100 books like Hamlet and the Visual Arts, 1709-1900

By Alan R. Young,

Here are 100 books that Hamlet and the Visual Arts, 1709-1900 fans have personally recommended if you like Hamlet and the Visual Arts, 1709-1900. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Exhibiting Englishness: John Boydell's Shakespeare Gallery and the Formation of a National Aesthetic

Sally Barnden Author Of Still Shakespeare and the Photography of Performance

From my list on Shakespeare’s plays and the visual arts.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I studied Shakespeare’s works as an undergraduate, I became intrigued by the questions of why and how we got to the point where Shakespeare’s name is recognised all over the world, his plays are quoted in everyday conversation, and his works are central to every English Literature course. I’ve pursued these questions in my academic research, where I look at the history of Shakespeare in performance, but also at how these performances are remembered in souvenirs, pictures, and objects. 

Sally's book list on Shakespeare’s plays and the visual arts

Sally Barnden Why did Sally love this book?

This book offers an art historian’s take on an exhibition that created a recognisable genre of ‘Shakespeare painting’ and included many paintings which informed illustration and stage design for generations. Rosie Dias looks at the connection between Boydell’s Gallery and English nationalism, noting that the gallery launched at the time of the French Revolution and of George III’s first attack of mental illness. Dias gives sensitive and informative readings of individual paintings and addresses the exhibition itself as a social and cultural event with a long-lasting influence. 

By Rosie Dias,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Exhibiting Englishness as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the late 18th century, as a wave of English nationalism swept the country, the printseller John Boydell set out to create an ambitious exhibition space, one devoted to promoting and fostering a distinctly English style of history painting. With its very name, the Shakespeare Gallery signaled to Londoners that the artworks on display shared an undisputed quality and a national spirit. Exhibiting Englishness explores the responses of key artists of the period to Boydell's venture and sheds new light on the gallery's role in the larger context of British art.

Tracking the shift away from academic and Continental European…


Book cover of The Afterlife of Ophelia

Sally Barnden Author Of Still Shakespeare and the Photography of Performance

From my list on Shakespeare’s plays and the visual arts.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I studied Shakespeare’s works as an undergraduate, I became intrigued by the questions of why and how we got to the point where Shakespeare’s name is recognised all over the world, his plays are quoted in everyday conversation, and his works are central to every English Literature course. I’ve pursued these questions in my academic research, where I look at the history of Shakespeare in performance, but also at how these performances are remembered in souvenirs, pictures, and objects. 

Sally's book list on Shakespeare’s plays and the visual arts

Sally Barnden Why did Sally love this book?

If Young’s focus on just one play seemed hyper-specific, this book takes it a step further by looking at the afterlife of a single character from Hamlet. Deanne Williams and Kaara L. Peterson have brought together chapters looking at Ophelia in painting, photography, film, stage design, and even on social media. The international group of authors looks at Ophelia from different perspectives and demonstrates her connections with the history of women’s physical and mental health. The striking photograph on the cover – Gregory Crewdson’s Untitled (Ophelia) is a key example of the collection’s scope: it restages a famous nineteenth-century painting of the drowning Ophelia, but sets it in a modern living room. 

By Kaara L. Peterson (editor), Deanne Williams (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Afterlife of Ophelia as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This collection of new essays is the first to explore the rich afterlife of one of Shakespeare's most recognizable characters. With contributions from an international group of established and emerging scholars, The Afterlife of Ophelia moves beyond the confines of existing scholarship and forges new lines of inquiry beyond Shakespeare studies.


Book cover of Shakespeare, Performance and the Archive

Sally Barnden Author Of Still Shakespeare and the Photography of Performance

From my list on Shakespeare’s plays and the visual arts.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I studied Shakespeare’s works as an undergraduate, I became intrigued by the questions of why and how we got to the point where Shakespeare’s name is recognised all over the world, his plays are quoted in everyday conversation, and his works are central to every English Literature course. I’ve pursued these questions in my academic research, where I look at the history of Shakespeare in performance, but also at how these performances are remembered in souvenirs, pictures, and objects. 

Sally's book list on Shakespeare’s plays and the visual arts

Sally Barnden Why did Sally love this book?

Barbara Hodgdon’s sensitive, thoughtful, and often funny writing about how we remember Shakespeare's performances was one of the main reasons I wanted to explore this topic; her essay "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Still" shaped my thinking about Shakespeare's photography. This book reflects on her lifetime of theatregoing and puts personal memories and souvenirs into conversation with other kinds of records – photographs, sketches, prompt books, and props. In the process she explores the relationship between rehearsal, performance, and archives. Her approach is consciously playful, acknowledging the role of the imagination in the workings of memory.

