Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

Shakespeare's History Plays

Rate this book


First published January 1, 1946

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

E.M.W. Tillyard

40 books11 followers
Eustace Mandeville Wetenhall (E. M. W.) Tillyard OBE was an English classical and literary scholar who was Master of Jesus College, Cambridge from 1945 to 1959.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
8 (23%)
4 stars
15 (44%)
3 stars
8 (23%)
2 stars
2 (5%)
1 star
1 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 7 of 7 reviews
Profile Image for David Kowalski.
Author 5 books35 followers
July 11, 2018
I feel that whether you agree with Tillyard’s thesis or not, this is an important work to read to achieve any real understanding of the History plays. His analysis of the second tetralogy: Richard II to Henry V, is worth the price of admission alone.
Also a pleasure to read.
Profile Image for Minnie.
174 reviews49 followers
June 28, 2020

The scholarship here is obviously a bit dated, but Tillyard has earned lasting esteem by being the first to suggest that the histories be understood as interconnected episodes in an overarching narrative. This is a very interesting notion about a playwright that is usually thought of as almost reinventing himself with every new play, and one that I'm trying to explore myself for my BA thesis at the moment. I do, however, think that Tillyard lets his personal preferences lead his academic analyses; most noticeably his prepossession against Henry V has him condemn the tetralogies as an ultimately near-failed or anticlimactic enterprise. I agree with many things Holderness criticises about Tillyard in Shakespeare's History, although that book wasn't perfect itself.
Profile Image for Ian.
86 reviews6 followers
July 24, 2008
A useful guide to early Criticism of the History plays, but Tillyard's work is overshadowed by his pet theory that Shakespeare intended the eight main histories to form a cycle of plays that would praise the Tudor myth
Profile Image for Starfish.
127 reviews8 followers
June 23, 2007
Pretty much everyone I've read who's written about Shakespeare's history plays refers to Tillyard at some point, and having read Shakespeare's History Plays, I can see why. In the first half of the book, he covers the cosmic, historial and literary background and context of Shakespeare's plays and then discusses both tetralogies, King John and Macbeth with regard to their overarching themes of kingship and power.

I had doubts about this as it was first published in the 40s, but it's really clear and easy to follow and has a wealth of interesting detail. Despite the tendency to deviate into long dead debate over issues like the authenticity of I Henry VI, Tillyard's got a good handle on his material. However, while he talks about Shakespeare's national bent, more recent scholarship would suggest that the concept of a nation was still evolving in Shakespeare's times, and assigning Shakespeare patriotism as a motive is a bit suspect. Also, Tillyard doesn't deviate much from his theme of kings. It's a good general overview of the histories and of Elizabethan world views, but for greater understanding of the individual plays, you'll have to look elsewhere.
Profile Image for Tania Bingham.
40 reviews1 follower
December 15, 2022
I picked this book up for pennies at a clearance bookstore, with no knowledge of who the author was. I read it for the purpose of preparing to read Richard III with middle and high schoolers. I knew very little about Shakespeare’s histories and needed some background. I found it to be a very interesting and informative look at the worldview and history of the Elizabethans that Tillyard argues had a significant influence on Shakespeare's writing of his histories. The idea of the Tudor myth was fascinating. Tillyard also explains the literary influences on Shakespeare that can be seen woven through his history plays. This was a fascinating read and helpful to my preparation for my class. I definitely want to read more on this subject.
Profile Image for Nicky.
4,138 reviews1,015 followers
October 23, 2010
Pretty old by now, but influential. Lots of context, too, that could be useful for understanding what influenced Shakespeare when he came to write his history plays. Should read something more modern now, some kind of response to Tillyard. Not sure what, but I should.
Profile Image for Waleed.
161 reviews4 followers
September 20, 2019
"Shakespeare in Richard II and 1 and 2 Henry IV gave us his version, which I have called epic, of what life was like in the Middle Ages as he conceived them and in his own day. This version was entirely successful and presents not even a parallel to the form of tragedy. It is one of Shakespeare's vast achievements and stands unchallengeable: something entirely itself without a jot of suspicion that it would to be, or lead up to, something else

Tillyard is now very unfashionable, and a lot of this book is quite dated, which perhaps explains why it is out of print (the most recent edition was published in 1991). But I found his insights on the major history plays, particularly Richard II and 1 Henry IV absolutely spot on, even if I didn't agree with everything in the first half of the book.
Displaying 1 - 7 of 7 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.