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Supernatural Shakespeare: Magic and Ritual in Merry Old England

(10 customer reviews)

Immerse yourself in Shakespeare’s magical world, filled with supernatural encounters with faeries, ghosts and witches. Frolic with royalty, wander through forests, and experience love layered with enchantment. The Bard’s use of these fantastical phenomena has had a tremendous and enduring influence on authors and audiences for more than four centuries. But what are their origins? Explore the folk beliefs and literary sources that influenced Shakespeare and discover how he assembled his own masterful portraits of these phenomena, giving his plays vibrant life and his characters unforgettable personalities.

Softcover only.

Meet the Author



10 reviews for Supernatural Shakespeare: Magic and Ritual in Merry Old England

  1. Yamini

    The book is an interesting take on the works of Shakespeare. It has categorized various of his plays, dramas and other works into different sections of Witches, Afterlife, Ghosts, Faeries, Enchanted forests, and more.

    After my recent hetric of pretty average reads, happy to find something with a fresh perspective and an unorthodox retelling. The book picks and translates various phrases.

    This book can be a great read for Shakespeare fans who would like to have a quick revisit of different characters. But would I ever reread this? Probably not.

    I would give this a happy 🤗🤗🤗🤗/5 hugs for reminding me of all the Shakespearean memories 💖

  2. Sage S.

    This is a really weird book. Snodgrass appears to be a religion professor, not a Shakespearean scholar, and so his treatment of the plays and the theatre is focused on analyzing the supernatural and pagan elements. The book organizes the plays by the season of the solar year and the ecumenical calendar. There is a great deal of tracing various plays’ plots to their medieval source works, which is great, and a fair amount of response to quotations from Paglia, Bloom, Hughes, Asmiov (who did write a book on Shax way back when), Fraser, Frye, and Graves. However, the tone of the volume is a strange mixture of academic study and casual snark. That’s the part where I trip, tbh, because sarcastic commentary undermines what is otherwise a really interesting examination of the premodern seasonal and semi-pagan folkloric context of Shax, the theatre-goers, and the text of the plays themselves…when ghosts were real and queens ruled by divine right. Besides all that, there are some lovely woodcuts illustrating the seasons. I would have appreciated more notes referencing historical sources but the bibliography seems sound.

  3. Kalle N.

    Supernatural Shakespeare is a non-fiction book about (surprise!) the supernatural elements in Shakespeare and further cultural context surrounding the use of the supernatural in the plays. I am a fan of Shakespeare and folk beliefs, especially from the Early Modern period, so I was excited to give this book a read!

    I definitely learned more about what people believed during Shakespeare’s time. It was interesting to see how the fantastical elements differ from more modern beliefs surrounding ghosts, fairies, etc. I loved reading about things that are not present in our folk beliefs today, such as Queen Mab, and why she was portrayed the way she was in the plays. I feel like I got more context and like that, I have a different lens through which to view the stories.

  4. Stephanie Khattak

    This was a really enjoyable book! The author offered a fresh and unique perspective on Shakespeare’s plays that made me want to reread Shakespeare myself. It made me realize that no matter how well we might know works of classic literature, there is always more to learn and new depths of understanding.

  5. Mollie Ficarella

    I am not a Shakespeare fanatic by any means but I have enjoyed studying his work in school and attending performances at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater. This felt like I was reading a graduate thesis from a university rather than a new exploration of the work but that is my own bias going directly from fiction to nonfiction. It was interesting to learn more about the oral traditions that Shakespeare codified and the author expressed perfectly that it does not matter who wrote Shakespeare’s plays but it matters who he was writing for and who was watching it live. If you want to know more about Shakespeare, you cannot go wrong with this book.

  6. Caitlin W, Reviewer

    I really liked this book! Snodgrass brings solid scholarship and a down-to-Earth voice to the Shakespeare table and does a good job compiling research and publications about Bard’s use of supernatural elements throughout his work. As a Shakespeare scholar and folklorist, I found the information useful, accurate, and thought-provoking. I will definitely purchase a hardback copy for my professional library!

    Snodgrass organized the information well; I particularly liked the focus on holidays and their supernatural connections both in Shakespeare’s work and in the Early Modern period. Snodgrass does have a less formal voice, which is great for the purpose of connecting Shakespeare to the average reader rather than writing solely for other academics. At times, he repeats himself almost verbatim from chapter to chapter and there are a few opinions laced through the text which could have been edited out for a more scholarly take. I also would like a few more citations or notes indicating what is research and what is the author’s opinion or supposition.

  7. Gizella C,

    What a complete and fascinating book this is!

    Seriously, I was quite surprised by the amount of fantasy that Shakespeare managed in his works, but this book has taught me that he went further and that in a certain way this author was something from another world.

    I love fantasy and I love the few works of Shakespeare that I have read, but after this, I want to read everything.

    Super recommended!

  8. Anna Maria G

    I found the part about the oral tradition quite interesting and learned something new.
    On the other side, I found it a bit dry and not always kept my attention.
    Not my cup of tea.
    All opinions are mine.

  9. Carol Elizabeth K

    I confess that during my time at University studying English, Shakespeare confused me totally. I even read Lamb’s collection to understand the plays! However, this book by J Snodgrass is one I wish that I had had at the time. The writing in this book is very refreshing for what would normally be an academic book, the author is light-hearted with many amusing asides and I feel it is very accessible to any lay reader with an interest in learning about his plays and more importantly the context behind the writings of Shakespeare. I have read some of the reviews and was disappointed they were not more positive. However I did enjoy this publication very much and will almost certainly buy a hard copy, it will be a useful reference book to have in my very full bookcase. This is a book to ‘dip into’ but is just as interesting to read in its entirety as I did. Many congrats to the author.

  10. Victoria W

    Thank you to City of Light Publishing for a digital copy of this book for a fair and honest review!

    Supernatural Shakespeare is a detailed exploration of the supernatural properties and references in Shakespeare’s work, both references a modern reader would understand, like witches, and ones J. Snodgrass gives us context for, such as Lupercalia. Shakespeare’s use of magical creatures and references to old rites has always interested me, and this was a fun albeit slow read.

    Like Shakespeare’s Goddess, I admired how Snodgrass gave plenty of context and background to readers who may know next to nothing about the historical and political influences on Shakespeare’s work, which helped me appreciate the supernatural analysis all the more.

    However, I feel like this text is much more dry than Goddess, and doesn’t have any witty asides or breaks from heavy analysis or history lessons. If you’re interested in the otherworldly elements of Shakespeare or want to learn more about his work through a lens outside of scholarly analysis, I do think it’s worth the read; maybe to take it section by section as you’re interested in.

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