What is area of the Shakespeare canon that has yet to be written about extensively in academia?This question resulted from an argument I just had with a friend.  He's in the hard sciences, and I'm...

What is area of the Shakespeare canon that has yet to be written about extensively in academia?

This question resulted from an argument I just had with a friend.  He's in the hard sciences, and I'm an English major.  He claims that devoting one's life to Shakespeare (writing about it, teaching it, etc.) is pointless because, in his words, "It's all been done."  I disagreed.  I think that Shakespeare's works provide endless opportunity for engagement and interpretation.  That said, I *couldn't* think of an area that hasn't been explored at some length.  Has it really all been done?

Expert Answers
appletrees eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Certainly all of the texts have been written about an analyzed from a basic critical perspective. What continues to change is the addition and evolution of approaches to literary criticism. For example, feminist criticism was not really a recognized approach until at least the 1970s. Queer Theory, a branch of gender studies, is also another newer but very relevant critical approach to analyzing or interpreting Shakespeare. Same with post-modernism, audience reception studies, etc. As new readers and thinkers continue to approach Shakespeare from their own unique perspectives, it is entirely likely that new critical schools of thought will be introduced.

However, I think two even more fertile areas of study are that of performance and media studies. There will always be new performances of Shakespeare's plays, and contemporary theatrical productions frequently utilize popular cultural referents and imagery. Since these constantly evolve, analysis of such productions will (or can, at least) remain fresh and new. The same can be said for new film versions of Shakespeare; even if such films feature a "period" look, cinematic innovations and performance quality will evolve via the many collaborative choices made, as well as aspects of exhibition and distribution, which are shifting and changing rapidly due to innovations in technology.

Approaching it from these possible vantage points, I think we've only begun to talk about Shakespeare!

Doug Stuva eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Any answer to your question would be extremely complex, as the question is.  I won't pretend to give you anything like a complete answer, but I can offer a detail or two.

As science progresses, and layers upon layers of mysteries are uncovered, so does Shakespeare scholarship.  Each new idea is built upon by someone else.  Each new generation applies new theories and ideas to Shakespeare's works.  Look at the path literary theory has taken in the last 100 years, and how our understanding of literature has changed because of theory.  There is much left to be studied.

I also suggest that you ask a slightly different question.  I wouldn't think in terms of the existence of something that hasn't been studied yet, but in terms of what has already been studied, being studied further.  In other words, you won't find a play that hasn't been extensively written about, but you will find much to study further in what has already been written about. 

These are just two places to start in answering your question, two small aspects of the answer for you to consider.  I hope this helps.

epollock | Student

It is quite an easy question if you think about it in terms of subjects. There are countless books about the myriad of subjects in the works of William Shakespeare. Just the other day, I was reading a book simply about fruits and vegetables in his plays and the ways in which he used them and described them. To many, this might be pointless, but to a person whose passion it is to learn all they can about something, then this can be truly entertaining, informative, and educational. Since there are a seemingly endless amount of subjects, others can write about any number of other subjects.