He wrote in a spectacular English that shaped how we speak today. He described the human condition—love, doubt, revenge, laughter—in all its beauty and confusion. He gave the culture a series of almost universally recognized images and stories.
Any one of these accomplishments would have secured his place in history. That Shakespeare achieved them all is astonishing.
Logos is building his major works in a series of very special editions: the 25-volume New Kittredge Shakespeare Collection. It’s on Pre-Pub for 44% off, but the price is about to go up. If you love language and literature, or if you’re interested in understanding the culture by way of one its most important pillars, you’ll want to pre-order this one right now.
George Kittredge (1860–1941) was a literary critic in the classical mold—multilingual, witty, academically rigorous, staggeringly well-read. He taught quite a few classes at Harvard, among them English 2, the beloved Shakespeare survey that first earned him fame. From all those years of teaching came his annotated Shakespeare editions, which remained the standard in American scholarship long after his death.
Kittredge was a “philologist”: a student of literature who approached his work with a historian’s concern for cultural context and a scientist’s demand for rigorous proof. Academia, no less than other human institutions, is subject to trends; halfway through the twentieth century, philology was replaced by New Criticism, which sought to examine texts in a vacuum, independent of culture and authorship. Subsequent academic schools—above all, New Historicism—returned to Kittredge’s interest in context, but in a newly postmodern intellectual climate, his would-be-scientific rigor seemed pedantic or naïve. Like philology, Kittredge never came back into style.
It’s modern criticism’s loss: that philological lens makes his Shakespeare collection incredibly rich. For Kittredge, the object of study wasn’t just Shakespeare—it was the past itself. Now, with the research-friendly Logos editions (imagine how Kittredge would have loved the cross-references!), you can rediscover the Shakespeare collection that the Ivory Tower forgot.
“Without Tyndale, no Shakespeare”
You know that Shakespeare’s an important window into the culture. What you may not know is that Shakespeare’s works are shot through with biblical references. Shakespeare, it seems, had much of the Bible almost memorized.
These aren’t word-for-word quotations; Shakespeare didn’t cite Scripture directly. Rather, he incorporated its language to imbue his works with a layer of special drama. You have to know your Bible to pick up on most of these allusions. (Hamlet, in the face of despair, tells Horatio, “There is special providence in the fall of a sparrow”; attentive readers will hear the echo of Matthew 10:29.) Specifically, Shakespeare was a beneficiary of the work of William Tyndale, whose widely available translation gave England a vast bank of shared references (like “the fall of a sparrow”) and encouraged a literate culture. David Daniell, founder of the Tyndale Society, went so far as to say that without Tyndale, there could be no Shakespeare.
The connections between Shakespeare and Christianity merit more than this passing mention; if you’d like to learn more, you can pick up several volumes on the topic with Logos’ Shakespeare and Christianity Collection. In the meantime, though, suffice it to say that reading Shakespeare need not come at the expense of reading your Bible—you’ll be surprised and delighted to encounter traces of Scripture all through his most famous works.
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The New Kittredge Shakespeare Collection is 44% off on Pre-Pub, but it’s moving fast—the price is going up very soon. This is your chance to own one of humanity’s literary treasures, curated and explained by one of the twentieth century’s greatest scholars and critics.
Don’t let this one pass you by—pre-order the New Kittredge Shakespeare Collection right now.