Did you know that Romeo and Juliet’s wedding probably took place at the site of Juliet’s tomb? Or that the witches in Macbeth who chanted "double, double, toil and trouble" reflected Macbeth’s torn consciousness? If not, it may be time to brush up on the Bard’s 38 plays. Presenting each play in chronological order to show his evolution as a playwright, Garber (professor of English at Harvard University) offers close readings of Shakespeare’s tomes. She dissects each play’s themes, characters, and plots, explaining how to read them, decipher their context, and understand how our readings have changed over time. Were Romeo and Juliet’s first lines to each other a symbol of unrequited love—or, since they ended in a kiss, something so much more?
Pantheon. 989 pages. $40. ISBN: 0375421904
"Did you ever spot the hidden-in-plain-sight connection, for instance, between Hamlet’s childhood bond with the jester Yorick and his feigning madness by putting on ‘an antic disposition’? Like hell you did. … Garber’s is the most exhilarating seminar room you’ll ever enter." David Gates
"Although [Garber] has no blockbuster Bard thesis to prove, her introduction is an exemplary account of what is known about Shakespeare and how his work has been read and regarded through the centuries, while the individual essays display scrupulous and subtle close reading."
New York Times
"Shakespeare After All is, in many ways, a return to the times when the critic’s primary function was as an enthusiast, to open up the glories of the written work for the reader." Dinitia Smith
"What a delight it is to see the spotlight on the word, the image, the speech and not on the pyrotechnics of a critic obsessed with an ‘ism.’ … Indeed, her willingness to follow images and image patterns—clothing in Macbeth, the sun in Richard II—signals a real departure from recent studies." Tony Lewis
"I kept wishing that Garber would say something boldly provocative, even outrageous about some issue or question (e.g., are there any plays that she dislikes or hates to teach?), which would give [the book] the intellectual edge and flair that her other books put so prominently on display." William E. Cain
Remember the last time you read a work of literary criticism and actually understood it? The tide has changed with Shakespeare After All. Forgoing cultural studies jargon for an eclectic approach that draws from gender studies, post-colonial theory, and Elizabethan stage history, Garber focuses on close, erudite readings of the Bard’s work. Comparing her tome to Harold Bloom’s Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human (1998), critics agree that Garber is more readable and enjoyable; Stephen Greenblatt’s Will in the World ( Nov/Dec 2004) will give her a run for the money, however. A few reviewers wondered why Garber omitted discussion of Shakespeare’s sonnets and poems; others criticized the book’s significant length. Yet, until "somebody even smarter than Garber comes along with a 1,200-pager, this is the indispensable introduction to the indispensable writer" (Newsweek).