"Bevington sees a development in how important Shakespeare felt certain topics were, and so the structure of the book is both chronological and thematic, beginning with the early romances and ending with the dark eschatology of the last plays." (English
, December 2010)
"A personal and passionate reading of the author, unwilling to look for conclusions where there are none. Humane, wise and almost infuriatingly judicious, Shakespeare's Ideas celebrates the plurality inherent to Shakespeare's works and the expansive mind behind them." (Times Literary Supplement
, February 2009)
Bevington's newest book wears its considerable erudition lightly and, for the most part, well. Bevington (Univ. of Chicago) begins by pointing out that one cannot know the thoughts of Shakespeare the man, but that the plays and poems, looked at as a whole, do present a kind of philosophy--one of balance and moderation. Chapters on sex and gender, politics, writing, religion, and other topics all suggest that though Shakespeare created characters with extreme and wide-ranging views, the world of the plays (and thus perhaps of Shakespeare himself) rewards compassion, understanding, forgiveness, duty, and above all, love. In general, this is not a book for scholars; Bevington does not offer highly theoretical readings or bring up scholarly debates about meaning and textuality. But his immense knowledge of the plays and the era allow him to present complex ideas in an engaging, completely readable manner that will appeal to all readers, no matter their background. Though it offers nothing new to those who study the plays for a living, everyone else will find it a masterpiece of thoughtful investigation into the plays.
Summing Up: Essential. Lower- and upper-division undergraduates, graduate students, general readers. -- A. Castaldo, Widener University (Choice, February 2009)
"It's an absorbing journey, and one that will fascinate both general readers and serious scholars alike." (Yorkshire Evening Post, October 2008)