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This Is Shakespeare : How to Read the World’s Greatest Playwright

Smith, Emma
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd (Pelican)
Published: March 30, 2020
ISBN: 9780241361634
368 pages

£9.99

THE TIMES BOOK OF THE YEAR 2019

‘The best introduction to the plays I’ve read, perhaps the best book on Shakespeare, full stop’ Alex Preston, Observer

‘It makes you impatient to see or re-read the plays at once’ Hilary Mantel

A genius and prophet whose timeless works encapsulate the human condition like no others. A writer who surpassed his contemporaries in vision, originality and literary mastery. Who wrote like an angel, putting it all so much better than anyone else.
Is this Shakespeare? Well, sort of.

But it doesn’t really tell us the whole truth. So much of what we say about Shakespeare is either not true, or just not relevant, deflecting us from investigating the challenges of his inconsistencies and flaws. This electrifying new book thrives on revealing, not resolving, the ambiguities of Shakespeare’s plays and their changing topicality. It introduces an intellectually, theatrically and ethically exciting writer who engages with intersectionality as much as with Ovid, with economics as much as poetry: who writes in strikingly modern ways about individual agency, privacy, politics, celebrity and sex. It takes us into a world of politicking and copy-catting, as we watch him emulating the blockbusters of Christopher Marlowe and Thomas Kyd, the Spielberg and Tarantino of their day; flirting with and skirting round the cut-throat issues of succession politics, religious upheaval and technological change. The Shakespeare in this book poses awkward questions rather than offering bland answers, always implicating us in working out what it might mean.

This is Shakespeare. And he needs your attention.

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