By Barbara Hodgdon,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Shakespeare, Performance and the Archive as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Shakespeare, Performance and the Archive is a ground-breaking and movingly written exploration of what remains when actors evacuate the space and time of performance. An analysis of 'leftovers', it moves between tracking the politics of what is consciously archived and the politics of visible and invisible theatrical labour to trace the persistence of performance.

In this fascinating volume, Hodgdon considers how documents, material objects, sketches, drawings and photographs explore scenarios of action and behaviour - and embodied practices. Rather than viewing these leftovers as indexical signs of a theatrical past, Hodgdon argues that the work they do is neither strictly…


Book cover of Shakespeare on Silent Film: An Excellent Dumb Discourse

Sally Barnden Author Of Still Shakespeare and the Photography of Performance

From my list on Shakespeare’s plays and the visual arts.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I studied Shakespeare’s works as an undergraduate, I became intrigued by the questions of why and how we got to the point where Shakespeare’s name is recognised all over the world, his plays are quoted in everyday conversation, and his works are central to every English Literature course. I’ve pursued these questions in my academic research, where I look at the history of Shakespeare in performance, but also at how these performances are remembered in souvenirs, pictures, and objects. 

Sally's book list on Shakespeare’s plays and the visual arts

Sally Barnden Why did Sally love this book?

Today, one of the most prominent visual media in which Shakespeare’s plays are recreated is cinema. Judith Buchanan’s work exposes the role of Shakespeare in building intellectual credibility for the early film industry and addresses the paradox of adapting plays celebrated for their language in a medium with no spoken words. She shows how early films were shaped by the visual conventions of the Victorian stage and by popular technologies such as the magic lantern. The book demonstrates some of the techniques used by silent films to remake familiar images and adapt Shakespeare’s long speeches to visual storytelling. 

By Judith Buchanan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Shakespeare on Silent Film as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Several hundred films based on Shakespearean material were made in cinema's 'silent' era. What economic and cultural ambitions combined in order to make Shakespeare such attractive source material for the film industry? What were the characteristic approaches of particular production companies and of particular national film industries? How were silent Shakespeare films marketed, distributed, exhibited and received? Through a series of close readings, and drawing upon a wealth of primary research, this engaging account tells an evolving story that both illuminates silent Shakespeare films already known, and brings into critical circulation other films not yet commercially available and therefore little…


Book cover of Hamlet

Karl F. Zender Author Of Shakespeare and Faulkner: Selves and Others

From my list on the most wonderful American, British, and Irish writers.

Why am I passionate about this?

Growing up on a small farm in southern Ohio, I was the first generation of my family to attend both high school and college. Literature, reading it, talking about it, studying it, was my entry into a world of larger possibilities than my family’s somewhat straitened circumstances had allowed me. Faulkner attracted me because the rural enclave in which we lived, and my neighbors, resembled locales and characters in his fiction. Shakespeare attracted me for many reasons, most notably the beauty of his language and the ability of his plays to reveal new meanings as my life experiences changed.

Karl's book list on the most wonderful American, British, and Irish writers

Karl F. Zender Why did Karl love this book?

Hamlet is one of those literary characters, like Faust, who gains an iconic, extra-literary identity. Moody, hesitant, insolent, and wracked by guilt and doubt, Hamlet marked the eruption into Western literature of self-consciousness as a literary trope. 

Understanding that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are agents of Claudius, not his true friends, Hamlet mockingly says, “You would pluck out the heart of my mystery.”  Whether considered in psychological, social, religious, historical, or political terms, that “mystery” has for centuries intrigued readers and audiences. I invite you to share that intrigue, or to return to it.

By William Shakespeare,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Hamlet as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'The Mona Lisa of literature' T. S. Eliot

In Shakespeare's verbally dazzling and eternally enigmatic exploration of conscience, madness and the nature of humanity, a young prince meets his father's ghost in the middle of the night, who accuses his own brother - now married to his widow - of murdering him. The prince devises a scheme to test the truth of the ghost's accusation, feigning wild insanity while plotting revenge. But his actions soon begin to wreak havoc on innocent and guilty alike.

Used and Recommended by the National Theatre

General Editor Stanley Wells
Edited by T. J. B.…


Book cover of Soul of the Age: A Biography of the Mind of William Shakespeare

Arlene Naylor Okerlund Author Of Elizabeth: England's Slandered Queen

From my list on biographies that tell the truth.

Why am I passionate about this?

