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The Great White Bard: How to Love Shakespeare While Talking About Race By Farah Karim-Cooper Cover Image

The Great White Bard: How to Love Shakespeare While Talking About Race (Hardcover)

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CHOSEN AS ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: TIME, NPR, The New Yorker, Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly

As we witness monuments of white Western history fall, many are asking how is Shakespeare still relevant?

Professor Farah Karim-Cooper has dedicated her career to the Bard, which is why she wants to take the playwright down from his pedestal to unveil a Shakespeare for the twenty-first century. If we persist in reading Shakespeare as representative of only one group, as the very pinnacle of the white Western canon, then he will truly be in peril.

Combining piercing analysis of race, gender and otherness in famous plays from Antony and Cleopatra to The Tempest with a radical reappraisal of Elizabethan London, The Great White Bard asks us neither to idealize nor bury Shakespeare but instead to look him in the eye and reckon with the discomforts of his plays, playhouses and society. In inviting new perspectives and interpretations, we may yet prolong and enrich his extraordinary legacy.
Farah Karim-Cooper is a Director of Education at Shakespeare’s Globe and a professor of literature and Shakespeare studies at King’s College London; she was president of the Shakespeare Association of America from 2021 to 2022 after serving three years on the board of trustees. The holder of an Oxford University TORCH Humanities Cultural Programme Fellowship, she was a visiting fellow of Exeter College, Oxford, from 2022 to 2023. She curated the Globe Theatre’s Shakespeare and Race festivals and its Anti-Racist Shakespeare webinar series. She is a general coeditor of the Folger Shakespeare Editions and the author of works on Shakespeare including Cosmetics in Shakespearean and Renaissance Drama, The Hand on the Shakespearean Stage, and most recently Titus Andronicus: The State of Play.
Product Details ISBN: 9780593489376
ISBN-10: 0593489373
Publisher: Viking
Publication Date: August 15th, 2023
Pages: 336
Language: English
CHOSEN AS ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: TIME, NPR, The New Yorker, Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly

"The Great White Bard contributes to an essential discussion on Shakespeare and race, one that must include literary scholars, historians, etymologists, audiences and, yes, even actors. Let us all debate and think critically about the issues Karim-Cooper raises. At the end of the day, such tough love can guide us to truly love Shakespeare.” -- The New York Times

“Although Karim-Cooper’s new book tackles a long-standing scholarly question, it is remarkable for its accessibility, both to nonspecialist readers and to those who find themselves more invested in today’s politics than those of early English modernity.” --The Washington Post

“The rigorous and nuanced analysis stimulates, and Karim-Cooper’s evenhanded approach refuses to excuse Shakespeare’s racism while insisting that his plays still have much to offer modern audiences. This is a vital contribution to the shelf on Shakespeare.” -- Publishers Weekly (starred)

"Karim-Cooper’s candid discussion of more nuanced and informed approaches to interpreting Shakespeare can only help his work endure." -- BookPage (starred)

“This text is essential to understanding the concept of racial identities in Shakespeare’s era, his inclusion of nonwhite and non-Christian characters, and the cultural nostalgia around his work.” -- Booklist (starred)

“Any critic who analyzes Shakespeare from a particular point of view—through the critical lens of race—risks being accused of reductive special pleading. But anyone who has seen more than one or two Shakespearean productions knows that his plays not only accommodate many different interpretations but thrive on them. Each new reading enriches our understanding, and none is the final word on his capacious art. By carefully explicating under-known or disregarded race-inflected language and attitudes in Shakespeare’s texts, The Great White Bard takes crucial steps forward in this never-finished project.” -- American Theatre

"She concludes… “We all have the right to claim the Bard”  Amen to that." -- Daily Telegraph (London)

"Her arguments, cumulatively, come to feel essential and should be absorbed by every theatre director, writer, critic, interested in finding new ways into the work" -- The Guardian

“Illuminating both words and performance—an essential addition to Shakespeare studies.” --Kirkus Reviews (starred)

"Farah Karim-Cooper has long been at the center of conversations about race in Shakespeare’s plays, drawing on her experiences as a woman of color, co-director of research and education at the Globe Theatre, and Shakespeare professor. The Great White Bard is a powerful and illuminating result of this sustained engagement, grappling with how Shakespeare can be reimagined as a playwright who speaks to (and is spoken by) those excluded from the dominant culture. Historically grounded, engagingly written, richly informed by stage history, and always attuned to the ‘form and pressure’ of our time, The Great White Bard could not be more timely." --James Shapiro, author of 1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare

"This glorious book… is insightful, passionate, piled with facts and has a warm, infectious love for theatre and Shakespeare running through every chapter. Thank you to Farah Karim-Cooper for underlining the fact that we all have a right to claim Shakespeare’s work.’" -- Adrian Lester CBE, award winning actor, Hustle
"There are plenty of books on Shakespeare: but this one is different. This is Shakespeare as we’ve (most of us) never been willing to see him – and the works emerge from the analysis as newly complicit, powerful and yet recuperative." --  Emma Smith, author of This is Shakespeare
"Farah Karim-Cooper's analysis comes from a wide and fascinating perspective. This is an accessible yet scholarly book guiding the reader through essential questions about race, gender and so much more in Shakespeare’s plays. It is personal, refreshing and necessary. She has helped me reframe and understand Shakespeare in a different way. Read it and learn!’" -- Lolita Chakrabarti OBE, award winning playwright of Life of Pi
"The Great White Bard is essential reading for teachers, students, practitioners and artists. It makes clear why the exploration of Shakespeare’s plays must expose the 400-year-old cultural attitudes contained in them if we are to discover their real relevance and resonance. Farah Karim-Cooper has written an important, illuminating and accessible work that invites our active participation in debate about the plays; to interpret and interrogate them, not to venerate. It belongs in every Shakespeare classroom.’" -- Jacqui O’Hanlon, Director of Learning, Royal Shakespeare Company
"The Great White Bard is conscientiously constructed and vitally important. The book is pitched perfectly for the general reader, and it provides clear and compelling models for how to read Shakespeare with race in mind." --  Ayanna Thompson, author of Blackface