Stephen Booth (academic)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Stephen Booth
Stephen booth 2.jpg
BornStephen Walter Booth
(1933-04-20)April 20, 1933
New York
DiedNovember 22, 2020(2020-11-22) (aged 87)
Berkeley, California
OccupationScholar, University of California, Berkeley Professor
EducationPhillips Academy, Andover
Alma materHarvard University (BA, PhD)
Trinity College, Cambridge University (BA, MA)
SubjectShakespeare, Renaissance
Notable worksShakespeare’s Sonnets: Edited with Analytic Commentary (New Haven, CT: Yale UP, 1977)

Stephen Booth (April 20, 1933 – November 22, 2020)[1] was a professor of English literature at the University of California, Berkeley. He was a leading Shakespearean scholar.


Booth studied at Harvard University (A.B., Ph.D.) and the University of Cambridge (B.A., M.A.) where he was a Marshall Scholar.[2] He was awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship in 1968 and a Guggenheim Fellowship for 1970-71. In 1991, Georgetown University gave him an honorary degree, Doctor of Humane Letters. He received the OBE (Order of the British Empire) in 1995.[3]

Booth first attracted attention with his controversial 1969 essays On the Value of Hamlet and An Essay on Shakespeare's Sonnets. He pointed out the "mental gymnastics" of close reading.[4] He notes that "all of us were brought up on the idea that what poets say is sublime – takes us beyond reason; my commentary tries to describe the physics by which we get there."[5] Frank Kermode praised On the Value of Hamlet in the New York Review of Books in 1970 as being worth several full books of Shakespeare studies.[6]

In 1977 he published an edition with "analytic commentary" of the sonnets for which he won both the 1977 James Russell Lowell Prize and the 1978 Explicator Prize.[7] Shakespeare's Sonnets, Edited with Analytic Commentary was well-received, described as a "heroic enterprise" and "something of a miracle."[8][9] Paul Alpers, a pre-eminent scholar of the English Renaissance said that Booth's close readings are the "equivalent of a scientific breakthrough." G. F. Waller, of the Dalhousie Review, said his edition "constitute[d] a landmark in Shakespearean criticism... [It] is a work of first-rate importance, hopefully a precursor of a long-needed revolution in our understanding of reading Shakespeare."[10]

Booth published King Lear, Macbeth, Indefinition, and Tragedy in 1983, probably his best-known work after the study of the sonnets. His most recent book, Precious Nonsense: The Gettysburg Address, Ben Jonson's Epitaphs on His Children, and Twelfth Night explores "what is it we value literature for. And what is it in the works we value most highly that makes us value them above others like them."[11] These questions are central to his literary analysis.


Among Booth's published works are:

