Shakespeare’s tragedies engage, in incomparably resourceful language, with questions of meaning, being, life, death, love, hate, history, politics, sexuality, gender, ethnicity and ecology — and probably with other matters that have yet to be defined and discussed. The critical response to the tragedies is itself, in microcosm, a history of global culture, given their undeniable capacity to spread across and speak to the world. This Guide aims to select what seems essential from the Anglo-American strand of that response. Of course, the volume and variety of criticism that the tragedies have provoked means that readers may want to challenge, alter or augment this selection, and that is all to the good: the reader of this Guide is invited to work actively with its choices, testing them against one another, against alternatives that have not been included but may have a claim to essentialness, and, above all, against Shakespeare’s texts.
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