William Empson: Essays on Shakespeare

Paperback (Print)
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $17.66
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 64%)
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (15) from $17.66   
  • New (7) from $29.01   
  • Used (8) from $17.66   


At the time of his death in 1984, the poet and critic William Empson was preparing and revising a collection of his essays on Shakespeare. This collection edited by David Pirie, is a book which the literary world has wanted for over half a century. Here, in a single volume, are major readings of Hamlet and Macbeth; a witty and sometimes impassioned defence of Falstaff, and a new piece on the architecture of the Globe theatre and other Renaissance playhouses, in which Empson explores the problems that the design of contemporary stages posed for a working playwright; there are also essays on the narrative poems, A Midsummer Night's Dream and the last plays. The essays demonstrate the subtlety and agility of Empson's mind, as well as his remarkable breadth of knowledge, while the almost racy wit of his informal prose style argues for a literary criticism which should never become solemn if it is to be truly serious.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
'Academic scholars may bar his way, but Empson wheedles past with his charm and common sense.' The Times Literary Supplement

'Empson was a professor, but he had all the qualities that academics are often accused of lacking: he was humane, intense, eccentric, passionately hostile to Christianity, never dull, and very very clever … The blurb calls this book … a book which the literary world has wanted for half a century, and for once I think the publisher is not exaggerating. Today as much as ever, literary criticism needs its William Empsons.' The Spectator

Library Journal
Before his death in 1984 Empson revised and expanded these essays, all previously published. In them he argues that the ``mysteries'' and ``inconsistencies'' found in Shakespeare's works are examples of ambiguity, a dramatic shorthand that assumes a universally shared set of perceptions. Empson perceives Shakespeare's plays not as self-contained but as open-ended, dependent as much on what the audience brings to them as on what the author offers. Although his seminal treatment ( Seven Types of Ambiguity , 1930) is perhaps his most cohesive, this varied collection is recommended as a cold dose of common sense much to be desired in the sometimes fevered world of Shakespearean scholarship. James Stephenson, Gelman Lib., George Washington Univ., Washington, D.C.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521311502
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 6/28/1986
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 260
  • Product dimensions: 5.43 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.59 (d)

Table of Contents

Preface; Sources and acknowledgements; 1. The narrative poems; 2. Falstaff; 3. Hamlet; 4. Macbeth; 5. The Globe theatre; 6. Fairy flight in A Midsummer Night's Dream; 7. Hunt the symbol; Select bibliography.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)