"Shakespeare Now!" is a series of short books of truly vital literary scholarship, each with its own distinctive form. "Shakespeare Now!" recaptures the excitement of Shakespeare; it doesn't assume we know him already, or that we know the best methods for approaching his plays. "Shakespeare Now!" is a new generation of critics, unafraid of risk, on a series of intellectual adventures. Above all - it is a new Shakespeare, freshly present in each volume. Hamlet's "To be or not to be" soliloquy is quoted more often than almost any other passage in Shakespeare. Parodies and advertisements show us that invoking even its first two words is enough to imply the rest of the speech - though few of us can recall much about it. For we like to think we know this speech, even as we like to think we know our Shakespeare. "To Be or Not to Be" takes this most famous speech and unpacks it's meaning to reveal the questions and problems it raises. Hamlet's speech asks us to ask serious questions about knowledge and existence. The book asks what close attention to Shakespeare's words can tell us about what we don't and perhaps can't know.
If this speech concerns what isn't knowable, what else is it about? Is it or is it not about suicide? Do the King and Polonius overhear? If so, does Hamlet know or care? What must we bring to it, as readers? What about as audience members: to what do we need to pay attention? This book reads the individual words, phrases and sentences of Hamlet's famous speech in 'slow motion' to highlight its material, philosophical and cultural meaning and its resonance for generations of actors, playgoers and readers.
Douglas Bruster is Professor of English at The University of Texas at Austin, USA. He is the author of Drama and the Market in the Age of Shakespeare; Quoting Shakespeare; Shakespeare and the Question of Culture; and, with Robert Weimann, Prologues to Shakespeare's Theatre. Simon Palfrey is a Fellow of Brasenose College, University of Oxford Ewan Fernie is Senior Lecturer in the Department of English at Royal Holloway, University of London
Introduction; 1. Dramatic and theatrical setting; 2. Unpacking the meaning of the 'To be or not to be' soliloquy; 3. The afterlife of Hamlet's speech (actors, playgoers, and readers); Conclusion; Index.