Kenneth Burke on Shakespeare

SKU: 978-1-60235-002-1

Edited by Scott L. Newstok

Information and Pricing
978-1-60235-002-1 (paperback; $32.00; £18); © 2007 by Parlor Press. 368 pages, with introduction, bibliography, notes, and index

Other Formats Available
978-1-60235-003-8 (cloth; $65.00; £35); 978-1-60235-004-5 (Adobe eBook; $18.00; £10)

Add to Cart and choose format below.

Bookstores: Order by fax, mail, or phone. See our "Sales and Ordering Page" for details.

Kenneth Burke on Shakepeare flyerDownload the publicity flyer and order form for this book for distribution to libraries, colleagues, and bookstores (PDF format).


This volume gathers and annotates all of the Shakespeare criticism, including previously unpublished lectures and notes, by the maverick American intellectual Kenneth Burke. Burke’s interpretations of Shakespeare have influenced important lines of contemporary scholarship; playwrights and directors have been stirred by his dramaturgical investigations; and many readers outside academia have enjoyed his ingenious dissections of what makes a play function .

Burke’s intellectual project continually engaged with Shakespeare’s works, and Burke’s writings on Shakespeare, in turn, have had an immense impact on generations of readers. Carefully edited and annotated, with helpful cross-references, Burke’s fascinating interpretations of Shakespeare remain challenging, provocative, and accessible. Read together, these pieces form an evolving argument about the nature of Shakespeare’s artistry. Included are thirteen analyses of individual plays and poems, an introductory lecture explaining his approach to reading Shakespeare, and a comprehensive appendix of scores of Burke’s other references to Shakespeare. The editor, Scott L. Newstok, also provides a historical introduction and an account of Burke’s legacy.

This edition fulfils Burke’s own vision of collecting in one volume his Shakespeare criticism, portions of which had appeared in the many books he had published throughout his lengthy career. Here, Burke examines Hamlet , Twelfth Night , Julius Caesar , Venus and Adonis , Othello , Timon of Athens , Antony and Cleopatra , Coriolanus , King Lear, Troilus and Cressida , A Midsummer Night’s Dream , Macbeth , The Merchant of Venice , The Tempest, Falstaff, the Sonnets, and Shakespeare’s imagery.

What people are saying about Kenneth Burke on Shakespeare . . .

Of all the American “New Critics,” Kenneth Burke has been the most interesting to critics and scholars in recent years. In gathering his writings on Shakespeare, Scott Newstok has done an invaluable service, not least because some twenty-five percent of the material is published here for the first time. Burke’s central concern is with dramatic form, which is conceived both precisely, in respect to the workings of the plays, and generously, with wide-ranging rhetorical, social, and human awareness. Though Burke was far more than a literary critic, these essays bring out how important literary expression was to his ideas of human motives and possibilities. There is something for everyone here: even those most at home with Burke and Shakespeare will find surprises and fresh suggestions throughout. —Paul Alpers, Professor Emeritus, UC Berkeley

Scott Newstok’s well-edited collection of Kenneth Burke’s essays on Shakespeare is an authentic augmentation of the best modern criticism we have on Shakespeare. Burke, a superb rhetorician, confronts daringly the triple greatness of the greatest of all writers ever: cognitive power, linguistic richness, and a whole cosmos of persuasive women and men made up out of words. —Harold Bloom, Sterling Professor of Humanities, Yale

As my guides in reading Shakespeare, I name first Kenneth Burke, an American regarded by various of his fellow citizens as the equal of the most formidable literary minds of the American twentieth century, who wrote repeatedly on Shakespeare as well and as consistently as anyone might be thought to have done. —Stanley Cavell, Walter M. Cabot Professor Emeritus of Aesthetics and the General Theory of Value Harvard University

Kenneth Burke's insights into how Shakespeare's plays work— as poetry, drama, and theater—are as profound as Aristotle's insights on tragedy, Freud's on dreams, and Stanislavsky's on acting. What treasure, to have all this at last between two covers! —Toni Dorfman, Yale Theater Studies

