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Happy Birthday Shakespeare

by Melita Ferguson 18th April 2019

Happy 455th birthday to the Bard! Here's a Red Globe Press reading list to mark the occasion

23 April is traditionally celebrated as William Shakespeare’s birthday. While we do not know Shakespeare’s exact date of birth for certain, baptismal records suggest that he was born around April 1564. To celebrate, we bring you a selection of some of Shakespeare’s most-loved plays plus titles that explore Shakespearean criticism and how directors bring the scripts to the stage.
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Edited by Jonathan Bate and Eric Rasmussen

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

Can you trust your own senses? How about the loyalty of your friends? With its famous soliloquies, Hamlet analyses these questions. Featuring themes of revenge and resolution, this play takes audiences along the path into madness of a man who is born to a high station yet feels confined by the world he inhabits.

macbeth-9780230576193 Buy this book


Edited by Jonathan Bate and Eric Rasmussen

“Double, double, toil and trouble: Fire burn and cauldron bubble.”

Macbeth examines how dreams become nightmares. Strange phenomena that upset the natural order abound with the sun failing to rise one morning and ghosts appearing. Jacobean rather than Elizabethan, Macbeth tackles concerns of James I such as witchcraft, high treason, royal succession, the monarch’s sacred powers and relations between Scotland and England.

romeo-juliet-9780230232082 Buy this book

Romeo & Juliet

Edited by Jonathan Bate and Eric Rasmussen

“But, soft, what light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.”

Shakespeare’s sorrowful story of young love and infatuation is known the world over. Events kick off when a long-standing feud between the Montagues and the Capulets flares up into a brawl. Through a course of violence, secret plans and emotional isolation, Romeo and Juliet progresses towards its tragic end.

midsummer-nights-dream-9780230217881 Buy this book

A Midsummer Night's Dream

Edited by Jonathan Bate and Eric Rasmussen

“To say the truth, reason and love keep little company together nowadays.”

A Midsummer Night’s Dream shows off Shakespeare’s skills a poet of double vision. People and events are often not as they seem. The forest is a place of confused identity and there is even a play-within-a-play. Blurring ideas of fantasy and reality, this play brings audiences on a journey through the magical and the mysterious.

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The Tempest

Edited by Jonathan Bate and Eric Rasmussen

“Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows.”

Regarded as the benchmark of Shakespearean interpretation, The Tempest interrogates questions of power and rule. It sets up oppositions before shading black and white into grey areas of moral complexity. Filled with magic, this play is packed with imagery of gods and monsters.

richard-iii-9780230221109 Buy this book

Richard III

Edited by Jonathan Bate and Eric Rasmussen

“A horse! a horse! my kingdom for a horse!”

Historians still debate how much of a villain Richard III really was. What is certain is that it was convenient for the Tudors to paint him as one to make Henry VII a saint. This play’s enduring image of a wicked Richard III testifies the power of drama to overpower written history.

henry-v-9780230243828 Buy this book

Henry V

Edited by Jonathan Bate and Eric Rasmussen

“Every subject’s duty is the king’s, but every subject’s soul is his own.”

Is there nothing like an overseas military campaign to unite a divided nation? Henry V explores war as a matter of political pragmatism rather than high principle. Speaking to perennial problems like tyranny and aggressive nationalism, Shakespeare addresses big political issues rather than local circumstances.

reading-shakespeare-michael-alexander-9781352004366 Buy this book

Reading Shakespeare

By Michael Alexander

Take tour of Shakespeare’s life and writing career with this concise guide! Examining the Sonnets and twenty widely-studied plays, this book focuses on the fun of reading Shakespeare. It explores Shakespeare’s work in its original context plus its later reception.

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Shakespeare - As You Like It

By Dana E. Aspinall

This book comprehensively surveys key criticism surrounding one of Shakespeare’s most engaging comedies, As You Like It. Journeying from the earliest appraisals to today’s scholarship, this guide assesses major critical issues. It encompasses questions love, gender, marriage, the genre of comedy, adaptation of sources and interrogations of power.

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Shakespeare and Directing in Practice

By Kevin Ewert

When directors approach Shakespeare, is the play really always the thing? How can directing create fresh contexts for Shakespeare’s work? This engaging book explores these questions and more. It introduces current practices of directing Shakespeare from the conventional to the experimental.

shakespeares-roman-plays-paul-innes-9781137025913 Buy this book

Shakespeare's Roman Plays

By Paul Innes

From Julius Caesar to Cymbeline, Rome is a recurrent theme in Shakespeare’s work. This book analyses themes of politics and national identity over his career through the common theme of Rome. Focusing on Shakespeare’s interpretation of Rome, this book examines how Shakespeare presented Rome to his contemporary audiences.

Featured image credit: Crop of John Taylor's 'Chandos portrait' oil painting of Shakespeare, 1610. Currently hangs in the British National Portrait Gallery. Available in the Public Domain on Wikimedia Commons.