The Arden Shakespeare Third Series

Plays

Much Ado About Nothing (Arden Shakespeare Third Series)

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Much Ado About Nothing, probably composed in 1598-9 and first appearing in quarto in 1600, is a play of two pairs of lovers: the meek Hero and the impressionable Claudio, and the acerbic Beatrice and chauvinistic Benedick.

After Claudio is told by the troublesome Don John that Hero is unfaithful, he humiliates her on her wedding day. Hero faints and is presumed dead. The repentant Claudio agrees to marry whoever Hero’s father chooses for him: he prepares to marry a veiled bride, who, at the last minute, is revealed to be the still-living Hero. Meanwhile, friends trick old sparring partners Beatrice and Benedick into admitting their love for one another, by means of forged letters and overheard conversations.

Much Ado is one of Shakespeare’s best-loved and most frequently performed comedies. Having its sources in Italianate literature of the preceding centuries, scholars have argued that Shakespeare’s play takes on an expanded psychological scope from the usual tales of mistaken cuckoldry and bawdy flirtation. While earlier writing on the play was exuberant in its delight in Beatrice and Benedick’s ‘merry war’, recent criticism has concentrated just as much on the Hero and Claudio plot, and in particular on the gender conventions that the play propagates. Hero becomes the silent woman, veiled and playing dead, whose worth is lost along with the notion of her chastity to the patriarchal world the play inhabits. Beatrice, on the other hand, becomes the embodiment of the period’s stereotype of the shrew, the overly talkative woman, who must be dealt with by the clichéd banter of the misogynistic Benedick.The play’s performance history has thus been of note more for its portrayals of Beatrice and Benedick than those of Hero and Claudio. A nineteenth-century trend to sentimentalize Beatrice as one who is struck by her own sudden longing gave way, in the twentieth century, to spunkier Beatrices unashamed of their wilful tongues.

Othello (Arden Shakespeare Third Series)

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Quite apart from the brilliance of its language and characters, Othello is remarkable amongst other early modern plays for its inversion of traditional, racially-defined roles in tragedy – the black man, Othello, becomes the hero, whereas the white man, Iago, is the obvious villain. Although ‘black’ characters were common on the Elizabethan and Jacobean stage, a black hero was unique.

More recent criticism has also expanded this discussion by considering Othello’s identity not just as a Moor, but as a Muslim. In doing so, it allows modern readers to examine the larger question of ‘otherness’ in relation to race, religion, and culture. Othello is now studied as part of a wider tradition of ‘Turk plays’, which also include Philip Massinger’s The Renegado and Christopher Marlowe’s Tamburlaine. This critical lens allows scholars to expand their understanding of the relationships between early modern European countries and the Ottoman Empire.

Despite the tendency of modern audiences to focus on the racial element, however, Othello is only partially about race. It is also a deeply moving and tragic depictions of the consequences of passion and the effects of jealousy. The insidious Iago has become the archetypal agent provocateur, and the shocking final scene is one of Shakespeare’s greatest.

The Arden edition prefers to date the play to late 1601-1602, (it is traditionally dated to 1603–4). Two early texts of Othello survive – a Quarto from 1622 and the text in the First Folio of 1623. This edition preferences the Quarto text, but in instances of textual cruxes, the editor has produced a carefully thought-out meditation between the two texts.

Pericles, Prince of Tyre

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Pericles is classed as a ‘late play’ and a ‘romance’, filled sequentially with archetypal episodes of riddles, storms, supernatural intervention and long-lost children, and illuminated by flashes of the hero’s psychology. Thought to have been composed in 1607-8, Pericles first appears in a ‘bad quarto’ of 1609, a badly damaged text that was not included in the First Folio of 1623. In 1664, it appeared in the Third Folio as one of seven apocryphal ‘Shakespeare’ plays ‘never before Printed in Folio’, though it is the only one of these plays to have been accepted into the Shakespearean canon. Based on the tale of Appollonius in the medieval poet John Gower’s narrative poem Confessio Amantis (1393), it is now generally accepted that Shakespeare collaborated on the play with the pamphleteer, inn-keeper and possible bawd George Wilkins, who, in 1608, published a prose reworking of the play, The Painful Adventures of Pericles.

The action of the play is introduced by the poet Gower, who acts like a chorus throughout. He explains how King Antiochus had an incestuous affair with his daughter, and demanded that her suitors answer a riddle to gain her hand. Pericles solves the riddle, which suggests incest, and flees the city in fear of his life – first to his home city of Tyre, then to Tarsus. There he relieves the city from famine, to the joy of the governor Cleon and his wife Dionyza.