Age cannot wither Kenneth Burke’s reflections on Shakespeare, which are as fresh, vital, and quirky now as they were when they first appeared. This volume would be worth having for the celebrated essays on Othello and King Lear alone, but it is particularly gratifying to find so many other remarkable displays of Burke’s quicksilver mind. —Stephen Greenblatt, Cogan University Professor of the Humanities Harvard University

Kenneth Burke turns to Shakespearean drama to find some paradigm of true community. The relation of literature to politics, including modern political religions, from Puritan theocracies to totalitarianisms of Left or Right, is Burke’s burden even when he seems to be literary in the most technical sense. — Geoffrey Hartman, Sterling Professor Emeritus of English and Comparative Literature Yale University

I have been inspired by the example of Kenneth Burke for his repeated emphasis on the inseparability of language, rhetoric, and discourse from political and social issues and for his failure to observe the decorum of a more restricted kind of literary criticism. —Patricia Parker, Margery Bailey Professor of English and Dramatic Literature Stanford University

Burke’s marvelously inventive essays on Shakespeare’s plays are too valuable a national resource to languish in the world out of print. —William H. Pritchard, Henry Clay Folger Professor of English Amherst College


Anthropoetics, Appositions, Around the Globe, As We Like It,CerclesCollege Literature, Comitatus, Comparative Drama,DiscoveriesEarly Modern Literary Studies (EMLS), Early Theatree-Colloquia, English StudiesEssays in CriticismÉtudes Anglaises, Folio, A Groat′s Worth of Wit, Hudson Review, Interdisciplinary Humanities, Journal for Early Modern Cultural Studies (JEMCS), Journal of the Northern RenaissanceKB JournalKritikon LitterarumLiminalitiesNotes and Queries,, Raritan, Religion and LiteratureRenaissance StudiesReview of Communication,Rhetoric Society QuarterlyRocky Mountain ReviewSewanee ReviewShakespeare BulletinShakespeare Geek, Shakespeare in Southern Africa, Shakespeare Matters, Shakespeare Newsletter, Shakespeare Quarterly, Shakespeare Scene, Shakespeare StudiesShakespeare YearbookSHAKSPER, Shenandoah, Sixteenth Century Journal, South Atlantic Review, Southern Humanities Review,Studia Anglica PosnaniensiaStudies in English Literature(SEL), Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Teaching(SMART), Theater History Studies, Theatre SurveyThéâtres du monde , Times Higher Education (THE), Times Literary Supplement (TLS), The University of Toronto QuarterlyThe Upstart Crow, & The Use of English.

About the Author

Kenneth Burke (1897–1993) was the author of many books, including the landmark Motivorum trilogy: A Grammar of Motives (1945), A Rhetoric of Motives (1950), and Essays Toward a Symbolic of Motives, 1950–1955 (2007). He has been hailed as one of the most original American thinkers of the twentieth century and possibly the greatest rhetorician since Cicero. Burke’s enduring familiarity with Shakespeare helped shape his own theory of dramatism, an ambitious elaboration of the “all the world’s a stage” conceit. Burke is renowned for his far-reaching 1951 essay on Othello, which wrestles with concerns still relevant to scholars more than half a century later; his imaginative ventriloquism of Mark Antony’s address over Caesar’s body has likewise found a number of appreciative readers, as have his many other essays on the playwright. Parlor Press has also published Burke's Letters from Kenneth Burke to William H. Rueckert, 1959-1987 (2003) and Kenneth Burke and His Circles (2008), edited by Jack Selzer and Robert Wess.

About the Editor

Scott Newstok teaches English at Rhodes College. He is the author of How to Think like Shakespeare and Quoting Death in Early Modern England; editor of Paradise Lost: A Primer; and co-editor of Weyward Macbeth, a collection of essays exploring the intersection of race and performance.

Choose Format and Buy Securely from Parlor Press

Price: $32.00