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.