This revised edition of Shakespeare A to Z: An Essential Guide to His Life and Work (1990), also written by Boyce, has more than 3,000 entries. Like the earlier work, it covers all aspects of Shakespeare and his writings. In place of a single alphabetical arrangement, however, readers will find content organized into several sections. The new arrangement puts Shakespeare's works at center stage and casts the related topics in a supporting role.
Part 1, the briefest section at just 7 pages, has biographical material. Part 2, the longest section, covers all known works. The plays are given extended treatment that averages just over 20 pages. A scene-by-scene synopsis is followed by commentary and discussion of the play's sources, text, and performance history. Subentries identify and discuss all the characters, both major (Romeo) and minor (Serving-man). This is a useful revision; character entries are scattered throughout Shakespeare A to Z, depending on their place in the alphabet. Edward III is covered, since recent scholarship based on statistical analysis of Shakespeare's imagery and language suggests that Shakespeare collaborated on its writing. The commentary that Boyce provides on Edward III and on other plays provides interesting context as well as critical analysis and will add to the students' understanding of the works.
In Part 3, generally brief entries cover places both in Shakespeare's works and life; events; sources and influences; historical figures; family, friends, and associates; theaters and acting companies; allusions; literary terms; actors ranging from Shakespeare's contemporaries to Kenneth Branagh and Judi Dench; and more. Appendixes include a selection of quotations from Shakespeare, arranged by work; a spotty time line; a four-page list of selected reading; and a list of "Contents by Category." Because of the set's arrangement, readers must refer from "Contents by Category" to the index to find the exact location of an entry. Most of the few black-and-white illustrations are stills from films.
Students will appreciate having all the content specific to each work assembled in one place in these volumes. This Critical Companion is a good choice for public, high-school, and undergraduate libraries.