Barbara Everett

Barbara Everett is an emeritus fellow in English at Somerville College, Oxford. Her books include Poets in Their Time and Young Hamlet: Essays on Shakespeare’s Tragedies. She published editions of Antony and Cleopatra and All’s Well That Ends Well, as well as writing many influential essays on the plays. Among her subjects in the LRB have been Shakespeare’s romances, the Sonnets, Hamlet, The Winter’s Tale, Measure for Measure and Falstaff. Her selected pieces for the LRB will be published later this year.


Which came first?

22 February 2024

I am glad Brian Vickers enjoyed my essay ‘Henry and Hamlet’ (Letters, 7 March). The scholarly points he makes constitute a lucid and patient effort to straighten out the essentially hypothetical and peculiarly contentious context of Shakespeare’s early histories. Since I am not everywhere in agreement with his summary, it is fortunate that these arguments are less a direct response than a...

Henry and Hamlet

Barbara Everett, 22 February 2024

Introducing​ his text of Hamlet in The Riverside Shakespeare, Frank Kermode calls it ‘the first great tragedy Europe had produced for two thousand years’, and adds, as if conceding to the long academic stress on its highly ‘problematic’ character: ‘how Shakespeare came to write it is, of course, a mystery on which it is useless to speculate.’ As a...

Two Poems

Barbara Everett, 8 February 2024

Johnson’s House

The hopeless, who hadNowhere else to go, he packedInto his house. So

Loneliness took onThe look of home, duty grewUseful, like tea-cups.


They go like lightningOver jumps, under tunnels,Up slides and down, then

(Best of all) needle-Thread small transverse hoops as ifFreed of being dogs.



16 February 2023

Emma Smith argues that Twelfth Night centres on a plot or subject remarkably close to one that is important for our current culture: migration (LRB, 16 February). This seems to me a mistake. The immigrant knows where he or she intends or hopes to go. But Viola’s first words in the play are ‘What country, friends, is this?’ She is a lost traveller, she has been shipwrecked – and shipwreck...

Four Poems

Barbara Everett, 13 September 2018


A picture book of Churches makes clear that the one Stone for the floor is

A broken Peter. Overhead vacuity Lifts up the great dome.

Pecunia non olet

Vespasian taxed Sewage, laughed at his son’s fuss – ‘Money doesn’t smell’.

It’s true. Human words And actions can smell worse than Money’s likely to.

In All Saints

Up in the roof...

Talking about Shakespeare

Frank Kermode, 28 September 1989

Barbara Everett’s book consists of her four Northcliffe Lectures, given at University College London in 1988, on Hamlet and the other ‘major’ tragedies, together with a number...

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Everett’s English Poets

Frank Kermode, 22 January 1987

Faced with the average book of modern literary criticism, the reviewer may wisely resolve to say nothing about the author’s skills as a writer of prose. If they ever existed, they would...

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