Reading Shakespeare's mind

By Steve Sohmer

Reading Shakespeare's mind


  • Hardcover

Book Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-3807-1
  • Pages: 224
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £9.99
  • Published Date: June 2018
  • BIC Category: Early Modern Literature, English, HISTORY / Historiography, LITERARY CRITICISM / European / English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh, LITERARY CRITICISM / Shakespeare, Literature & literary studies / Shakespeare studies & criticism, Literature & literary studies / General, Theatre Studies, Literature, United Kingdom, Great Britain, Literary studies: plays & playwrights, Literary studies: c 1600 to c 1800


This book shows that William Shakespeare was a more personal writer than any of his innumerable commentators have realised. It asserts that numerous characters and events were drawn from the author's life, and puts faces to the names of Jaques, Touchstone, Feste, Jessica, the 'Dark Lady' and others.

Steven Sohmer explores aspects of Shakespeare's plays and sonnets that have been hitherto overlooked or misinterpreted in an effort to better understand the man and his work. If you've ever wondered who Pigrogromitus was, or why Jaques spies on Touchstone and Audrey - or what the famous riddle M.O.A.I. stands for - this is the book for you.


'Packed with brilliantly original close readings of points most critics and editors have skimmed over.'
Andy Gurr, University of Reading

'In his searching and erudite new book, Steve Sohmer re-examines passages which have baffled generations of annotators, and finds evidence of a personal Shakespeare visible through the textual aporia of his plays.'
Michael Dobson, Shakespeare Institute

'Adventurous, inventive, iconoclastic Steve Sohmer invites us to rethink what lies behind the references in a number of Shakespeare's plays. A tour de force that launches out from the familiar pathways of Shakespeare scholarship and biography to challenge and disturb accepted wisdom. Sohmer has an acute eye for the unusual and the unexplained, and his textual discoveries are imbued with a striking audacity that builds surprising edifices on the formal foundations of a familiar historical context. Whether it's the Dark Lady of the Sonnets, who in Sohmer's historical imagination morphs into Jessica in The Merchant of Venice, or what lies behind the Oldcastle/Falstaff controversy in the Second Tetralogy, or the puzzling details of Maria's letter for Malvolio in Twelfth Night, or the real people lurking behind Shakespeare's dramatic characters: Sohmer tracks them down to uncover a personal sub-text for the plays that offers us a window into Shakespeare's elusive creative consciousness. This is a book that is at once knowledgeable, speculative, and, above all, entertaining.'
John Drakakis, University of Sterling

'Steve Sohmer's well-stocked mind can be relied upon to produce intriguingly fresh perspectives on Shakespeare's plays.'
Stanley Wells, Shakespeare's Birthplace Trust

'Not only does Sohmer get to the point, but he also makes enough of them to keep the reader continually interested, even if one disagrees with some of his conclusions. In a blurb on the book's jacket, Sir Stanley Wells notes that "Sohmer's well-stocked mind can be relied upon to produce intriguingly fresh perspectives on Shakespeare's plays." Sohmer's perspectives are not always persuasive, but they are indeed fresh and stimulating takes on the work.'
Sean Benson, University of Dubuque

'The ever bold Steve Sohmer rejects faddish but misguided efforts to deracinate Shakespeare's texts from its roots in his life; instead, Sohmer accepts Sigurd Burkardt's challenge that we try to read Shakespeare's mind, attentive to all the overlooked or misunderstood clues in his works . He is controversial but often persuasive, as he notes that Shakespeare's contemporary audiences and readers would 'catch every nuance, intimation, allusion, and innuendo of London life'.'
Richard M. Waugaman, Georgetown University, 71.1 (Spring 2018) issue of Renaissance Quarterly


Preface: Impersonal Shakespeare
Part I: Shakespeare, lovers and friends
1. Joining the mice-eyed decipherers
2. Marlowe's ghost in As You Like It
3. The dark lady of The Merchant of Venice
Part II: Queen Elizabeth's Twelfth Night
4. Twelfth Night on Twelfth Night
5. Shakespeare's Twelfth Night wordplay
6. Shakespeare and Paul in Illyria
7. Nashe and Harvey in Illyria
8. M.O.A.I. deciphered at last
9. Beginning at the beginning
10. Tributes private and public
Epilogue: Personal Shakespeare


Steve Sohmer is a Fellow of Lincoln College, Oxford

Newsletter Sign Up

Manchester University Press

Your cart is empty.

Select your shipping destination to estimate postage costs

(Based on standard shipping costs)

Final cost calculated on checkout
Promotional codes can be added on Checkout