Home Books The Facts On File Companion to Shakespeare, 5-Volume Set

The Facts On File Companion to Shakespeare, 5-Volume Set
  • Format
  • Authored by: William Baker and Kenneth Womack
  • Trim Size: 7-3/8 x 9-1/4
  • ISBN-10: 0816078203
  • ISBN-13: 978-0-8160-7820-2
  • Status: In Stock
  • List Price: $375.00
  • Imprint: Facts On File
  • Published: 01/01/2012
  • Dewey Number: 822
  • Reading Level: Grades 9 and up
  • Pages: 2198


The Facts On File Companion to Shakespeare is the largest and most comprehensive student's guide to Shakespeare ever published. The primary goal of this new five-volume set is to make Shakespeare's poems and plays accessible and appealing to high school and college students. Written and edited by active Shakespearean scholars and critics who have a love of teaching and explaining Shakespeare, this landmark collection presents Shakespeare's poems and plays in a whole new light for anyone interested in fully comprehending this great writer's works.

Part I contains the following background essays:

  • Shakespeare's Life: a concise but thorough biography of Shakespeare
  • Society and Culture in Shakespeare's Day: an account of the social structure and cultural norms of England in Shakespeare's time
  • History and Politics in Shakespeare's Day: a description of the political situation in Shakespeare's England as well as the important historical events that affected Shakespeare's work
  • Shakespeare Today—Contemporary Critical Backgrounds: a guide to contemporary academic approaches to Shakespeare's work
  • Other Writers of Shakespeare's Day: a look at Shakespeare's fellow writers and the contemporary literary culture of the time
  • Shakespeare's Texts: an explanation of how scholars and editors have made use of the original publications of Shakespeare's works to create the texts we read today
  • The History of the Authorship Controversy: an analysis of the popular, if thinly evidenced, controversy over the identity of the "real" writer of Shakespeare's works
  • Shakespeare's Language: an overview of Shakespeare's unique use of language, with advice for students approaching Shakespeare
  • A Shakespeare Glossary: definitions of the most common obsolete or unfamiliar words in Shakespeare's work
  • Bibliography of Secondary Sources: a selective guide to the most important critical, biographical, and historical works on Shakespeare.

Part II of the set covers Shakespeare's poems, including the longer poems Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece; the shorter poem "The Phoenix and the Turtle"; and Shakespeare's sonnets, which are examined both as an extended series (in a long overview essay) and as individual works (in more than 70 shorter essays on the most important sonnets). 

Part III, which takes up four of the set's five volumes, examines all of Shakespeare's plays, including the plays he wrote in collaboration with other playwrights.

Each entry on a play contains the following subsections:

  • Background: the political, social, and artistic context of the play
  • Synopsis: a clear, concise, scene-by-scene description of the action of the play
  • Character List: an alphabetically arranged list of the play's characters, with brief descriptions of each
  • Character Studies: in-depth analyses of the most important characters in the play
  • Difficulties of the Play: a general discussion of the major challenges and obstacles for students in their understanding of the play, as well as advice to overcome those obstacles
  • Key Passages: analyses of important passages in the play
  • Difficult Passages: analyses of passages that may be particularly difficult for students to understand
  • Critical Introduction to the Play: a general overview of the themes, ideas, symbols and other elements important to understanding the play
  • Extracts of Classic Criticism: selections of critical essays by great critics of the past
  • Modern Criticism and Critical Controversies: an overview of the ideas of major critics who responded to the play in the 20th and early 21st centuries
  • The Play Today: a discussion of the play as it appears in the present day, whether in criticism, on stage, or on screen
  • Topics for Discussion and Writing: a list of five promising topics for student discussion or writing, in the form of provocative questions that students can develop into ideas of their own
  • Bibliography.


More than 600 black-and-white illustrations. Maps. Index. Appendix. Bibliography. Glossary. In five volumes.

About the Author(s)

William Baker is University Trustee Professor and Distinguished Research Professor at Northern Illinois University. He holds a joint appointment with the university library and the department of English. He is the author, coauthor, or editor of more than 20 books, including Shakespeare; Harold Pinter: A Bibliographical History, selected as a Choice "Outstanding Academic Title"; and Facts On File's Critical Companion to Jane Austen. He is the editor of George Eliot-George Henry Lewes Studies and coeditor of The Year's Work in English Studies.

Kenneth Womack is Professor of English and Integrative Arts at Penn State University's Altoona College where he also serves as Associate Dean for Academic Affairs. He is the author, coauthor, or editor of many books, including Books and Beyond: The Greenwood Encyclopedia of New American Reading; Postwar Academic Fiction: Satire, Ethics, Community; and Postmodern Humanism in Contemporary Literature and Culture: Reconciling the Void. He is the editor of Interdisciplinary Literary Studies: A Journal of Criticism and Theory and coeditor of The Year's Work in English Studies.

Reviews and Awards

"Each feature of this companion to Shakespeare's life and works could be a book in its own right. Indeed, such books do already exist; however, this is one of the largest, most comprehensive sets...[a] highly readable and insightful set."


"...an excellent guide to Shakespeare...useful. Recommended."


"...a must-have for all public and school libraries. A serious, accessible discussion of Shakespeare's works and tools for the future study of it."

School Library Journal

"...excellent...a welcome addition...An essential source for insightful interpretations of Shakespeare's poetry and plays."

Library Journal

"Best Reference Source"

- Library Journal

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