Reviews

  • The best introduction to the plays I've read, perhaps the best book on Shakespeare, full stop. This is a model of unpretentious, deeply researched, profoundly approachable criticism. It's a book to give to anyone who loves Shakespeare, but particularly to those who think they don't ... What This Is Shakespeare gives the reader most of all, though, is a licence to enjoy the plays without the cultural and historical baggage they so often carry

    Alex Preston, Observer
  • The question that hangs over every new book on Shakespeare is, "Why read this one?" The short answer is, because it is very good indeed. There is no shortage of eminent Shakespeare scholars, and in her role as professor of Shakespeare studies at Oxford, Smith certainly ranks among them; but more importantly for a book like this, she is perhaps the pre-eminent Shakespeare communicator working today ... This is Shakespeare cuts through the accumulated crust of "schoolroom platitudes", cant and literary piety in order to dust Shakespeare off and see him as he is, was, and might be

    Tim Smith-Laing, Daily Telegraph
  • I like this book very much. It explains accessibly, with learning lightly worn, why Shakespeare retains such a hold in our culture. Smith has done an exemplary job of restoring the greatest of English writers to his own time, and explaining why he then speaks to ours ... An invigorating examination of the pre-eminence of the most revered figure of English letters

    Oliver Kamm, The Times
  • Quirky, brilliant ... what's most bracing about Smith's book is the way she sees the plays as almost organic: not only contradictory but alive

    Daniel Swift, Spectator
  • Thought-provoking, fizzing with jokes ... Smith is celebrating a Shakespeare who talks to the present. She does it all with such a light touch you barely notice how much you're learning ... Anyone who doesn't understand what the fuss is all about should read This Is Shakespeare

    Colin Burrow, Guardian
  • An outstanding book ... a distillation of intricate conceptual and textual cruces into readable prose ... lively and unexpectedly moving ... curious and passionate ... [It reminds me] why I came to enjoy Shakespeare so much in the first place

    Sophie Duncan, Literary Review
  • Intriguing ... Smith argues that the defining characteristic of Shakespeare's plays is their 'permissive gappiness'. This must also surely be the first book on Shakespeare to use the slang term 'woke'

    Evening Standard
  • A joy to read, full of questions, surprises, and new ideas. Smith brings us remarkable new readings of Shakespeare, and a sense of how his work lives on the stage. A wonderful book

    Margaret Drabble
  • If I were asked to recommend one guide for readers keen on discovering what's at stake in Shakespeare's plays, This Is Shakespeare would be it. Deeply informed, never dogmatic, and alert to how performance matters, Emma Smith understands that Shakespeare's plays prompt questions rather than provide answers. Her elegantly written and sharply observed book is richly rewarding.

    James Shapiro, author of 1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare
  • A fascinating new perspective and an absolute pleasure to read

    Eimear McBride, author of A Girl is a Half-formed Thing