Pericles is pursued by Antiochus’ servant Thaliart, so he leaves Tarsus. He is shipwrecked and rescued by fishermen in Pentapolis, who escort him to the court of King Simonides. He wins a tournament and the hand of the princess Thaisa.

Pericles and Thaisa set off for Tyre, but during a storm Thaisa appears to die in childbirth, and her body is thrown overboard. Pericles leaves his newborn daughter Marina with Cleon and Dionyza. Thaisa is washed ashore at Ephesus, where she is revived by Cerimon.

Fourteen years later, Marina is kidnapped by pirates just before Dionyza has her murdered. Marina is sold into prostitution at Mytilene, but she is determinedly chaste. A grief-stricken Pericles, having heard that Marina is dead, arrives at Mytilene, and the governor Lysimachus brings Marina aboard his ship. Father and daughter are reunited. The goddess Diana tells Pericles to go to Ephesus where he finds Thaisa.

Although apparently popular from its first performance to the late seventeenth century, Pericles has been relatively underperformed ever since, perhaps due to the difficulties of its trans-Mediterranean structure. Conversely, the play has been subject to trends in feminist, spatial and perhaps most significantly, psychoanalytic and criticism: the latter reads the play as part of the ‘late play’ dynamic of familial violation, loss, recovery and wish-fulfilment. The play’s ending has been read, alongside other ‘late plays’ such as The Winter’s Tale and The Tempest, a Christianized redemption.

Romeo and Juliet (Arden Shakespeare Third Series)

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Unsurpassed and unforgettable, Shakespeare’s tragedy about star-crossed lovers is one of his most frequently performed plays. On first read, Romeo and Juliet is particularly interesting in its subversion of comedic plot devices for tragic ends. Recent criticism has also focused on issues of gender roles and sexuality within the play. Its most enduring features, however, are the brilliance of its incandescent language, and its hauntingly familiar depiction of young love.

The prologue sets out the scheme of the tragedy: in the city of Verona live two families locked in an ancient feud, the Montagues and the Capulets. Juliet, a daughter of the Capulets, is engaged to marry Paris, while Romeo, a Montague, is mooning over his own unrequited love affair. The instant their eyes meet at a party, however, both of their lives are forever changed.

The play is also distinguished by the excellence of its supporting characters. Juliet’s Nurse is an outstanding comedic character whose dialogue is rife with puns and sexual innuendo. Romeo’s friend Mercutio delivers the famous ‘Queen Mab’ speech, and ultimately dies in a spectacular duel sequence.

Romeo and Juliet was first performed at the Curtain in 1596-7. The First Quarto was printed in 1597, and the longer Second Quarto in 1599. This was reprinted in 1609, and followed by the Fourth Quarto in 1622, which was the basis for the Folio text. This text is based on the Second Quarto.

The Taming of the Shrew (Arden Shakespeare Third Series)

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

The story of a ‘shrewish’ woman who is roughly courted and subjugated by her husband cannot fail to be controversial, and often disturbing. The Taming of the Shrew has been considered a portrait of the trials of marriage, a love story, a historical treatise on the treatment of women, a sexist polemic, and an exuberant farce - the perceived balance between misogyny and sympathy changing with every production and interpretation. The text is further complicated by its stress on fiction and performance.

The likely period of composition is between 1590-1594. This text is based on the 1623 First Folio text, as the 1594 quarto of an anonymous play entitled The Taming of a Shrew is here considered related but independent.

The drunken Christopher Sly is thrown out of a pub and falls asleep, and a Lord decides to play a trick on him. The Lord’s servants dupe Sly into believing that he is a rich Lord. A group of players act ‘a kind of history’ for him, and the story of Christopher sly becomes a ‘frame narrative’ for their performance.

The play-within-a-play begins with the arrival of Lucentio and his servant Tranio in Padua. Lucentio hopes to court the beautiful Bianca, as do Hortensio and Gremio, but Bianca’s father will not allow her to marry until her sharp-tongued older sister Katherina is married. Both Lucentio and Hortensio disguise themselves as tutors in order to woo Bianca in private, while Tranio takes the place of his master Lucentio.

Petruccio is also newly arrived in Padua and, hearing about Katherina’s wealth, decides that he will marry her. Their combative first meeting ends in Petruccio announcing their engagement. He turns up to their wedding late and ludicrously attired, and whisks Kate away to his house. There he deprives her of food and sleep in order to tame her.

