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Home > Catalog > The Cambridge Introduction to Shakespeare's History Plays
The Cambridge Introduction to Shakespeare's History Plays


  • 6 b/w illus.
  • Page extent: 222 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.27 kg
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 (ISBN-13: 9780521671200)

  • Also available in Hardback
  • Published November 2007

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$28.99 (P)

Shakespeare's history plays, as fresh today as when they were written, are based upon the assumption that time is not simply a destroyer but a preserver, and that 'examples past' might enable us to understand the present and anticipate the future. This lively 2007 study examines the continuing tradition of Shakespeare's history plays in stage and film productions as well as giving an account of the critical debate on these plays. Following two introductory chapters giving essential background on the genre, the English history plays are discussed in turn, bringing out the distinctive characteristics of each play: the three early Henry VI plays; the perennial stage favourite Richard III; King John; Richard II; Henry IV 1 and 2, famous for the character of Falstaff; Henry V, which is treated very differently in the film versions by Olivier and Branagh; and Henry VIII. An invaluable introduction to these fascinating and complex plays.


1. The uses of history; 2. The wars of the critics; 3. The paper crown: 1, 2, and 3 Henry VI; 4. Determined to be a villain: Richard III; 5. Gain, be my lord: King John; 6. The death of kings: Richard II; 7. Lord of misrule: 1 and 2 Henry IV; 8. Band of brothers: Henry V; 9. Epilogue: Henry VIII; Bibliography.


'Fresh but informed, Chernaik's study will please both students and those who think they know more. The author brings characters alive in intelligent ways, deftly conjures memories of productions and films he has seen, and is particularly good at encapsulating competing critical accounts of these texts in a a few pithy words. These testimonies align themselves with the open-mindedness and sagacity of his own readings, to create a focussed but also panoramic reading of Shakespeare's history plays.' Michael Hattaway University of Sheffield

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