In this groundbreaking book one of the most original and compelling voices in contemporary Shakespeare criticism undertakes a detailed study of the ten extraordinary comedies Shakespeare wrote during his first decade as a dramatist: The Comedy of Errors, The Taming of the Shrew, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Love's Labour's Lost, A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Merchant of Venice, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Much Ado About Nothing, As You Like It and Twelfth Night.
Through close readings of these plays Kiernan Ryan reveals Shakespeare's deepening disenchantment with his world and his dream of that world transfigured. Ryan engages with each comedy as a unique work of dramatic and poetic art, with its own distinctive concerns and critical challenges, paying special attention to its language and form. As the haunting vision shared by the plays emerges from Ryan's acute analysis of each of them, the book transforms our understanding and appreciation of Shakespearean comedy.
Written in a lively, accessible style, Shakespeare's Comedies is essential reading not only for students and teachers, but also for anyone keen to consider these plays from a fresh perspective.
Shortlisted for the ESSE Book Prize for Literatures in the English Language 'I find it impossible to imagine a more brilliant book about Shakespeare's comedies than this one. It's beautifully written, to the extent that one finds oneself as happily lost in its sinuous, musical sentences as in a favourite song or symphony. And its overall argument is convincingly and grippingly developed from the first chapter to the last... Few commentators have written in such accurate yet dazzling prose about Shakespeare since Coleridge told us he wrote Venus and Adonis 'as if he were of another planet'... It's the first great book on its subject of the 21st century.' - Rob Maslen, Senior Lecturer in English, University of Glasgow, UK. "Kiernan Ryan's Shakespeare's Comedies is a delight to read, full of invigorating insights, informed by an acute and sympathetic critical sensibility, and written in a style that is sprightly and persuasive. It is a book that every undergraduate should read ... this is a work of appreciation, at first glance perhaps old-fashioned, but in fact of a kind that could only be written in the critical here and now. I wish I had written this book: I look forward to re-reading it, and to the author's next.' - Professor Russell Jackson, Allardyce Nicoll Chair of Drama, University of Birmingham, UK Praise for Shakespeare by Kiernan Ryan: 'It is impossible to do justice to the compacted richness of Ryan's study...The book is certainly a major contribution to Shakespeare studies' -The Times 'A thrilling polemic' -The Guardian Now in its third edition, published by Palgrave Macmillan.