The Definitive Shakespeare Companion

Overviews, Documents, and Analysis

by Joseph Rosenblum, Editor


To fully appreciate Shakespeare's artistry, readers need a resource that provides perspective into the details of his works, such as the characters, use of literary devices, structure, and themes and meanings.

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Cover image for The Definitive Shakespeare Companion

June 2017


Pages 1987
Volumes 4
Size 8 1/2x11
Topics The Arts/Drama
  World History/General

This expansive four-volume work gives students detailed explanations of Shakespeare's plays and poems and also covers his age, life, theater, texts, and language. Numerous excerpts from primary source historical documents contextualize his works, while reviews of productions chronicle his performance history and reception.

Shakespeare's works often served to convey simple truths, but they are also complex, multilayered masterpieces. Shakespeare drew on varied sources to create his plays, and while the plays are sometimes set in worlds before the Elizabethan age, they nonetheless parallel and comment on situations in his own era. Written with the needs of students in mind, this four-volume set demystifies Shakespeare for today's readers and provides the necessary perspective and analysis students need to better appreciate the genius of his work.

This indispensable ready reference examines Shakespeare's plots, language, and themes; his use of sources and exploration of issues important to his age; the interpretation of his works through productions from the Renaissance to the present; and the critical reaction to key questions concerning his writings. The book provides coverage of each key play and poems in discrete sections, with each section presenting summaries; discussions of themes, characters, language, and imagery; and clear explications of key passages. Readers will be able to inspect historical documents related to the topics explored in the work being discussed and view excerpts from Shakespeare's sources as well as reviews of major productions. The work also provides a comprehensive list of print and electronic resources suitable for student research.


  • Provides a one-stop resource that overviews all of Shakespeare's most important plays and poems
  • Includes primary material—such as historical accounts of issues contemporaneous with the plays and excerpts from reviews of stage productions—that puts these works in their literary, theatrical, and historical context
  • Elucidates key controversies regarding Shakespeare's literary work through alternate viewpoints that will help promote critical thinking skills
  • Helps students analyze Shakespearean themes and characters, explain how authors utilize sources, and evaluate critical interpretations of literature
Author Info

Joseph Rosenblum has taught literature for more than 40 years. He has edited Critical Survey of Shakespeare's Plays and ABC-CLIO's The Greenwood Companion to Shakespeare.



"This set provides an incredible amount of information for those wishing to learn more about the life and works of William Shakespeare. . . . Clearly, this set will enhance any library’s literature collection. Although there is detailed analysis throughout, the organization of each chapter will provide a clear setting for readers of all kinds, from high schoolers to scholars in the field. All libraries should consider it; for nearly 2,000 pages of information on a subject of widespread interest, the price is not unreasonable."—ARBA

"This lively, approachable volume provides a wealth of material and analysis. . . . This rich companion to Shakespeare's life and work is recommended for students, theatergoers, general readers, actors, directors, writers, and other artists."—Library Journal

"Among the great mass of Shakespeare reference sets, The Definitive Shakespeare Companion might actually live up to its name. . . . The focus on primary sources makes this set notable, since sources are rarely explored in works aimed at general readers. The entries are well informed and scholarly, but written in an accessible language. The overview essays—for example, 'Shakespeare’s Language' and 'The Authorship Questions'—are particularly good. . . . Those looking for a single reference set on Shakespeare’s works would be well served by this one. Summing Up: Essential. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty; general readers."—Choice

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