Fake news is not new. Biographies, in particular, are fraught with fallacies and fake stories. When fake news slanders individuals, reputations are ruined and lives destroyed. That’s what happened to Elizabeth Wydeville, Queen Consort to Edward IV, and mother of the two princes who disappeared during Richard III’s reign. When I discovered the slander that destroyed Queen Elizabeth’s reputation, I began a 5-year research project to set the record straight. Some fallacies are deliberate, originating in envy or power putsches. Others derive from historical laziness or incompetence. What I learned from my research has determined my choices of biographies, stories that tell previously unrevealed truths about individuals.

Arlene's book list on biographies that tell the truth

Arlene Naylor Okerlund Why did Arlene love this book?

Critics argue that William Shakespeare did not write the works attributed to him because he lacked the knowledge of classical myth and history basic to his plots and imagery. Jonathan Bates proves that the curriculum of the grammar school in Stratford-on-Avon provided an education sufficient to explain Shakespeare’s plays and poems. Bate reviews books in English and Latin that Shakespeare would have read and that created his rhetorical brilliance. 

I treasure Bate’s biography because my own background originated in a rural, agricultural setting outside the social and economic circles that usually produce academic types. Bates disproves the fallacy that only the privileged and elite can survive and thrive in life and careers.

By Jonathan Bate,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Soul of the Age as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“One man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.”

In this illuminating, innovative biography, Jonathan Bate, one of today’s most accomplished Shakespearean scholars, has found a fascinating new way to tell the story of the great dramatist. Using the Bard’s own immortal list of a man’s seven ages in As You Like It, Bate deduces the crucial events of Shakespeare’s life and connects them to his world and work as never before.

Here is the author as an infant, born into a world of plague and syphillis, diseases with which he became closely familiar; as a…


Book cover of Power Plays: Shakespeare's Lessons in Leadership and Management

Ken Wilcox Author Of Leading Through Culture: How Real Leaders Create Cultures That Motivate People to Achieve Great Things

From my list on leadership showing the art of motivating people.

Why am I passionate about this?

Ken began his career as an Assistant Professor of German Studies at the University of North Carolina. After ten years in academe, he went to the Harvard Business School, following which he embarked on a 36-year career banking. Ken worked at Shawmut Bank, Bank of New England, and from 1990 through 2019 at Silicon Valley Bank. Mr. Wilcox earned a master’s degree in business administration from Harvard Business School, as well as a PhD in German studies Ohio State University. He published Leading Through Culture: How Real Leaders Create Cultures that Motivate People to Achieve Great Things and soon he'll be publishing a second book One Bed Two Dreams: When Western Companies Fail in China.

Ken's book list on leadership showing the art of motivating people

Ken Wilcox Why did Ken love this book?

People often ask themselves, why study literature. What’s the use?

This is the only book I have ever read that attempts to show how literature applies to leadership and management. The authors, one a professor of Shakespearian literature, and the other a management consultant, attempts to show how Shakespeare’s play contain practical lessons for leaders.

The chapter I liked most talks about how and why the CEO doesn’t always want their successor to succeed, and how they sometimes sabotage their successor’s success.

By John O. Whitney, Tina Packer, Steve Noble (illustrator)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Power Plays as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

What Can Shakespeare teach us about effective leadership? Everything, according to John Whitney, leading professor at Columbia Business School, and Tina Packer, founder, president and artistic director of the critically acclaimed theatre group Shakespeare & Company. Whether we are dealing with an indecisive Hamlet or a corporate Lear, this innovative approach to management helps us tap into the timeless wisdom and profitable genius of the Bard. The issues fuelling the intricate plots of Shakespeare's 400-year-old plays are the same common yet complex issues that business leaders contend with today. John Whitney and Tina Packer compare Shakespeare's plays with management techniques,…


Book cover of Providence of a Sparrow: Lessons from a Life Gone to the Birds

Jonathan Balcombe Author Of Super Fly: The Unexpected Lives of the World's Most Successful Insects

From my list on understanding birds.

Why am I passionate about this?

I started watching animals as soon as I could walk. That eventually led to a PhD in animal behavior and a career in animal protection. I now focus my energies on writing books that seek to improve our understanding of, and most importantly our relations with, other animals. I've written four previous books: Pleasurable Kingdom, Second Nature, The Exultant Ark, and What a Fish Knows (a New York Times best-seller now available in fifteen languages). I live in Belleville, Ontario where I enjoy biking, baking, birding, Bach, and trying to understand the neighborhood squirrels.

Jonathan's book list on understanding birds

Jonathan Balcombe Why did Jonathan love this book?

An electrician and his wife rescue an orphaned baby house sparrow and raise him into adulthood and beyond. This beautifully and at times hilariously told story is full of precious revelations about the rich personality of a bird routinely overlooked by us.

