Recommend to your Librarian

Shakespeare in Theory and Practice

Catherine Belsey

eBook (PDF) i

In these essays, collected here for the first time, renowned critic Catherine Belsey puts theory to work in order to register Shakespeare's powers of seduction, together with his moment in history. Teasing out the meanings of the narrative poems, as well as some of the more familiar plays, she demonstrates the possibilities of an attention to textuality that also draws on the archive. A reading of the Sonnets, written specially for this book, analyses their intricate and ambivalent inscription of desire. Between them, these essays trace the progress of theory in the course of three decades, while a new introduction offers a narrative and analytical overview, from a participant's perspective, of some of its key implications.

Show more


1. Introduction: Practising with Theory
2. Psychoanalysis and Early Modern Culture: Lacan with Augustine and Montaigne
3. Love as Trompe-l'oeil: Taxonomies of Desire in Venus and Adonis
4. Tarquin Dispossessed: Expropriation and Consent in The Rape of Lucrece
5. Antinomies of Desire and the Sonnets
6. Peter Quince's Ballad: Shakespeare, Psychoanalysis, History and A Midsummer Night's Dream
7. The Illusion of Empire: Elizabethan Expansionism and Shakespeare's Second Tetralogy
8. Making Histories Then and Now: Shakespeare from Richard II to Henry V
9. The Case of Hamlet's Conscience
10. Iago the Essayist

About the Author

Catherine Belsey is currently Research Professor at Swansea University and formerly Distinguished Research Professor at Cardiff University. Best known for her pioneering book, Critical Practice (Methuen, 1980), Catherine Belsey has an international reputation as a deft and sophisticated critical theorist and subtle and eloquent critic of literature, particularly of Renaissance texts. Her books include The Subject of Tragedy: Identity and Difference in Renaissance Drama (Methuen, 1985), John Milton: Language, Gender, Power (Basil Blackwell, 1988), Desire: Love Stories in Western Culture (Blackwell, 1994), Shakespeare and the Loss of Eden (Macmillan, 1999), Poststructuralism: A Very Short Introduction (OUP, 2002) and Culture and the Real (Routledge, 2005).


All of the essays attest to Belsey's career-long commitment to theory and its ability to deliver new ways of reading … Her attention in this collection to materiality and wordplay is indicative of her considerable skills as a close reader.
- Shakespeare Survey
These are essays of love, as well as about love, and this makes them unusually sensitive...Belsey's insistence on the anarchy of desire seems both timely and genuinely radical.
- Peter Holbrook, Times Literary Supplement