Dear Reader:

Thanks for joining us on this adventure. There have been many books on Shakespeare; in fact, there have been many books on Shakespeare and religion. But perhaps nothing quite like this journal issue on Shakespeare and Cultural Apologetics. We hope you enjoy it and learn from it. To help you do that, we have a few tips for reading both Shakespeare and this particular volume. To some of you, this will be old news, but please indulge us as we reach out to new Shakespeare scholars.

First, believe it or not, there are no known manuscripts of Shakespeare plays, except for a few lines in a play with several authors (Shakespeare “fixed” a scene, apparently). What we have are early publications from the 1590s and early 1600s. You might notice some references to things like Folios and Quartos, two different kinds of publications. Quartos contain one play and are roughly the size of a paperback today; a folio contains a collection of plays and is roughly the size of that gigantic gift book you just bought grandma yesterday for Christmas. Many Shakespeare plays are published in both formats, others in only one of the two. Some have several quartos (someday you can read about the famous “Bad Quarto” of Hamlet, but THIS IS NOT THAT DAY!). There are some significant differences between different early versions, which, in the past, has helped provide steady work for Shakespeare editors.

When it comes to the plays (of course, Shakespeare also wrote poems which we identify by line numbers), we usually do not refer to page numbers. We refer to act, scene, line. That might look like this: King Lear 2.3.48-51. That’s Act 2, Scene 3, Lines 48-51. Because there is no universally “authorized” edition of any Shakespeare play, these will change slightly from edition to edition (such as The Arden Shakespeare, the Oxford Shakespeare, etc.). Our authors have used whichever edition they pleased and specified that in their footnotes. Quotations placed by the editors in transitional sections we call “snippets” are from The Oxford Shakespeare: The Complete Works. edited by Stanley Wells, Gary Taylor, John Jowett and William Montgomery. 2nd ed. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2005. I intentionally didn’t use any citations for the sermon.

The volume is not only very full, but it has a lot of variety. Yes, there are some fine scholarly essays. But those range in approach and reader-appropriateness. We have arranged them intentionally, but feel free to chart your own course. I do hope you will start (the essays) anyway with Gary Tandy’s essay on King Lear and homelessness. Just in time for Christmas, I’d say. There is poetry, film reviews, a sermon, and even a couple of letters from Will Shakespeare himself. We hope it keeps you thinking and feeling about these issues long after Advent 2022.

The material on these pages, like that little thing we call “life,” is complicated. Thinking hard is good for us. But so is feeling deeply. So from the depths, I want to thank my co-editor Sarah Waters, all our amazing contributors, and the incredible work of the Journal staff, especially the indefatigable (I love that word) Ryan Grube who had to deal with . . .  us. May you experience great joy and meaning in this holy season of Advent and Christmas.

 Joe Ricke

Citation Information

Joe Ricke, “A Guide to Reading This Volume,” An Unexpected Journal: Shakespeare & Cultural Apologetics 5, no. 4. (Advent 2022), 5.