Thousands of books and articles have been written about Shakespeare, by academic critics. Several hundred are published each year. They are often written in a complicated style, and a few of them are pretentious: academics are just as fond of showing off as anybody else. It is important to remember, then, that studying the plays for yourself qualifies you to have ideas. You are not under an obligation to agree with the professional critics, and you are entitled to agree with some of what they write but not all. On the other hand, your mind can be stimulated by discussing your text with your teacher, or in a class. Treat the critics in the same way: it can be stimulating to debate the text, challenging your ideas and theirs. This is the spirit in which you should read ‘the critics’.
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