After having the true identities of Hortensio and Lucentio revealed to her, Bianca choses Lucentio. So that they can be married, Tranio tricks a Merchant into pretending he is Vincentio, Lucentio’s father. The plan works for long enough for Bianca and Lucentio to marry; it is spoiled by the appearance of the real Vincentio, but Lucentio confesses and all is settled. At a banquet that evening, Petruccio reveals the newly obedient Katherina.

The Tempest (Arden Shakespeare Third Series)

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

The Tempest has long been regarded as Shakespeare’s swan-song. Critical readers from Coleridge onward have interpreted Prospero’s epilogue, ending ‘Let your indulgence set me free’, as Shakespeare’s own farewell to the stage; however, this interpretation has since been queried by more recent chronologies that suggest the playwright went on to compose Henry VIII and The Two Noble Kinsmen after The Tempest.

In its first publication (in the First Folio of 1623), The Tempest appears in the ‘Comedies’ section. In modern criticism, it is more likely to see The Tempest described as a ‘late play’ (written towards the end of what we perceive to be Shakespeare’s writing career, c. 1607-13) or a ‘romance’ – a group of plays set in an unspecified time and/or place, whose loose plots revolve round familial reunion and fantastical happenings.

Prospero, a magus and the usurped Duke of Milan, and his spirit-servant Ariel, conjure a storm that casts Prospero’s treacherous brother (the current Duke of Milan), the King of Naples and their courtiers onto an unnamed island. The king’s son, Ferdinand, now alone on the island, meets Prospero and falls in love with his daughter, Miranda. Meanwhile, Caliban, the deformed offspring of the island-witch Sycorax, encounters Naples’ jester Trinculo and butler Stephano, who desire to overthrow Prospero and become kings of the island themselves. All parties are eventually reunited, and Prospero forgives his brother and reclaims his dukedom. Miranda and Ferdinand are married, and Ariel is set free, whilst Caliban is castigated for his actions.

The first recorded performance of the play is in November 1611 before King James I at Whitehall. A year previously, in 1610, word had reached England of the shipwreck of an exploratory vessel, the Sea Venture, in the Bermudas. One survivor, William Strachey, wrote a lengthy letter home narrating their encounter of the ‘dreaded I[s]land . . . given over to Devils and wicked Spirits’. His account has been seen as a major influence of The Tempest, along with the essay ‘Of the Caniballes’ by sixteenth-century French humanist Michel de Montaigne, whose Essais (translated into English by John Florio in 1603) have been perceived as a significant influence upon Shakespeare’s Jacobean oeuvre.

The play’s dramatic opening (with the stage direction ‘A tempestuous noise of thunder and lightning heard’), its abundance of music and its lavish masque suggest that The Tempest was written for the indoor theatre at Blackfriars, which Shakespeare’s company, the King’s Men, had taken over in 1608. Unlike the ‘wooden O’ of outdoor amphitheatre venues such as the Globe on Bankside, Blackfriars offered a much darker, more intimate space, suited not to the large battles of Elizabethan plays such as we see in the Henriad, but to the psychological drama and fantastical set-pieces of ‘romances’ such as The Winter’s Tale.

The trajectory of responses to The Tempest has moved from a Restoration emphasis of the centrality of the patriarchy, to Romantic enthusiasm for the individual creative genius represented by Prospero, to post-colonial readings of the enslaved native Caliban, to feminist re-appropriations of the play’s only living female character, Miranda.

Timon of Athens

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Timon of Athens combines de casibus tragedy and urban satire, and ends in fury and bitter pathos. This probable collaboration between Thomas Middleton and Shakespeare produces a virulent and allegorical critique of the barrenness of economic relations, mocking greed and social pretension with a corrosive irony. First appearing in the ‘Tragedies’ section of the 1623 Folio, it is thought that the play was originally composed around 1606-7.

The brief story of Timon appears in one of Shakespeare’s most frequently used sources, Plutarch’s Lives (translated into English by Thomas North in 1579), in the ‘Life of Antony’, Shakespeare’s principal source for Antony and Cleopatra. It is unknown whether the anonymous Inns of Court revel Timon, based on Lucian’s dialogue on ‘Timon the Misanthrope’ (whose Latin translation by Erasmus was widely used as a school text in early modern England) pre- or post-dated Shakespeare and Middleton’s work. The play’s focus on the destructiveness of economic relations in fifth century Athens simultaneously explores the burgeoning world of transaction, credit and debt in the nascent capitalist society of early modern London; the play’s key themes of money and alienation have ensured that the play has interested Marxist and psychoanalytic criticism throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

Timon is the most generous man in the city of Athens, handing out expensive gifts and loans to all who befriend and flatter him. He gives a banquet for the Athenian lords, as well as the cynic Apemantus, who mocks Timon and his fawning companions, and Alcibiades, a military captain.

