An introductory critical study for first year undergraduates which bridges the gap between A Level and university study. The book offers an accessible overview of key critical perspectives, early modern contexts, and methods of close reading, as well as screen and stage performances spanning several decades. Organised around the discussion of fourteen major plays, it introduces readers to the diverse theoretical approaches typical of today's English studies. This is a go-to resource that can be consulted thematically or by individual play or genre.
Critical approaches can overwhelm students who are daunted by the quantity and complexity of current scholarship; Bickley and Stevens are experienced teachers at both A and university level and are thus uniquely qualified to show how a mix of critical ideas can be used to inform ways of thinking about a play.
'The particular strength of Pamela Bickley and Jenny Stevens' thorough guide to the study of Shakespeare's plays is its targeting. Their discussion of each of fourteen of the plays is framed via the introduction of a theoretical method and an exploration of Shakespeare's language, thus offering a critical tool-kit aimed squarely and effectively at undergraduates and ambitious sixthformers . . . Bickley and Stevens know their audience and address it clearly and unpatronisingly. Everyone who wants, or is just beginning, to study English literature at university would benefit from this book.' Around the Globe
'[T]his engaging volume successfully explains the most important concepts related to the playwright's use of language through a number of critical perspectives ...The Essential Shakespeare is a well-balanced synthesis where each chapter provides a real wealth of information about the playwright. More importantly, it offers a highly readable overview of Shakespeare's main plays for those already acquainted with the playwright's language ... [I]t certainly deserves to be given a special place on academic bookshelves.' Cercles