Shakespeare on Page and Stage: Selected Essays by Stanely Wells





-Interesting essays

-Brought up some things that I hadn’t thought about



-It wasn’t around last year or any of my uni years

– Most of the essays just rehashing others’ works

-My edition wouldn’t let me read numbers (not the books fault though)

This is one of those few non-fiction books that I’ve read this year and I have to say, overall, it was ok.

It’s about Shakespeare’s plays … the poems are brought up a bit as well … with a focus on stage performances and staging and separated into three parts:

  • ‘Essays on Particular Works’ which is self explanatory
  • ‘Shakespeare in Theatre’ which looks at the staging of the plays like the use of boys playing girls, ghosts and dreams etc.
  • ‘Shakespeare’s Text’. This focuses on the words and the versions of the plays i.e. Folio and quarto versions.


The First part of the book I found just ok. It didn’t really give any new information or insights into the plays, just rehashed what other people have said. They felt a bit longer than they needed to be … could have been condensed a bit… but it acts as a good introduction to the plays … and sonnets… mentioned. I would say it’s would have been good to use when I was doing my A-levels rather than my degree.

Just one little note that … not quite annoyed but nearly there. The essay that talks about King Lear doesn’t – or I didn’t see if it did- reference if he used the folio or quarto version of the play. It may seem small but the two version have a different feel to each other, which is talked about in another essay, and it would have been good to know.


‘Shakespeare in Theatre’ I found the strongest part of the book and definitely would have been useful when I was in uni. The discussion on whether boys would have plays older female characters as well as the young girls was interesting, and not something that I had even thought about. I did have a good idea on the staging of ghosts in Shakespeare’s plays but I enjoyed reading all the evidence for the different ways it could happen.


The last section of the book was just okay again. I liked the essay on money and the bits on the difference between folio and quarto versions of the plays but TBH I just found myself skimming the rest of them. Admittedly that could have been that they weren’t topics I was interested in.


All in all, a good introduction to Shakespeare criticism. I would say it say it is a bit basic at times, mainly the first section but it is interesting. It’s strongest when talking about staging and talks about a range of topics. It’s definitely useful if you’re studying Shakespeare … or just interested in essays I guess … and worth a read.


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