Skip to content
Register Sign in Wishlist
Look Inside Shakespeare for the People

Shakespeare for the People
Working Class Readers, 1800–1900


  • Date Published: September 2010
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521176552

£ 39.99

Add to cart Add to wishlist

Other available formats:

Looking for an inspection copy?

This title is not currently available on inspection

Product filter button
About the Authors
  • Beginning by mapping out an overview of the expansion of elementary education in Britain across the nineteenth century, Andrew Murphy explores the manner in which Shakespeare acquired a working-class readership. He traces developments in publishing which meant that editions of Shakespeare became ever cheaper as the century progressed. Drawing on more than a hundred published and manuscript autobiographical texts, the book examines the experiences of a wide range of working-class readers. Particular attention is focused on a set of radical readers for whom Shakespeare's work had a special political resonance. Murphy explores the reasons why the playwright's working-class readership began to fall away from the turn of the century, noting the competition he faced from professional sports, the cinema, radio and television. The book concludes by asking whether it matters that, in our own time, Shakespeare no longer commands a general popular audience.

    • Draws evidence from over 100 nineteenth-century manuscript and print autobiographies, allowing the reader to engage with a wide range of primary sources
    • Includes an appendix which provides biographical details of the autobiographers quoted
    • Opens up a new area of research for Shakespeare studies - the previously unexplored issue of Shakespeare and class
    Read more

    Reviews & endorsements

    Review of the hardback: '… informative and enthralling …' The Stage

    Review of the hardback: '… engaging and humane new study. Drawing on about a hundred autobiographies, both published and in manuscript, Shakespeare for the People offers an absorbing mosaic of the role played by the national poet in the consciousness of working-class readers (as opposed to theatre-goers) in nineteenth-century England and Wales. … he writes illuminatingly about the history of publishing and book-selling … His book pays poignant abut quite unsentimental homage to innumerable forgotten lives - to people who managed to discover and then to retain a genuine civilization for themselves, usually in dreadful circumstances.' The Times Literary Supplement

    Review of the hardback: 'Murphy's book is to be lauded as a much-needed exploration of a hitherto neglected segment of the mass readership of Shakespeare that emerged in the nineteenth century. It is an invaluable work that reveals much new material while tacitly inviting its readers to explore further.' Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America

    Review of the hardback: '[An] engagingly written and meticulously researched monograph. … Murphy reveals an extraordinary range of encounters with the national poet, including a wide spectrum of political opinion, as publishers and writers turned to cheap print as a way to advocate both radical and conservative views and to subdue opposing voices. … Once thought to have sunk beneath the surface of the historical record, the reading experiences of Shakespeare by the poorer classes in nineteenth-century England are brought back to life in this wonderful book.' Studies in English Literature

    Review of the hardback: 'There are many fascinating stories … in Andrew Murphy's readable and scholarly history.' Around the Globe

    See more reviews

    Customer reviews

    Not yet reviewed

    Be the first to review

    Review was not posted due to profanity


    , create a review

    (If you're not , sign out)

    Please enter the right captcha value
    Please enter a star rating.
    Your review must be a minimum of 12 words.

    How do you rate this item?


    Product details

    • Date Published: September 2010
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521176552
    • length: 256 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 15 mm
    • weight: 0.38kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. The educational background
    2. The publishing background
    3. Reading
    4. Political Shakespeare
    5. Decline and fall
    Appendix 1: Autobiographers by year of birth
    Appendix 2: Autobiographers listed alphabetically

  • Author

    Andrew Murphy, University of St Andrews, Scotland

Related Books

also by this author

Sorry, this resource is locked

Please register or sign in to request access. If you are having problems accessing these resources please email

Register Sign in
Please note that this file is password protected. You will be asked to input your password on the next screen.

» Proceed

You are now leaving the Cambridge University Press website. Your eBook purchase and download will be completed by our partner Please see the permission section of the catalogue page for details of the print & copy limits on our eBooks.

Continue ×

Continue ×

Continue ×
warning icon

Turn stock notifications on?

You must be signed in to your Cambridge account to turn product stock notifications on or off.

Sign in Create a Cambridge account arrow icon

Find content that relates to you

Join us online

This site uses cookies to improve your experience. Read more Close

Are you sure you want to delete your account?

This cannot be undone.


Thank you for your feedback which will help us improve our service.

If you requested a response, we will make sure to get back to you shortly.

Please fill in the required fields in your feedback submission.