Modern Library Gets Shakespeare Right

So I am loving—loving—reading these beautiful RSC Modern Library trade Shakespeares.

Here’s what they have going for them:

  • Great covers. Read Shakespeare without feeling like you’re a student!
  • Perfect weight. Yes, they feel exactly like the paperback novel you’re used to holding on your hand in the subway every day.
  • Astonishing price. I kid you not: these are trade paperbacks at $6 each. And we are not talking about mass market paper here.
  • Scene by scene exposition. (Which they are kind enough to call “analysis”.) Because, let’s be honest, from time to time you may need some help to know what the hell is going on. This appears at the end of the play, not at the start of every scene, allowing you to resist the temptation to read it all upfront.
  • Explanatory notes for difficult words and passages, which appear at the bottom of each page—without overwhelming it—for easy reference.
  • Introductions that draw you into the text and are less than ten pages long.
  • Oh, and the most exhilarating language, the most probing thematic inquiry, and the keenest psychological insight in the history of English. But you knew that already.

In short, they do everything possible to remove obstacles between you and the plays. That sounds easy, but I’ve never found another edition or series that does it—all of it—satisfactorily. I swear, they didn’t even call me up to ask what I’ve been griping about all these years.

Plus there’s a whole bunch of stuff that you probably don’t care about:

  • The RSC endorsement (which delivers a significant “in performance” essay in each volume).
  • Respectable scholarship. Yes, the textual notes and passages from other quartos are there if you really want them.
  • Further reading, chronologies, and a brief “key facts” section (with helpful notes on dates and sources).

In short, as far as I’m concerned they are the definitive stand-alone editions for the adult reader. Highly recommended. Andtherearemorecoming.