An electrifying new study that investigates the challenges of the Bard’s inconsistencies and flaws, and focuses on revealing—not resolving—the ambiguities of the plays and their changing topicality Was Shakespeare a timeless prophet, a verbal innovator, a technical genius, a man who encapsulated the human condition as no one else has? Well, sort of. But, according to Emma Smith, so much of what we are taught about Shakespeare is either not exactly true, or not important. She argues that it is precisely the Bard’s inconsistencies and ambiguities that fuel his enduring relevance and power. Smith brings us into the world Shakespeare inhabited as he emulated his blockbuster rivals and flirted with dangerous issues of succession politics, religious upheaval, and technological change. Time and again Shakespeare poses awkward questions rather than offering simple answers, always implicating us in working out their significance. Smith writes in strikingly modern ways about individual agency, privacy, politics, celebrity, and sex. She pulls the Bard down off his high pedestal and into the messy scuffle for meaning where he actually lived and where his words are still vibrant and vital for us now.
About the Author
EMMA SMITH is professor of Shakespeare Studies at Oxford University. She has published widely on Shakespeare and other early dramatists. She lives in Oxford, England.
“Brilliantly illuminating. . . . Perhaps the best book on Shakespeare, full stop. . . . Emma Smith’s voice is disarmingly frank, refreshingly irreverent, full of pop culture . . . Her reading of the plays is dazzling, her original research totally convincing.” —The Observer
“Anyone who doesn’t understand what all the fuss is about should read This Is Shakespeare. Smith—who is no enemy of fun: her book fizzes with jokes—is celebrating a Shakespeare who talks to the present. She does it all with such a light touch you barely notice how much you’re learning.” —The Guardian
“Cuts through the accumulated crust of ‘schoolroom platitudes,’ cant, and literary piety in order to dust Shakespeare off and see him as he is, was, and might be.” —The Daily Telegraph (London)
“Quirky, brilliant. . . . [Smith] sees the plays as almost organic: not only contradictory but alive.” —Spectator
“An exemplary job of restoring the greatest of English writers to his own time, and explaining why he then speaks to ours. . . . An invigorating examination.” —The Times (London)
“Intriguing . . . Smith argues that the defining characteristic of Shakespeare’s plays is their ‘permissive gappiness.’ This must also surely be the first book on Shakespeare to use the slang term ‘woke.’” —Evening Standard (London)
“I admire the freshness and attack of her writing, the passion and curiosity that light up the page.” —Hilary Mantel, author of Wolf Hall
“If I were asked to recommend one guide for readers keen on discovering what’s at stake in Shakespeare's plays, This Is Shakespeare would be it.” —James Shapiro, author of The Year of Lear: Shakespeare in 1606