Timon’s steward Flavius is beset by Timon’s creditors, who are calling in the many loans he has taken out; Timon has been spending far beyond his means, despite Flavius’ warnings. Timon sends to Lucius, Lucullus and Sempronius, but all of them refuse to lend him money, finding various excuses. Timon invites his ‘friends’ to a second banquet, but serves only lukewarm water, and accuses them. He leaves the city in disgust. Alcibiades begs the Senators for mercy for a fellow soldier who is condemned to death; they refuse to revoke the sentence and banish Alcibiades.

In the woods outside Athens, Timon digs in the ground for food and discovers a cache of gold. He gives some away to Alcibiades, who is going to attack Athens, to the whores Timandra and Phrynia, and to some thieves. Apemantus and then Flavius find him in the woods. Having heard the rumour of his wealth, the Poet and the Painter, and then the Senators hoping for help against Alcibiades, seek out Timon, but he drives them away.

A soldier in the woods finds Timon’s tomb. The senator’s surrender to Alcibiades, who promises justice.

There is no record of a performance of Timon contemporary to its authors, and its loose ends and unrefined structure may suggest that it never appeared on the early modern stage. A series of adaptations operatized the tragic pathos of Timon’s situation in the later seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, until George Lamb restored much of the original play in the early 1800s. The twentieth century’s onstage response to Timon was manifold: it has, in different decades, been performed as theatre of the absurd, as a response to various banking crises, and as an apocalyptic nightmare.

Titus Andronicus (Arden Shakespeare Third Series)

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Dismemberment, rape, cannibalism and murder make Titus Andronicus Shakespeare’s bloodiest tragedy. The boundless grief and savage justice of Titus explores the expression of tragic passion, the Senecan tradition, Roman history and government, the body and structures of interpretation.

This text is based on the 1594 First Quarto, with corrections from the 1600 Second Quarto and the addition of III.ii from the 1623 First Folio. It has been suggested that the first act shows signs of the involvement of George Peele, whose work Shakespeare may have revised.

Titus returns to Rome from war against the Goths, in which two of his sons have died. He has captured Tamora, Queen of the Goths, and her three sons Alarbus, Chiron and Demetrius, as well as her servant and lover Aaron the Moor. Titus gives Alarbus up for sacrifice. Titus suggests Saturninus for emperor. Saturninus offers to marry Titus’ daughter Lavinia, but her fiancé Bassianus (Saturninus’ brother) claims her. There is a struggle, and Titus kills one of his sons for assisting Bassianus. Saturninus marries Tamora instead, who privately promises to avenge her son.

Demetrius and Chiron fight over Lavinia; Aaron interrupts them and advises them on how they may rape Lavinia during the hunt the next day. Aaron and Tamora conspire to bring Lavinia and Bassianus to a pit, where Bassianus is killed by Chiron and Demetrius. Lavinia begs Tamora for mercy, but is dragged away to be raped by her sons. Aaron and Tamora frame Titus’ sons Martius and Quintus for Bassianus’ murder. They are condemned to death; Titus’ other son Lucius is banished.

Titus’ brother Marcus discovers Lavinia with her tongue cut out and her hands cut off. Aaron brings word that if Titus cuts off his hand his sons will be spared; Titus does so but his sons are executed anyway. Lavinia silently explains who raped her. Aaron flees the city with his son, the black baby that Tamora has given birth to. He meets the army of the Goths outside Rome, who are led by the banished Lucius.

Tamora visits Titus disguised as the spirit of Revenge, with her sons as Rape and Murder. Titus kills her sons and serves them to Tamora baked in a pie. Titus kills Tamora; Saturninus kills Titus; Lucius kills Saturninus and is elected emperor.

Troilus and Cressida

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

In staging the famous story of the Trojan war and the doomed relationship of Troilus and Cressida, Shakespeare stages the demystification of the classical heroes and the deflation of their chivalric ideals. The play is generically indeterminable, combining history, comedy and tragedy into a sceptical analysis of war-politics, potent sexuality and disillusionment.

Troilus and Cressida was written around 1601-2, in the aftermath of the abortive rising of the Earl of Essex. The play’s earliest extant text is the 1609 Quarto, whose preliminary pages exist in two states; this text is based on the 1623 First Folio, supplemented and corrected from the 1609 Quarto.

