly illuminating . . . The best introduction to Shakespeare’s plays that I’ve read, perhaps the best book on Shakespeare, full stop. Emma Smith’s voice is disarmingly frank, refreshingly irreverent, full of pop culture . . . Her reading of the plays is dazzling, her original research totally convincing.”
—Alex Preston, The Observer (London)
“Thought-provoking . . . Anyone who doesn’t understand what all the fuss is about should read This Is Shakespeare. Smith—who is no enemy of fun: her book fizzes with jokes—is celebrating a Shakespeare who talks to the present. She does it all with such a light touch you barely notice how much you’re learning.”
—Colin Burrow, The Guardian (London)
“Smith is perhaps the preeminent Shakespeare communicator working today. This Is Shakespeare cuts through the accumulated crust of ‘schoolroom platitudes,’ cant, and literary piety in order to dust Shakespeare off and see him as he is, was, and might be.”
—Tim Smith-Laing, The Daily Telegraph (London)
“I like this book very much. It explains accessibly, with learning lightly worn, why Shakespeare retains such a hold in our culture. Smith has done an exemplary job of restoring the greatest of English writers to his own time, and explaining why he then speaks to ours . . . An invigorating examination of the pre-eminence of the most revered figure of English letters.”
“Quirky, brilliant . . . what’s most bracing about Smith’s book is the way she sees the plays as almost organic: not only contradictory but alive”
“Intriguing . . . Smith argues that the defining characteristic of Shakespeare’s plays is their ‘permissive gappiness.’ This must also surely be the first book on Shakespeare to use the slang term ‘woke.’”