Studies of the theaters are in C. Walter Hodges, The Globe Restored: A Study of the Elizabethan Theatre (1953), and A.M. Nagler, Shakespeare's Stage (1958); and of the staging, in Bernard Beckerman, Shakespeare at the Globe, 1599-1609 (1962). The standard account of the audience is Alfred Harbage, Shakespeare's Audience (1941). The best account of early Renaissance drama is in Frank P. Wilson and Bonamy Dobrée, eds., Oxford History of English Literature, vol. 4 (1969). Oscar J. Campbell and Edward G. Quinn, eds., The Reader's Encyclopedia of Shakespeare (1966), is a compendious handbook. □
Some Shakespearean Themes and An Approach to 'Hamlet' | L
The body of Shakespeare criticism is so large that selection must be arbitrary. Augustus Ralli, A History of Shakespeare Criticism (2 vols., 1932), is a guide through the thickets of the past. Ronald Berman, A Reader's Guide to Shakespeare's Plays (1965), provides helpfully annotated bibliographies. Samuel Taylor Coleridge's Writings on Shakespeare, edited by Terence Hawkes (1959), offers invaluable and influential criticism by a great romantic poet, and A. C. Bradley, Shakespearean Tragedy: Lectures on Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth (1904), remains one of the indispensable books. Twentieth-century criticism can be sampled in Leonard F. Dean, Shakespeare: Modern Essays in Criticism (1957; rev. ed. 1967), and Norman Rabkin, Approaches to Shakespeare (1964). Other noteworthy studies include G. Wilson Knight, The Wheel of Fire: Interpretations of Shakespeare's Tragedy (1930; 5th rev. ed. 1957); Derek A. Traversi, An Approach to Shakespeare (1938; rev. ed., 2 vols., 1968); Mark Van Doren, Shakespeare (1939); Harley Granville-Barker, Prefaces to Shakespeare (1946-1947), edited by M. St. Clare Byrne (4 vols., 1954); John Russell Brown, Shakespeare and His Comedies (1957; 2d ed. 1962); C. L. Barber, Shakespeare's Festive Comedy: A Study of Dramatic Form and Its Relation to Social Custom (1959); L.C. Knights, Some Shakespearean Themes (1959); Norman Rabkin, Shakespeare and the Common Understanding (1967); and Stephen Booth, An Essay on Shakespeare's Sonnets (1969).
Oil Paintings on Shakespearean Themes by Hannah Tompkins
A final group of plays takes a turn in a new direction. Commonly called the "romances," Pericles (1607), Cymbeline (1609), The Winter's Tale (1611), and The Tempest (1611) share their conventions with the tragicomedy that had been growing popular since the early years of the century. Particularly they resemble in some respects plays written by Beaumont and Fletcher for the private theatrical company whose operation the King's Men took over in 1608. While such work in the hands of others, however, tended to reflect the socially and intellectually narrow interests of an elite audience, Shakespeare turned the fashionable mode into a new kind of personal art form. Though less searing than the great tragedies, these plays have a unique power to move and are in the realm of the highest art. Pericles and Cymbeline seem somewhat tentative and experimental, though both are superb plays. The Winter's Tale, however, is one of Shakespeare's best plays. Like a rewriting of Othello in its first acts, it turns miraculously into pastoral comedy in its last. The Tempest is the most popular and perhaps the finest of the group. Prospero, shipwrecked on an island and dominating it with magic which he renounces at the end, may well be intended as an image of Shakespeare himself; in any event, the play is like a retrospective glance over the plays of the 2 previous decades.
Shakespearean Themes | Less is Maur