Bloom, Harold. Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human. New York: Riverhead Books/Penguin Putnam Inc., 1998.
Influential literary critic Harold Bloom believed that Shakespeare invented the very concept of ‘personality’ as we understand it today. This book develops that argument, devoting a chapter to each of Shakespeare’s plays.
Danson, Lawrence, ed. On King Lear. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1981.
This collection of essays approaches King Lear from eight different angles, ranging from its theatrical history to its style. Two of the volume’s essays place the play within the Shakespearian genres of Tragedy and History.
Evans, G. Blakemore, et al., eds. The Riverside Shakespeare. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1974.
This edition of Shakespeare’s complete works includes a wealth of reference material about the earliest surviving texts of the works, Shakespeare’s life and times and the performance history of the plays.
Greenblatt, Stephen, gen. ed. The Norton Shakespeare (based on the Oxford edition). New York and London: W. W. Norton & Co., 1997.
The Norton edition of Shakespeare’s complete works includes Stephen Greenblatt’s introduction, a deeply researched overview of Shakespeare’s work which situates the plays and poems within the life and times of their author. The Norton Shakespeare is also notable for including two separate texts of King Lear, based on the two earliest surviving sources for the play.
Ioppolo, Grace. William Shakespeare’s King Lear: A Sourcebook. New York: Routledge, 2003.
This volume brings together a series of short texts which shed light on King Lear from many different angles. Ioppolo includes sources Shakespeare may have drawn on in writing King Lear, as well as the most influential responses to the play down the centuries.
Mack, Maynard, Jr. King Lear in Our Time. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1966.
Mack’s critical overview of King Lear provides a thorough account of the play’s performance history and of the most important critical responses from the early twentieth century. Mack’s own reading focuses on the theme of social cohesion, including the bonds of family and the master-servant relationship.
Rosenberg, Marvin. The Masks of King Lear. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1972.
Rosenberg provides a critical reading of King Lear from the point of view of a student of drama. He focuses on Shakespeare’s characters as dramatic constructs who can be staged in a number of ways, creating a useful resource for actors and literature students alike.
Shakespeare, William. King Lear. Ed. R.A. Foakes. Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, U.K.: Arden Shakespeare/Thomas Nelson and Sons, Ltd., 1997.
Foakes’s introduction to his edition of King Lear includes detailed discussion of the play’s sources and textual history, as well as a thorough discussion of many of the play’s themes, including madness and violence, and of each of the play’s main characters. The text of the play is supplemented by thorough footnotes which explain tricky passages and highlight moments where Shakespeare may be drawing from his sources.
Smith, Emma. The Cambridge Introduction to Shakespeare. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007.
This volume approaches Shakespeare’s work thematically, in chapters ranging from ‘Structure’ and ‘Language’ to ‘Character’ and ‘History.’ Each chapter ends with a list of resources for students interested in delving deeper.
Take a Study Break
Every Shakespeare Play Summed Up in a Quote from The Office
Every Marvel Movie Summed Up in a Single Sentence
Macbeth As Told in a Series of Texts
QUIZ: Is This a Great Gatsby Quote or a Lorde Lyric?
QUIZ: Which Coming-of-Age Trope Will You Experience This Summer?
QUIZ: Are You a Hero, a Villain, or an Anti-Hero?
Pick 10 Books and We'll Guess Whether You're an Introvert or an Extrovert