Shakespeare: The Last Plays

Edited by Kiernnan Ryan
Jan 1999
Pearson Education / Longman
ISBN: 0582275733
312 pages
$57.50 Paper original

This is the first collection of criticism on Shakespeare's romances to register the impact of modern literary theory on interpretations of these plays. Kiernan Ryan brings together the most important recent essays on Pericles, Cymbeline, The Winter's Tale and The Tempest, the greatest of the `last plays', staging a dynamic debate between feminist, poststructuralist, psychoanalytic and new historicist views of the masterpieces Shakespeare wrote at the close of his career.

The book aims not only to anthologise accounts of the last plays by leading Shakespearean critics, including Stephen Greenblatt, Janet Adelman, Leah Marcus, Howard Felperin and Steven Mullaney, but also to dramatize what is at stake in the choice of a particular critical approach.

It allows the student to compare the strengths and limitations of a deconstructive and a feminist reading of the same romance, or to test the plausibility of one psychoanalytic angle on the last plays against another. The headnotes that preface the essays highlight their distinctive slants on Shakespearean romance, unpack the theoretical assumptions that steer their interpretations, and throw into relief the key points at which their authors collide or converge.

The editor's introduction places the essays in the context of twentieth-century criticism of the last plays and makes a powerful case for a fundamental reappraisal of Shakespearean romance. The comprehensive, fully annotated bibliography provides an unrivalled guide to further reading on all four plays.

General Editors' Preface


1. ANNE BARTON, Leontes and the Spider: Language and Speaker in Shakespeare's Last Plays
2. LEONARD TENNENHOUSE, Family Rites: Patriarchal Strategies in Shakespearean Romance
3. RUTH NEVO, The Perils of Pericles
4. STEVEN MULLANEY, `All That Monarchs Do': The Obscured Stages of Authority in `Pericles'
5. JANET ADELMAN, Masculine Authority and the Maternal Body: The Return to Origins in `Cymbeline'
6. LEAH S. MARCUS, `Cymbeline' and the Unease of Topicality
7. CAROL THOMAS NEELY, `The Winter's Tale': Women and Issue
8. HOWARD FELPERIN, `Tongue-tied, Our Queen?': The Deconstruction of Presence in `The Winter's Tale'
9. STEPHEN GREENBLATT, `The Tempest': Marital Law in the Land of Cockaigne
10. DAVID NORBROOK, `What Cares These Roarers for the Name of the King?': Language and Utopia in `The Tempest'

Notes on Contributors
Further Reading

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