William Shakespeare: A Very Short Introduction

ISBN : 9780198718628

Stanley Wells
144 Pages
111 x 174 mm
Pub date
Apr 2015
Very Short Introductions


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  • Written by the pre-eminent Shakespearean critic Stanley Wells
  • Examines the life and work of one of greatest playwrights in British history
  • Explores the impact and context of all Shakespeare's works
  • Looks at the importance of theatre and drama in Shakespeare's time

In this new offering from Stanley Wells, the pre-eminent Shakespearian scholar, comes a Very Short Introduction to the life and writings of the world's greatest and best-known dramatists: William Shakespeare.

Looking at his early life and education, Wells explores Shakespeare's social and intellectual background and the literary traditions on which Shakespeare drew. Examining the theatres and theatrical profession of the time, he also considers how Shakespeare experienced this world, both as an actor and as a writer. 

Examining Shakespeare's narrative poems, sonnets, and all of his plays, Wells outlines their sources, style, and originality over the course of Shakespeare's career, to consider the fundamental impact his work has had for subsequent generations. Written with enthusiasm and flair by a scholar who has devoted a lifetime to the study of Shakespeare and his works, this is an engaging and authoritative introduction. 

"Wells approaches his subject matter with refreshing clarity and potent enthusiasm ... his convivial tone is one of this volume's great strengths." - English

"an engaging and insightful guide which may inspire its readers to explore not only the author's life and works, but the wealth of contemporary Shakespearean manifestations." - English

"So all in all I enjoyed this little book very much, and it made me want to go back to the plays themselves as well as to delve into some recent secondary works. If you think you might have failed to fully appreciate Shakespeare, whether owing to bad teaching or to less than first-rate performances, this is an excellent place to start exploring the life and work of probably the most celebrated dramatist not only in Britain but also throughout the world." - Shiny New Books, Harriet Devine

"this is an excellent place to start exploring the life and work of probably the most celebrated dramatist not only in Britain but also throughout the world." - Shiny New Books


Preface: Why Shakespeare?
1: Shakespeare and Stratford-upon-Avon
2: Theatre in Shakespeare's time
3: Shakespeare in London
4: Plays of the 1590s
5: Shakespeare and comic form
6: Return to tragedy
7: The classical plays
8: Tragi-comedy
Chronology: Shakespeare's works
Further reading

About the author: 

Stanley Wells, described by Roy Hattersley as 'Our greatest authority on Shakespeare's life and work', is honorary President of The Shakespeare Birthplace, Emeritus Professor of Shakespeare Studies of the University of Birmingham, and Honorary Emeritus Governor of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. He was for nearly twenty years the editor of the annual Shakespeare Survey, and writes for the TLS and many other publications. He has edited The New Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare Studies and is General Editor (with Gary Taylor) of The Complete Oxford Shakespeare and co-author of William Shakespeare: A Textual Companion. His most recent books are Shakespeare For All Time, Looking for Sex in Shakespeare, and Shakespeare, Sex, and Love.

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