The city of Troy has been besieged by the Greek army for seven years. The Trojan prince Troilus is preoccupied by his love for Cressida; Cressida’s uncle Pandarus is assisting him. In the Greek camp outside the city walls, the commander Agamemnon complains about his army’s listlessness; Ulysses blames the renowned warrior Achilles, who spends all day in his tent with Patroclus instead of fighting. Hector sends a challenge to single combat, and Ulysses suggests choosing Achilles’ rival Ajax.

The Trojans debate whether keeping Helen (who eloped with the Trojan prince Paris from her husband the Greek Menelaus) is worth the lives that have been lost, but Troilus persuades his brother Hector that it is the honourable thing to do. Pandarus has arranged for Troilus and Cressida to meet privately, attended by himself. But Cressida’s father Calchus, who defected to the Greeks, arranges an exchange: Cressida will come to the Greek camp and the Greeks will release their Trojan prisoner Antenor.

After the lovers’ farewells, Cressida is escorted out of Troy by the Greek Diomedes. The Trojans arrive at the Greek camp for the combat between Hector and Ajax, but it is interrupted because they are cousins. Achilles swears to meet Hector in battle the next day. Having accompanied Hector, Troilus sees Cressida being familiar with Diomedes, and furiously vows to kill the Greek. In battle the next day, Troilus fights with Ajax, Patroclus is killed, and Achilles treacherously kills Hector.

Twelfth Night (Arden Shakespeare Third Series)

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Throughout the medieval and early modern periods, twelfth night celebrations were a much-anticipated part of the New Year festivities, marking the end of the Christmas period and the coming of Epiphany. The Lord of Misrule would instigate a feast that would revel in the subversion of social roles, accompanied by drinking, merriment and ‘what you will’, as this play’s subtitle suggests. Shakespeare’s play was probably written for one such celebration: its first recorded performance was at Middle Temple Hall in February 1602. It does not appear in print, however, until it is listed under the ‘Comedies’ in the First Folio of 1623. One of his last Elizabethan plays, Twelfth Night shares such tropes of Shakespearean comedy as crossdressing, mistaken identity and ambitious social climbers.

Twins Viola and Sebastian are shipwrecked upon the shores of Ilyria, separated following a storm. Viola disguises herself as a eunuch, Cesario, and becomes a trusted servant of the Duke Orsino. Orsino loves the countess Olivia, but she is in mourning for her late brother, and has rejected Orsino’s courtship several times already. Orsino sends Cesario to woo Olivia on his behalf, but Olivia falls in love with Cesario, who is in turn falling in love with Orsino.

Meanwhile, Olivia’s steward, Malvolio, is attempting to control the hijinks of the amorous Sir Andrew Aguecheek and Olivia’s drunkard uncle, Sir Toby Belch. After receiving a letter from ‘Olivia’ (actually forged by her waiting-woman, Maria), Malvolio adapts his sober appearance and stern behaviour to please the countess, who he believes is smitten with him: these drastic changes, however, lead to him being declared mad, imprisoned, and tormented by Olivia’s fool, Feste.

Viola’s twin-brother, Sebastian, re-appears with his new-found friend Antonio. On seeing him, Olivia mistakes him for Cesario, and they wed in secret. Viola reveals her true identity, and she and Orsino prepare to marry.

Literary critics and theatre-practitioners alike have returned repeatedly to Tweflth Night for its exploration of identity and acting, encapsulated in Viola’s confessional ‘I am not that I play’. It is a play abounding in disguise and doubling, the crossdressing of Viola (like the crossdressing of Rosalind in As You Like It, first performed c.1599) highlighting the ambiguities of the Elizabethan transvestite theatre, in which a boy actor was, in this instance, playing a woman playing a eunuch. Trends in modern criticism have led to a focus on the subjectivity of the female body, and to an exploration of homoeroticism both within the playtext and within the context of all-male performance of the play. The self-fashioning of upstarts such as Sir Toby Belch, the impact on self-hood of Malvolio’s ‘madness’ and the linguistic trickery of the fool, Feste have also sparked discussions of the flexibility of identity in Twelfth Night.

General Editors: Richard Proudfoot, Ann Thompson, David Scott Kastan and H.R. Woudhuysen

The Arden Shakespeare has long set the gold standard in annotated, scholarly editions of Shakespeare's plays. Each Arden edition in the Third Series offers a modernized text with comprehensive commentary notes glossing meanings, discussing staging issues and explaining literary allusions, together with a lengthy, illustrated introduction by a leading scholar exploring the play's critical, theatrical and historical contexts. The Arden editions thus offer readers an authoritative modernized text with on-screen pop up Commentary and textual notes to aid understanding, complemented by a comprehensive critical and contextual introduction.