By Chris Chester,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Providence of a Sparrow as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“There’s a special providence in the fall of a sparrow.” --William Shakespeare, Hamlet

B fell twenty-five feet from his nest into the life of Chris Chester. The encounter was providential for both of them.
B and Chester spent hours together playing games like bottle-cap fetch or hide-and-seek. They learned “words” in each other’s vocabularies. B developed a fetish for nostrils and a dislike of the color yellow. He grew anxious if Chester came home late from work. At bedtime he would rub his sleepy eyes on Chester’s thumb and settle to sleep in his palm. Chester ended up turning part…


Book cover of Hamnet

Flora Johnston Author Of The Paris Peacemakers

From my list on historical fiction books with a new take on a famous event.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m fascinated by stories from the past. I worked for many years in museums and heritage, telling Scotland’s stories through exhibitions and nonfiction publications, but I was always drawn to the question best answered through historical fiction – what did that feel like? Well-researched historical fiction can take us right into the lives of people who lived through the dramatic events we read about in academic books. I found that each of the novels on my list transported me to a different time and place, and I hope you enjoy them, too.

Flora's book list on historical fiction books with a new take on a famous event

Flora Johnston Why did Flora love this book?

Shakespeare wrote Hamlet, right? Yes, but why? This wonderful book manages to tell the story of the writing of perhaps the world’s most famous play without mentioning the playwright by name once.

I loved the way the writer focused on his wife and children, and through their stories shows us not only the world that Shakespeare came from but how he became the writer he was. Oh, and if you like a book that will make you cry this really is the one. I’ve rarely read such a powerful description of grief.

By Maggie O'Farrell,

Why should I read it?

35 authors picked Hamnet as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

WINNER OF THE 2020 WOMEN'S PRIZE FOR FICTION - THE NO. 1 BESTSELLER 2021
'Richly sensuous... something special' The Sunday Times
'A thing of shimmering wonder' David Mitchell

TWO EXTRAORDINARY PEOPLE. A LOVE THAT DRAWS THEM TOGETHER. A LOSS THAT THREATENS TO TEAR THEM APART.

On a summer's day in 1596, a young girl in Stratford-upon-Avon takes to her bed with a sudden fever. Her twin brother, Hamnet, searches everywhere for help. Why is nobody at home?

Their mother, Agnes, is over a mile away, in the garden where she grows medicinal herbs. Their father is working in London.

Neither…


Book cover of The Lunatic, the Lover, and the Poet

Jinny Webber Author Of Bedtrick

From my list on relating to Shakespeare.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a long-time teacher of Shakespeare’s plays who’s performed in and directed amateur productions and written spin-off plays myself, I love all aspects of William Shakespeare. Before writing my own books set in his era I did intensive research into its theatre and politics, but the more imaginative approach of novelists offers different delights. I like shedding our reverence for The Bard and looking at the man, his relationships, and what contributed to his plays beyond his sources. Rather than real or fictional biographies of Shakespeare, my list features creative stories for both pleasure and learning. 

Jinny's book list on relating to Shakespeare

Jinny Webber Why did Jinny love this book?

Hermes’ novel displays a different sort of playfulness, opening in Wittenberg with Horatio as narrator. It connects not only to Hamlet but also Shakespeare’s sonnets. Shakespeare is a character in the topsy-turvy fashion, not speaking directly. I loved the clever weaving of Shakespeare’s lines into the dialogue and the suspenseful, twisting plot. Hermes employs gender-bending differently than I do and touches on the authorship controversy, as I do not. Her identification of the dark lady and fair youth of the sonnets is unique. I appreciate her creativity and her way of incorporating quotations. In my work, there are speeches from plays and poems spoken aloud, as my protagonist is an actor, but in the 11th century they resemble natural speech. Moving forward and backward in time, this novel inspires flights of imagination.

By Myrlin A. Hermes,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Lunatic, the Lover, and the Poet as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Laced with quotes, references, and in-jokes, cross-dressing, bed-tricks, mistaken identity, and a bisexual love-triangle inspired by Shakespeare′s own sonnets, The Lunatic, the Lover, and the Poet novel upends everything you thought you knew about Hamlet. Witty, insightful, playful, and truly wise about the greatest works of the Bard, this novel is a delectable treat for people that have loved books like Stephen Greenblatt′s Will in the World and John Updike′s Gertrude and Claudius.

A Divinity scholar at Wittenberg University, Horatio prides himself on his ability to argue both sides of any intellectual debate but is himself a skeptic, never fully…


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