100 books like Shakespeare, Performance and the Archive

By Barbara Hodgdon,

Here are 100 books that Shakespeare, Performance and the Archive fans have personally recommended if you like Shakespeare, Performance and the Archive. 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 Hamlet and the Visual Arts, 1709-1900

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?

Alan R. Young’s close focus on an individual play over nearly two centuries shows how far images can shape our ideas of what a play is about. He looks at paintings, illustrations, prints, photographs, and comic burlesques, demonstrating the incredible variety of images which have been inspired by Hamlet. I find Young’s chronological approach incredibly helpful, since it shows how one image influences another, and how representations of a single scene can change over time in line with fashions in the art world. 

By Alan R. Young,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Hamlet and the Visual Arts, 1709-1900 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book examines the manner in which Shakespeare's Hamlet was perceived in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and represented in the available visual media. The more than 2,000 visual images of Hamlet that the author has identified both reflected the critical reception of the play and simultaneously influenced the history of the ever-changing constructed cultural phenomenon that we refer to as Shakespeare.


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 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 Walking Through Clear Water in a Pool Painted Black

Joseph Ridgwell Author Of Burrito Deluxe

From my list on road novels of all time.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been obsessed with travel and novels that feature travel in the narrative since my early teens. A near-death experience at the age of nineteen, forced me to confront my own limited life experiences and encouraged me to travel the globe and see some of the world we live in before it was too late, as there’s nothing worse than too late. Also growing up on an inner city council estate instilled a desire to escape the urban environment and international travel and travel writing satisfied those compelling urges.

Joseph's book list on road novels of all time

Joseph Ridgwell Why did Joseph love this book?

This is a collection of short stories by John Waters bit-part actress—Cookie Mueller. Most of the well-crafted stories in this cult classic are autobiographical, and most feature the author’s travels around America and Europe, and the rest of the world. Cookie has a unique literary voice, and reading her stories it’s like you are actually getting to know the author personally. Criminally out of print for many years, this excellent book was recently re-published in the UK by Canongate. Unfortunately, Cookie died at the tender age of 40, and so was unable to fulfill her undoubted potential. 

By Cookie Mueller,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Walking Through Clear Water in a Pool Painted Black as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The first collected edition of legendary writer, actress, and adventurer Cookie Mueller's stories, featuring the entire contents of her 1990 book Walking through Clear Water in a Pool Painted Black, alongside more than two dozen others, some previously unpublished.

Legendary as an underground actress, female adventurer, and East Village raconteur, Cookie Mueller's first calling was to the written word: "I started writing when I was six and have never stopped completely," she once confessed. Muellerís 1990 Walking through Clear Water in a Pool Painted Black, the first volume of the Semiotext(e) Native Agents series, was the largest collection of stories…


Book cover of The Taming of the Drew

S.M. Stevens Author Of Bit Players, Has-Been Actors and Other Posers

From my list on for tweens, teens and young adults who love theater.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a teenager, I didn’t have the lack of inhibition or abundant self-confidence to excel in high school drama. Like Sadie in Bit Players, I finally wowed the directors at my senior year audition, only to learn the lead was promised in advance to someone else. I recovered and stayed involved in theater: cast, crew, and front-of-house jobs for a summer theater program; the box office for Cornell’s MFA program; and supporting my kids’ drama activities. Performing in a show is different from any other experience. If you’ve been in a show, you know this. If you haven’t, read on to enter the magical world of theatre.

S.M.'s book list on for tweens, teens and young adults who love theater

S.M. Stevens Why did S.M. love this book?

Many YA novels set in a theatrical environment are heavily romance-focused. This book is the best I’ve found in that category. The hero, recent high school graduate Cass, has a super-strong voice that made me laugh out loud. She’s snarky, off-color, bold, and impatient. The theater plotline weaves throughout the story as Cass and cohorts perform The Taming of the Shrew at a summer theater. She steals ideas from Shakespeare’s play to torment her costar and nemesis, Drew. 

Theater Quotient: High. Much of the plot revolves around rehearsals and elements of the play trickle into real life.

By Stephanie Kate Strohm,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Taming of the Drew as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 11, 12, 13, and 14.

What is this book about?

Cass McKay has been called stubborn, temperamental, difficult, and that word that rhymes with "witch" more times than she cares to count. But that's all about to pay off. She has finally landed the role she was born to play-Kate, in The Taming of the Shrew-in the summer apprentice program of a renowned Vermont Shakespeare theater company.

But Cass can barely lace up her corset before her troubles begin. The leading man, Drew, is a complete troll, and he's going to ruin Cass's summer. Even worse, Cass's bunkmate Amy has somehow fallen head over heels for Drew. Eww! Cass can't…


Book cover of The Riverside Shakespeare

Peter A. Balaskas Author Of Triptych: An Omnibus of Wonder

From my list on classic speculative literature.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a fiction writer, poet, essayist, and (now) a playwright, I am a staunch believer in applying the “Three Es” in all of my work in equal quantities: to entertain, to enlighten, and to educate. My passion to create stories has been ongoing throughout my life, courtesy of my love for the written word, cinema, and the theater, all of which have impacted and influenced my stories in amazing ways. My background and accolades as a writer and publisher are listed on my personal website, but it’s my life experiences and the books that I have recommended that helped me evolve as a storyteller. 

Peter's book list on classic speculative literature

Peter A. Balaskas Why did Peter love this book?

Speaking as a playwright, this selection is a must. It not only contains all of the Bard’s plays, it also includes all of his beloved sonnets. His collected works not only serve as a foundation regarding dramatic structure and poetics, but his eloquence is fuel for any lover of the written word.

