What the Editors Are Reading

I’m enmeshed in reading all of Shakespeare, using the The New Oxford Shakespeare: Modern Critical Edition (Oxford University Press, 2016). Within 3,180 pages, it contains all the Bard’s writing in chronological order, from The Two Gentlemen of Verona to The Two Noble Kinsmen, and everything in between, including his sonnets.

This edition has a splendid general introduction, but in a daring move by the editors, no introduction to the individual plays. It instead gives brief assessments of each play by past and contemporary critics, which remarkably, brilliantly, and often pungently put the plays in perfect context.

This book makes clear precisely how and why Shakespeare was the greatest master of the English language. Yet he was also master of something more than language. The great, bloviating Yale Shakespearean, Harold Bloom, had a point when he credited Shakespeare with “the invention of the human.”

Moreover, nobody understood politics as well as Shakespeare did, as is clear from his Julius Caesar, Macbeth, and the multiple Henry plays.

Nor has anyone penetrated the secrets of the human heart as ably, as anyone who reads Love’s Labour’s Lost, As You Like It, Hamlet, or Romeo and Juliet will appreciate.

More delightfully, nobody does human weirdness as well as Shakespeare,...

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