Brian Gibbons presents the idea of multiplicity as a way of understanding the form and style of Shakespeare's plays: composed of many different codes, woven together in a unique pattern for each play, rather than variations on fixed notions of comedy or tragedy. Selecting from different phases of Shakespeare's career, the book's method is comparison, using an imaginative range of texts and new approaches; there is also lively discussion of modern staging. Comparison with major works by Spenser, Sidney and Marlowe is complemented by a demonstration of Shakespeare's re-use of his own previous plays and poems. Far from reducing the plays to a formula, Brian Gibbons shows how criticism articulates what popular audiences have always known, that the plays' sheer abundance and variety is their strength. This is an original book, scholarly yet straightforward, on an issue of central interest.
'There is so much of interest in Brian Gibbon's Shakespeare and Multiplicity, each chapter warrants more attention than is here allowed. As an exercise in historicizing a play to open up new, important perspectives in a clear, subtle and engaging manner, his chapter on Cymbeline and Britain is exemplary, and this standard of criticism is sustained throughout the book ... All this, and a consistently lively engagement with the plays as theatre, make this a stimulating and important study.' Year's Work in English Studies 'Reading Shakespeare and Multiplicity feels like a release into a toboggan run. This study is lively, elegantly written, pluralistic in its approaches, and often brilliant in its observations ... The result is a book that sparkles with insights not only into Shakespeare but also into Spenser, Sidney, Marlowe, Lodge, Jonson and Nash ... the book is at points so lively that I could not put it down.' C. E. McGee, Modern Language Review '[This] book offers, in its six main chapters, several of the best brief studies so far written about Shakespeare's use of literary sources ... this is a distinguished book.' Notes and Queries 'In this continuously stimulating book ... studies ... are all richly argued, informed by a strong sense of the plays in the theatre, and of the ways in which they can be remade in a contemporary context ... This is a consistently readable book, free from jargon, but not therefore from subtlety.' David Lindley, Shakespeare Survey