In the title essay of this volume, Harbage admonishes the critics and directors whose modern--and often perverse--presentations of Shakespeare attempt to locate him in the theatre of the absurd. According to the author, such critics are using the actions of the plays but ignoring the words; his concern is that the plays be read and responded to as whole works of art.
Thus the groundwork is laid for this outstanding collection of essays and lectures--most of them previously presented in various publications over the past two or three decades and all characterized by Harbage's urbanity, wit, and good sense. Devoted to the debate of critical issues involving Shakespeare and his fellow dramatists, the first eight essays, described by the author as "pleas for sanity," include such pieces as "Marlowe Disinterred," prompted by a book nominating Marlowe as the author of Shakespeare's plays; "Cosmic Card Game," a parody of the New Criticism; and "Shakespeare and the Professions," where one section details Shakespeare's opinion of the various professions as they are represented by characters in the plays--parsons, teachers, lawyers, and doctors.
The last part of the book is composed of four essays relating to the history of the Elizabethan drama and raising provocative questions of chronology and authorship. These articles likewise deal with structural problems and suggest new directions for research.