Each play has an innovative ‘bricolage’ introduction consisting of dozens of carefully chosen quotations, which present the intellectual and imaginative responses of writers and critics from Shakespeare’s time right up to the present. These open up avenues of thought, and provide rich material for students to develop their own critical thinking.

“Great literature, great theatre, inspires great conversations. The New Oxford Shakespeare does not teach students what to think; it teaches them what to think about. They become participants in the debates.”
Terri Bourus, General Editor

Michael M. Wagoner

“I found the NOS bricolage introductions to be completely invigorating as an instructor. Instead of having the singular point of view of an editor’s introduction, my class was handed several distinct and sometimes contrasting views of scholars, editors, critics, theatregoers, actors, etc. The multiplicity of perspectives aligned with the multiplicity of perspectives that I often find in my courses. These introductions allowed my students to find a voice that spoke a sentiment similar to their own about the play while also engaging with several voices that might disagree. The bricolages’ ability to cover historical perspectives and methodologies is a perfect primer for an undergraduate class, giving them an anthology of responses from which to begin projects or papers. Each one of the quotations could have given us a whole class of discussion.

While I was worried that a list of quotations would be superficial, the opposite was true. Their easy to digest format allowed for greater student engagement with ideas fostering unique critical responses to both the quotations as well as to the plays. To give a specific example, after finishing Ttitus Andronicus, I had the class read through the bricolage, and several students were struck by Aebisher’s reminder that Lavinia is erased in the text through her lack of dialogue but that in performance she is an ever-present reminder. This performative approach resonated with my students and developed into an amazing discussion of the import of seeing Lavinia’s body continuously on the stage and how that would potentially create further sympathy, but also potentially further emphasize the horror at having to constantly confront the young woman who had been raped and mutilated. The bricolages gave them this snippet that developed into an important reminder about textual silence.

I will also add that while typical introductions may cover several points of view, often of both critical and performative approaches to the plays, they rarely have the space to do as many as these bricolages do. Their engagement with summary, assessment, and evaluation lends them less space to cover the vast variety of responses that these works have elicited over the past 400 years. The bricolage format does that comprehensively.”

Michael M. Wagoner (Florida State University) is a third-year PhD student specializing in early modern drama and performance. He has begun dissertation work in which he is investigating non-linguistic theatricality in the work of Shakespeare and his contemporary John Fletcher. He has most recently had an article published in New Theatre Quarterly and a chapter in the collection Shaping Shakespeare for Performance (Farleigh Dickinson UP, 2015). He completed his MFA and MLitt in Shakespeare and Performance at Mary Baldwin College and was a member of Roving Shakespeare, the program’s first Company Model MFA. In the theatre, he is a director, dramaturge, and actor not only for productions of Shakespeare and his contemporaries but also for modern and contemporary drama.

Anna Pruitt

“Any good critical introduction to a Shakespeare play will go through the critical history and the reception history. However the way it will do it is in a very long essay form. The idea of the New Oxford Shakespeare introductions is that you get all this criticism really rapid-fire — 400 years of criticism right there in front of you, without having to read 100 pages that map it out for you.”

Anna Pruitt, Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis

Josie Follick

“I really enjoyed the bricolages, especially in comparison to the traditional introductions we also read. When reviewing quotes from real people reacting to the same text, it makes it easier for students to relate and makes them feel like their reactions are more valid, like they don’t have to conform to the singular scholar’s opinion that we would find in a traditional introduction.”

Josie Follick, Florida State University

Tyler Keenan

“It would be impossible to cover all these aspects in one introduction without making it longer than the play! It was able to hit upon important things that couldn‘t have been done in a traditional introduction.”

Tyler Keenan, Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis

Rachel Beals

“I liked seeing all of the different perspectives… before you read the play you get a feel for what you’re getting into.”

Rachel Beals, Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis

Kara Miller

“Approaching the text through the bricolage not only highlighted elusive aspects of intricate plays, but also brought a modern accessibility not offered by the ‘textbook’ introduction. The result was something resembling the instant gratification of scrolling through a Twitter feed, paired with the cultural and historical contextualizing, scholarly enlightening, and general appetite-whetting that a comprehensive introduction should provide.”

Kara Miller, Florida State University

Sunny Atwal

“Normal introductions are very very informational whereas these mirror the play well because they all are passionate. The tone of you can tell there’s a strongly held belief – a conviction — behind each and every one.”

Sunny Atwal, Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis

Kate Smith

“It might color your reading a bit, giving opinions you might not have had before, but that also might be an advantage because it’s pointing out things you might not have looked at or looked for in the play.”

Kate Smith, Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis

Skyler Evans

“The bricolages have been exceedingly helpful in my understanding of the texts.

The mass of quotations selected serves to solidify an understanding of these texts as universal. They come from authors of drastically different backgrounds and professions, as diverse as Sigmund Freud and James Joyce. The sources also span across hundreds of years. Samuel Johnson wrote about Hamlet in 1765, but Richard Levin also did the same in 2002.

The usefulness of the bricolages in the classroom is immeasurable because the most important tool in teaching and understanding literature is being able to connect to the texts. Knowing that Hamlet or Macbeth or King Lear still have so much weight not only in academia but in our understanding of human motivations and emotions is what drives students such as myself to want to study these texts and understand their impact.”

Skyler Evans, Florida State University

Julie Kate Brooks

“The bricolages presents the modern reader with meditations on each work that span time periods and various approaches to literature for a holistic approach to study.

Such a thoughtful presentation not only guides numerous interpretations of the pieces in Shakespeare’s canon, but also contextualizes the works for the reader.

For me, the bricolages provided insight into the world of Shakespeare in an accessible format that I could not have gotten elsewhere. From feminist theories to ideas about class and race, the Bricolages add a depth that will make a more informed audience both in how we think of Shakespeare and how we think of interpretations of Shakespeare.”

Julie Kate Brooks, Florida State University

Keturah Young

“The bricolages allowed me to look past the sometimes beautifully intimidating language of Shakespeare and to read the plays for what they really were: people trying to solve their problems by any means necessary. To know that a scholar also thinks Hamlet is “idiotically sane” (Gilbert, 1874) or recognizes Queen Margaret as a woman of power and intelligence (Schwarz, 1998), fueled me to dissect the characters for all that they had to offer. I was able to grow with them throughout the play and understand their thought processes (or at least try to in Hamlet’s case), thus understanding and exploring Shakespeare’s overarching themes.”

Keturah Young, Florida State University