The Great White Bard

Farah Karim-Cooper


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Oneworld Publications
4 April 2024
ISBN: 9780861548095
336 pages

From the publisher

SHAKESPEARE: increasingly irrelevant or lone literary genius of the Western canon?

‘Powerful and illuminating’ James Shapiro, author of 1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare, winner of the Baillie Gifford ‘Winner of Winners’ 2023

Professor Farah Karim-Cooper grew up loving the Bard, perhaps because Romeo and Juliet felt Pakistani to her. But why was being white as a ‘snowy dove’ essential to Juliet’s beauty?

Combining piercing analysis of race, gender and otherness in beloved plays from Othello to The Tempest with a radical reappraisal of Elizabethan London, The Great White Bard entreats us neither to idealise nor to fossilise Shakespeare but instead to look him in the eye and reckon with the discomforts of his plays, playhouses and society.

If we persist in reading Shakespeare as representative of only one group, as the very pinnacle of the white Western canon, then he will truly be in peril. But if we dare to bring Shakespeare down from his plinth, we might unveil a playwright for the twenty-first century. We might expand and enrich his extraordinary legacy. We might even fall in love with him all over again.



Insightful, passionate, piled with facts and has a warm, infectious love for theatre and Shakespeare running through every chapter.’ ADRIAN LESTER, CBE

‘Dive in and your whole cultural landscape will be refreshed and reframed… A challenging, riveting read, The Great White Bard reminds us how powerful the stories we tell can be on our lives.’ ADJOA ANDOH

Vivid… a thorough analysis but also a kind of love letter… Karim-Cooper sees Shakespeare as holding a mirror to this society, with his plays interrogating live issues around race, identity and the colonial enterprise… Her arguments come to feel essential and should be absorbed by every theatre director, writer, critic, interested in finding new ways into the work.’ GUARDIAN

‘There are plenty of books on Shakespeare: but this one is different. This is Shakespeare as we’ve (most of us) never been willing to see him – and the works emerge from the analysis as newly complicit, powerful and yet recuperative.’ EMMA SMITH, AUTHOR OF PORTABLE MAGIC