Historical Criticism


Thomas Rymer

Reflections on Aristotle's Treatise of Poesie (1674): the first English translation of Aristotle's Poetics, filtered through the mind of the French neoclassical critic, René Rapin, in Rymer's translation.

A Short View of Tragedy (1693): the notorious early takedown of Othello

William Hazlitt

Characters of Shakespear's Plays (1817)

His self-portrait is at upper left


Thomas De Quincey

"On the Knocking at the Gate in Macbeth" (1817). The alleged origin of "comic relief," the ahistorical concept projected back onto Shakspeare.  Hazlitt does not use the phrase. It was created to summarize his idea.  He is well known for his addiction narrative, Confessions of an English Opium-Eater.

His portrait is at left

Paul Duport

Essais littéraires sur Shakspeare (1828), volume 1   volume 2

An early French language appreciation and analysis

Anna Jameson

Characteristics of Women (1832-33)  volume 1  volume 2

A work of feminism, using character analysis of Shakespeare's female characters

Thomas Peregrine Courtenay

Commentaries on the Historical Plays of Shakspeare (1840)  volume 1   volume 2

Joseph Hunter

New Illustrations of the Life, Studies, and Writings of Shakespeare (1845)  volume 1   volume 2

William Maginn


Helena Faucit, Lady Martin

On Some of Shakespeare's Female Characters (1885)

She was an actress and critic.  Her portrait is to the left, from the Scottish National Portrait Gallery

Richard G. Moulton

George Brandes

William Shakespeare: A Critical Study (1898)  vol 1  vol 2

A. C. Bradley


David Masson

Shakespeare Personally (1914)

at left (Art UK)

A. C. Swinburne

Richard G. Moulton

Augustus Ralli

A History of Shakespearian Criticism (1923)

volume 1    volume 2


Walter Raleigh

William Winter

Shakespeare on the Stage (1911, 1915)   vol 1     vol 2

Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch

  Notes on Shakespeare's Workmanship (1917)  

His portrait is to the left

George C. D. Odell

Shakespeare from Betterton to Irving (1920-21)  volume 1   volume  2

T. W. Baldwin

William Shakspere's Small Latine and Lesse Greek (1944)

This remains the best and most thorough account of humanist education in England.

Ernest Schanzer


E. K. Chambers

The Mediaeval Stage (1903)

volume 1  volume 2

The Elizabethan Stage (1923)

volume 1  volume 2  volume 3  volume 4


William Shakespeare: A Study of Facts and Problems (1930)

volume 1    volume 1