12th May 2000 at 01:00

SHAKESPEARE: the basics. By Sean McEvoy. Routledge pound;9.99.

This well-researched, lively and readable book aims to introduce A-level literature students and first-year undergraduates to new critical approaches to Shakespeare.

Part I, Understanding the Text, considers language, action and performance. Part II deals with genre, and includes chapters on comedy, history, tragedy and the mixed-genre plays. Analyses and references provide material for discussion and further reading.

The writer's enthusiasms are evident and his emphases clear - the plays were written for performance; the text is script, best read aloud; the full meaning depends on interpretive decisions, differing from performance to perfomance; these decisions relate to their time.

References to past productions raise interesting issues. In 1930 Paul Robeson was the first black actor to play Othello in a major theatre. Is it now possible to have a white Othello? Why did Cheek by Jowl's early 1990s, all-male production of As You Like It make such an impact? Did the RSC's 1999 production of The Tempest fail to engage with the play's central issues of race, power, authority?

This book has some of the qualities of good sixth-form teaching, introducing new ideas, stimulating thought and inviting argument. It goes well beyond the basics and will be useful for students and teachers.

Jeanne Strickland Jeanne Strickland is an English inspector

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today