This is, alas, a posthumous publication. Anthony Nuttall was a literary critic who was also trained in classics and philosophy; unlike many others with a similar background, he was suspicious of the grand claims of theory. His most famous book, A New Mimesis (1983), argued firmly for the existence of an external world to which language refers and about which things can definitely be known; he had no time for Derridean nonsense about there being nothing outside the text. In the preface to Shakespeare the Thinker, Nuttall tells us that he had originally aimed to write “a short, tightly organized book on certain points of philosophic interest in Shakespeare.” I wish he had done this, but his publishers persuaded him to cover virtually the whole canon. The more relaxed pace has led to loss of edge and diffused focus, and the impact of the many striking passages is blunted.

Shakespeare was...

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