This Is Shakespeare

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What to expect

Penguin presents the audiobook edition of This Is Shakespeare, written and read by Emma Smith.

A genius and prophet whose timeless works encapsulate the human condition like no others. A writer who surpassed his contemporaries in vision, originality and literary mastery. Who wrote like an angel, putting it all so much better than anyone else.

Is this Shakespeare? Well, sort of.

But it doesn’t really tell us the whole truth. So much of what we say about Shakespeare is either not true, or just not relevant, deflecting us from investigating the challenges of his inconsistencies and flaws. This electrifying new book thrives on revealing, not resolving, the ambiguities of Shakespeare’s plays and their changing topicality. It introduces an intellectually, theatrically and ethically exciting writer who engages with intersectionality as much as with Ovid, with economics as much as poetry: who writes in strikingly modern ways about individual agency, privacy, politics, celebrity and sex. It takes us into a world of politicking and copy-catting, as we watch him emulating the blockbusters of Christopher Marlowe and Thomas Kyd, the Spielberg and Tarantino of their day; flirting with and skirting round the cut-throat issues of succession politics, religious upheaval and technological change. The Shakespeare in this book poses awkward questions rather than offering bland answers, always implicating us in working out what it might mean.

This is Shakespeare. And he needs your attention.

Critics Review

  • The best introduction to the plays I’ve read, perhaps the best book on Shakespeare, full stop. This is a model of unpretentious, deeply researched, profoundly approachable criticism. It’s a book to give to anyone who loves Shakespeare, but particularly to those who think they don’t … What This Is Shakespeare gives the reader most of all, though, is a licence to enjoy the plays without the cultural and historical baggage they so often carry

    Observer
  • The question that hangs over every new book on Shakespeare is, “Why read this one?” The short answer is, because it is very good indeed. There is no shortage of eminent Shakespeare scholars, and in her role as professor of Shakespeare studies at Oxford, Smith certainly ranks among them; but more importantly for a book like this, she is perhaps the pre-eminent Shakespeare communicator working today This is Shakespeare 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

    Daily Telegraph
  • I like this book very much. It explains accessibly, with learning lightly worn, why Shakespeare retains such a hold in our culture. Smith has done 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 of the pre-eminence of the most revered figure of English letters

    The Times
  • Quirky, brilliant … what’s most bracing about Smith’s book is the way she sees the plays as almost organic: not only contradictory but alive

    Spectator
  • This is Shakespeare wears its learning very lightly, although there are clear signs of that learning in every chapter … Sane, sensible and suitably woke … original and provocative analysis

    Times Higher Education
  • Thought-provoking, fizzing with jokes … Smith 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 … Anyone who doesn’t understand what the fuss is all about should read This Is Shakespeare

    Guardian

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