Great Literature in a Nutshell

Wuthering Heights in a Nutshell

The darkness of Wuthering Heights is driven by the refusal of the novel’s principal protagonists to love their neighbors or to forgive those who have sinned against them.

Frankenstein in a Nutshell

Mary Shelley seems to have learned the hard way that iconoclastic “freedoms” do not make men into gods, or women into goddesses, but that they turn men into monsters and women into their victims.

Pride and Prejudice in a Nutshell

Whereas sense and sensibility can be separated, with disastrous consequences, pride and prejudice are always inseparable, the former always resulting in the latter.

Sense and Sensibility in a Nutshell

Jane Austen is a giantess among giants, towering above the greatest writers of her own sex and indeed of both sexes. She holds her own among the greatest of all time.


The Tempest in a Nutshell

The Tempest has unfortunately suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous abuse by modern critics, particularly critical race theorists.

Antony and Cleopatra

Antony and Cleopatra in a Nutshell

Following hot on the heels of Macbeth and being first performed in late 1606 or early 1607, Antony and Cleopatra might be coupled with Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare’s earlier tragedy about erotic recklessness, written eleven years earlier. If, however, Romeo and Juliet might be forgiven for the follies of their head-weak and heart-strong youth, no … Read more


Macbeth in a Nutshell

Apart from The Comedy of Errors, Macbeth, a tragedy of errors, is the shortest of Shakespeare’s plays. At only 2,107 lines it is barely half the length of Hamlet, with which it is often compared. The date of its composition is not certain, but several clues within the text suggest strongly that it was first … Read more

King Lear

King Lear in a Nutshell

King Lear interweaves the story of Lear and his daughters with the parallel story of Gloucester and his sons in such a way that we cannot truly speak of plot and subplot but only of co-plots woven together with majestic skill. Lear is betrayed by the deception of his self-serving daughters Regan and Goneril; Gloucester … Read more


Othello in a Nutshell

Othello is the first of a triumvirate of tragedies written by Shakespeare during a particularly dark period of English history. Taken together with Macbeth and King Lear, both of which were written shortly afterward, Othello exhibits the angst and anger felt by Catholics following the reintroduction of laws which made the practice of the Catholic … Read more

Twelfth Night

Twelfth Night in a Nutshell

If Shylock in The Merchant of Venice is a thinly-veiled Puritan (see the earlier article in this series), so is Malvolio in Twelfth Night. Maria, in act two of Twelfth Night, describes Malvolio explicitly as “a kind of puritan,” and the critic Leslie Hotson has argued that Malvolio was modeled on the Puritan William Knollys, … Read more


Hamlet in a Nutshell

Shakespeare’s Hamlet is arguably the greatest play ever written. It is, however, also one of the most misread and misunderstood. One could write a book, or perhaps a whole shelf-full of books, on the way in which the play is misconstrued by critics, or the manner in which it is sacrificed to the latest literary … Read more

Julius Caesar

Julius Caesar in a Nutshell

More than most of Shakespeare’s plays, Julius Caesar begs a good many questions. Who are the heroes? Where are the out and out villains, the machiavels, who are so evident in many of Shakespeare’s other plays? Where are the women? Is their relative absence significant? What does it say about politics and politicians? What does … Read more

Merry Wives

The Merry Wives of Windsor in a Nutshell

The original title of this delightful comedy was Sir John Falstaff and the Merry Wives of Windsor. This is hugely significant because the play is largely a vehicle or an excuse for the lampooning of the character of Falstaff, who had made his first appearance in Henry IV, Part 1. In that play, Falstaff’s character … Read more

Merchant of Venice

The Merchant of Venice in a Nutshell

The Merchant of Venice is perhaps the greatest and indubitably the most controversial of Shakespeare’s comedies. It has been misunderstood and misconstrued to such a degree, however, that it is often seen as a tragedy, not a comedy. Such is the critical blindness of the age in which we find ourselves. Prior to a discussion … Read more

Romeo and Juliet

Romeo and Juliet in a Nutshell

There are two ways of reading Romeo and Juliet, one of which is correct, in the sense that it is the way that Shakespeare meant it to be read and understood, and the other is incorrect, in the sense that it violates and perverts Shakespeare’s intentions. The incorrect way of reading the play, which is … Read more

Sir Gawain

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight in a Nutshell

The author of the late-medieval Arthurian romance Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is unknown. He was a contemporary of Geoffrey Chaucer, which means that he was writing in the late fourteenth century, and he is probably the author of three other works, including the long allegorical poem Pearl.  Although the Gawain Poet was living … Read more

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