  • The Book Called Holinshed's Chronicles. Book Club of California. San Francisco, 1969.
  • "On the Value of Hamlet" in Reinterpretations of Elizabethan Drama: Selected Papers from the English Institute. Ed. Norman Rabkin. New York: Columbia U P, 1969. 137-176.
  • An Essay on Shakespeare's Sonnets. New Haven, 1969 [paperback, 1972].
  • "A Sullied, Sallied, Solid Text," The New York Review of Books, 21:20 (December 12, 1974) (excerpt)
  • "Syntax as Rhetoric in Richard II," Mosaic, 10:3 (Spring 1977), 87.
  • Shakespeare's Sonnets, Edited with Analytic Commentary. New Haven, 1977 (Rev. ed., 1978; paperback, 1979; Rev.ed., 2000). (excerpts at Google Books)
  • "Speculations on Doubling in Shakespeare’s Plays," in Shakespeare: The Theatrical Dimension. Ed. Philip C. McGuire, David A. Samuelson (AMS Studies in the Renaissance, 1979).
  • "Exit Pursued by a Gentleman Born" in Shakespeare's Art from a Comparative Prospective, ed. W.M. Aycock (Lubbock, 1981), pp. 51–66.
  • "Milton's 'How soon hath time': A Colossus in a Cherrystone," ELH, 49 (1982), 449-67 (with Jordan Flyer).
  • King Lear, Macbeth, Indefinition, & Tragedy. New Haven, 1983.
  • "Poetic Richness: A Preliminary Audit" in Pacific Coast Philology, XIX, No.1-2 (1984), 68-78.
  • "The Shakespearean Actor as Kamikaze Pilot", Shakespeare Quarterly, 36 (1985), 553-70.
  • "Twelfth Night 1.1.: The Audience as Malvolio," in Shakespeare’s ‘Rough Magic’: Renaissance Essays in Honor of C. L. Barber. Ed. P. Erickson & C. Kahn (University of Delaware Press, 1985), 149-167.
  • "The Best Othello I Ever Saw", Shakespeare Quarterly, 40 (1989), 332-36.
  • Liking Julius Caesar [pamphlet]. Ashland, Oregon, 1991.
  • "The Shenandoah Shakespeare Express," Shakespeare Quarterly, 43 (1992), 476-83.
  • "Close Reading without Readings" in Shakespeare Reread: The Texts in New Contexts, ed. Russ McDonald (Ithaca: Cornell, 1994), pp. 42–55. (excerpts at Google Books)
  • "The Coherences of 1 Henry IV and of Hamlet" in Shakespeare Set Free: Teaching Hamlet and 1 Henry IV, ed. Peggy O'Brien (New York: Washington Square Press, 1994), pp. 32–46.
  • "Twelfth Night and Othello: Those Extraordinary Twins" in Shakespeare Set Free: Teaching Twelfth Night and Othello, ed. Peggy O'Brien (New York: Washington Square Press, 1995), pp. 22–32.
  • "The Function of Criticism at the Present Time and All Others," Shakespeare Quarterly, 41 (1990), 262-68. Reprinted in Teaching Literature: A Collection of Essays on Theory and Practice, ed. L.A. Jacobus (1996).
  • Precious Nonsense: The Gettysburg Address, Ben Jonson's Epitaphs on His Children, and Twelfth Night. Berkeley, 1998
  • "Shakespeare's Language and the Language of Shakespeare's Time", Shakespeare Survey 50 (1998), 1-17. (excerpts at Google Books)
  • "A Long, Dull Poem by William Shakespeare", Shakespeare Studies, 25 (1998), 229-37. (excerpts at Google Books)
  • "On the Aesthetics of Acting," in Shakespearean Illuminations, ed. Jay L. Halio and Hugh Richmond (Cranbury, NJ: Associated University Presses, 1998), pp. 255–66.
  • "The Physics of Hamlet’s ‘Rogue and Peasant Slave’ Speech" in A Certain Text: Close Readings and Textual Studies on Shakespeare and Others, ed., Linda Anderson and Janis Lull (Cranbury, NJ: Associated University Presses, 2002), pp. 75–93.

Honors and awards[edit]


  1. ^ "Stephen Booth (1933-2020)". Retrieved March 27, 2021.
  2. ^ "Stephen Booth". American Shakespeare Center. July 5, 2018. Archived from the original on October 5, 2018. Retrieved October 6, 2018.
  3. ^ "Stephen Booth (1933-2020)". Retrieved March 27, 2021.
  4. ^ Williams, Travis D. (June 23, 2017). "Stephen Booth, Close Reading without Readings: Essays on Shakespeare and Others". Modern Philology. 115 (2): E99–E101. doi:10.1086/693144. ISSN 0026-8232.
  5. ^ Shakespeare, William (2009), Tucker, Thomas George (ed.), "COMMENTARY", The Sonnets of Shakespeare, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 79–230, doi:10.1017/cbo9780511693762.004, ISBN 978-0-511-69376-2, retrieved March 27, 2021
  6. ^ Kermode, Frank (November 5, 1970). "A New Era in Shakespeare Criticism?". New York Review of Books. 15 (8).
  7. ^ "Stephen Booth (1933-2020)". Retrieved March 27, 2021.
  8. ^ Barber, C. L. "'Full to Overflowing'". New York Review of Books. ISSN 0028-7504. Retrieved March 27, 2021.
  9. ^ Neely, Carol Thomas (1979). "Review of Shakespeare's Sonnets". Modern Philology. 77 (2): 210–214. doi:10.1086/390939. ISSN 0026-8232. JSTOR 437513.
  10. ^ "Download Shakespearean Criticism, Volume 129: Criticism of William Shakespeare's Plays and Poetry, from the First Published Appraisals to Current Evaluations" (PDF). Retrieved March 27, 2021.
  11. ^ STEPHEN., BOOTH (2021). PRECIOUS NONSENSE : the gettysburg address, ben jonson's epitaphs on his children, and twelfth... night. UNIV OF CALIFORNIA PRESS. ISBN 978-0-520-36405-9. OCLC 1154111607.
  12. ^ James Russell Lowell Prize Winners
  13. ^ Past DTA Awards Recipients - Stephen Booth

Further reading[edit]