What are some examples of critiques of the works of William Shakespeare that have appeard over the past 400 years? 

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kipling2448 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The works of William Shakespeare are voluminous, and include many of the most respected, and produced, plays in history.  As voluminous as Shakespeare’s work, however, are the academic and critical studies that have been produced over the centuries critiquing or analyzing his plays.  And this is does not even take into account the myriad books that have been published attempting to present a biography of the 16th Century writer, whose life remains shrouded in mystery.  Finally, some historians have suggested that William Shakespeare, to the extent he actually existed, was not the author of works to which he has been attributed [prominent among whom is the filmmaker Michael Rubbo and Shakespeare biographer Diana Price].

If one were to attempt to identify three particularly noteworthy critiques of Shakespeare’s work, however, one could begin with the academic journals Shakespeare Quarterly and Shakespeare Survey, the former American and the latter British.  Those, and other journals dedicated to criticisms of Shakespeare’s plays provide many examples of academic, thoughtful (and “academic” and “thoughtful” are not always present in the same article or book) analyses of the late author’s body of work.  With regard to individual volumes that are particularly valuable, however, one could start with Jonathan Bate’s The Genius of Shakespeare, E.A. Armstrong’s Shakespeare’s imagination, Janet Adelman’s Suffocating Mothers: Fantasies of Maternal Origins in Shakespeare’s Plays, Hamlet to The Tempest, Lukas Erne’s Shakespeare as Literary Dramatist, and Ron Rosenbaum”s The Shakespeare Wars: Clashing Scholars, Public Fiascos, Palace Coups.

There are literally hundreds of published studies of Shakespeare, many of which are worth reviewing.  The above list, however, represents a [contemporary] selection the reading of which will likely not be regretted.