By William Shakespeare, G. Blakemore Evans (editor),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Second Edition of this complete collection of Shakespeare's plays and poems features two essays on recent criticism and productions, fully updated textual notes, a photographic insert of recent productions, and two works recently attributed to Shakespeare. The authors of the essays on recent criticism and productions are Heather DuBrow, University of Wisconsin at Madison, and William Liston, Ball State University, respectively.


Book cover of Shakespeare in Love: A Screenplay

Jessica Barksdale Inclan Author Of The Play's the Thing

From my list on to help you love William Shakespeare even more.

Why am I passionate about this?

While I taught Shakespeare’s plays all my teaching career, I stayed in my lanes: Hamlet, Othello, The Merchant of Venice, King Lear. As a poetry teacher, I used his sonnets as examples of metaphor and form, but never did I consider myself an expert. However, when the idea for my novel popped into my head, I realized I had some serious reading to do. Not only did I study the facts, I delved into the fiction. While some of these books came out during my writing and others after, I didn’t lose my interest, picking up whatever new Shakespeare book appeared. These are some of my favorites.

Jessica's book list on to help you love William Shakespeare even more

Jessica Barksdale Inclan Why did Jessica love this book?

This is the screenplay of the movie that caught all our hearts. Until this film was made, most people imagined William Shakespeare as a balding, portly man who wrote plays that no one could understand then or now.

But in this film, Shakespeare is a (handsome) man, questing for love as well as a writer whose words speak to everyone’s heart. Plus there’s mistaken identities, subplots, intrigue, and Queen Elizabeth. What’s not to love?

By Marc Norman, Tom Stoppard,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The screenplay to the critically acclaimed film which New York Newsday called one of the funniest, most enchanting, most romantic, and best written tales ever spun from the vast legend of Shakespeare. Marc Norman and renowned dramatist, Tom Stoppard have created the best screenplay of the year according to the Golden Globes and the New York Film Critics Circle.


Book cover of The Secret Life of William Shakespeare: A Novel

Jessica Barksdale Inclan Author Of The Play's the Thing

From my list on to help you love William Shakespeare even more.

Why am I passionate about this?

While I taught Shakespeare’s plays all my teaching career, I stayed in my lanes: Hamlet, Othello, The Merchant of Venice, King Lear. As a poetry teacher, I used his sonnets as examples of metaphor and form, but never did I consider myself an expert. However, when the idea for my novel popped into my head, I realized I had some serious reading to do. Not only did I study the facts, I delved into the fiction. While some of these books came out during my writing and others after, I didn’t lose my interest, picking up whatever new Shakespeare book appeared. These are some of my favorites.

Jessica's book list on to help you love William Shakespeare even more

Jessica Barksdale Inclan Why did Jessica love this book?

One of the best ways to learn about a character is to listen to what other characters say (or think) about him, in this case, Shakespeare. As with Hamnet, much of this book focuses on Anne Hathaway, and we learn about Shakespeare as a very young man making his way in the world—not only as a writer—but as a lover and husband. Once in the writing world, we see the ripple effects of his writing, as fellow playwrights Christopher Marlowe and Ben Jonson provide their perspectives. A great look into Shakespeare and Elizabethan England.

By Jude Morgan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Secret Life of William Shakespeare as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The greatest writer of them all, brought to glorious life.

How well do you know the man you love? How much do you think you know about Shakespeare? What if they were one and the same? He is an ordinary man: unwilling craftsman, ambitious actor, resentful son, almost good-enough husband. And he is also a genius. The story of how a glove-maker from Warwickshire became the greatest writer of them all is vaguely known to most of us, but it would take an exceptional modern novelist to bring him to life. And now at last Jude Morgan, acclaimed author of…


Book cover of Shakespeare After All

Jessica Barksdale Inclan Author Of The Play's the Thing

From my list on to help you love William Shakespeare even more.

Why am I passionate about this?

While I taught Shakespeare’s plays all my teaching career, I stayed in my lanes: Hamlet, Othello, The Merchant of Venice, King Lear. As a poetry teacher, I used his sonnets as examples of metaphor and form, but never did I consider myself an expert. However, when the idea for my novel popped into my head, I realized I had some serious reading to do. Not only did I study the facts, I delved into the fiction. While some of these books came out during my writing and others after, I didn’t lose my interest, picking up whatever new Shakespeare book appeared. These are some of my favorites.

Jessica's book list on to help you love William Shakespeare even more

Jessica Barksdale Inclan Why did Jessica love this book?

This is a hefty tome, and Garber knows her Shakespeare. I used much of this in my research, and I was impressed by the breadth of her knowledge. Why should I have been surprised? Garber teaches at Harvard, so, well, duh. But what works so well here is that she approaches the plays in chronological order. We watch Shakespeare develop as a writer—his skills and themes deepening, growingas he grapples with comedy and tragedy. This is a book to dip in and out of but never does it disappoint.

By Marjorie Garber,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A brilliant and companionable tour through all thirty-eight plays, Shakespeare After All is the perfect introduction to the bard by one of the country’s foremost authorities on his life and work.

Drawing on her hugely popular lecture courses at Yale and Harvard over the past thirty years, Marjorie Garber offers passionate and revealing readings of the plays in chronological sequence, from The Two Gentlemen of Verona to The Two Noble Kinsmen. Supremely readable and engaging, and complete with a comprehensive introduction to Shakespeare’s life and times and an extensive bibliography, this magisterial work is an ever-replenishing fount of insight on…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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