It is William Shakespeare’s 450th birthday this week, and the Bard is still doing great at your library. Queens Library has you covered whether you are an old fan or just discovering his works. Check out these great reads!


Will the Man

Will in the World by Stephen Greenblatt is fantastic because it not only discusses what we know of Shakespeare’s life (which frankly isn’t really all that much), but also puts it into the context of Elizabethan England so we can actually understand the world that the man came from.

Shakespeare’s Lives by Samuel Schoenbaum is an incredibly fun account of all the various debates, discussions, and dissensions regarding the life of the Immortal Bard. It is a great introduction to the perennial academic debate over Shakespeare.


Easy Intros

The Essential Shakespeare Handbook - This bright, heavily illustrated guide will give you a great overview on each and every one of Shakespeare's plays. It also includes good discussions of the historical era and what the different forms of plays (comedy, tragedy, history) are all about.

The Elizabethan World Picture - This short little guide is essential reading for fans of the literature of Elizabethan times. It is a quick read and establishes the norms of the world that Shakespeare, Marlowe, and Johnson were all writing in.


Shakespeare in Film

Anonymous - This movie takes the scholarly debate about Shakespeare’s authorship and turns it into high political drama, espionage, and thrills.

Shakespeare In Love - A lighthearted romantic comedy with Shakespeare as the protagonist. Will it inform your interpretation of Hamlet? Nope, but it will make a great date movie!

Shakespeare Behind Bars - This inspirational documentary tells the story of a group of inmates in a Kentucky correctional facility who perform Shakespeare's final play, The Tempest.

West Side Story - Sharks vs. Jets = Romeo & Juliet. Still the best Shakespeare retelling out there. Rita Moreno is a genius.


The Plays are the Thing

If you are just getting started with Shakespeare, take a look at the No Fear Shakespeare Series

The great thing about these editions of Shakespeare's classics is that they have the original (beautiful but sometimes hard to understand) language on one side and a modernized retelling on the other. You can go back and forth between them to make sure you are getting every nuance.

On the other end of the spectrum, if you want fantastic annotated editions check, out the Arden editions:

These are true scholars’ editions, with fantastic introductions, great inline notes, really tip top Shakespeare over here.