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Reviewing Shakespeare
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Ranging from David Garrick's Macbeth in the 1740s to the World Shakespeare Festival in London 2012, this is the first book to provide in-depth analysis of the history and practice of Shakespearean theatre reviewing. Reviewing Shakespeare describes the changing priorities and interpretative habits of theatre critics as they have both responded to and provoked innovations in Shakespearean performance culture over the last three centuries. It analyses the conditions – theatrical, journalistic, social and personal – in which Shakespearean reception has taken place, presenting original readings of the works of key critics (Shaw, Beerbohm, Agate and Tynan), whilst also tracking broader historical shifts in the relationship between reviewers and performance. Prescott explores the key function of the 'night-watch constable' in patrolling the boundaries of legitimate Shakespearean performance and offers a compelling account of the many ways in which newspaper reviews are uniquely fruitful documents for anyone interested in Shakespeare and the theatre.


'Reviews of theatre performances are often regarded as transitory and of little weight. In this critically astute study, Paul Prescott rescues them from oblivion. The result is a book of genuine intellectual and social significance which makes an original and valuable contribution to cultural history.'

Stanley Wells - The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

'Charts the metamorphoses of the dark art from George Bernard Shaw, James Agate and the astringent Kenneth Tynan to the emergence online of a 'trenchant crowd-sourced meta-criticism'.'

Source: The Times Higher Education Supplement

'[An] attractive and persuasive combination of detailed research and pointed comment.'

Source: The Times Literary Supplement

'Prescott’s erudite and entertaining book traces the sometimes hazardous profession of theatre reviewing in Britain from the 1740s through to the present day.'

R. S. White Source: Cahiers Élisabéthains

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Works cited

Some newspaper reviews are taken from the monthly journal Theatre Record. A reference in the text of the sort ‘(TR 2002: 191)’ means, for example, that the review can be found on p. 191 of the Theatre Record for 2002.

References to the texts of Shakespeare's plays are, unless otherwise stated, from William Shakespeare: The Complete Works, ed. Stanley Wells and Gary Taylor (Oxford University Press 2005).

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