Hester Lees-Jeffries has been teaching Shakespeare and early modern literature at the University of Cambridge for more than twenty years, and also has extensive experience working with secondary school teachers. She is the author of two books, England's Helicon (2007) and Shakespeare and Memory (2013), and many articles and essays on Shakespeare and his contemporaries; she is particularly interested in performance and in visual and material culture. She is a member of the editorial board of Shakespeare Survey and the advisory board of Cambridge Shakespeare Editions. Since 2018, she has written a daily #SlowShakespeare blog, reading a single play over many months and tweeting @starcrossed2018.
'Sometimes, Romeo and Juliet's very familiarity makes it surprisingly difficult to read, to teach, and to perform. Hester Lees-Jeffries' wonderful introduction refreshes its lyric and emotional possibilities. She combines empathy with analysis, uncovering a play that is at once deeply rooted in Elizabethan poetry and in the ongoing psychology of ideas about love, youth, and tragedy. I felt she was giving us this most famous of plays anew.' Emma Smith, University of Oxford 'Hester Lees-Jeffries' introduction is as accessible as it is wide-ranging and profoundly learned. It takes the reader on a journey through key themes and the play's long and complex performance history, which includes opera, musicals, and ballet. The scholarship and sensibility are up-to-the-minute and the writing, while not pulling any punches where they are deserved, is profoundly attuned to the play's own lyricism and tenderness. With a final section dedicated to productions screened during the COVID-19 pandemic, this is a landmark edition for a new generation of readers.' Pascale Aebischer, University of Exeter 'In popular imagination Romeo and Juliet stands out as a tower among Shakespeare's plays, thanks to its secure place in school curricula, its famous speeches and scenes, its rich production history, and the frequency with which it has been turned into operas, ballets, and films. Lees-Jeffries' new introduction adjusts this splendid isolation by platting the play's connections round about: with romantic poems of the 1590s, with scripts that Shakespeare was writing at the same time, with actors who likely first played the roles, with changing ideas about marriage in the period, with dueling practices, with sexuality and body-language, and with reimaginings of the play across more than four centuries and in multiple media. Lees-Jeffries offers not only a sympathetic and wide-ranging introduction to Romeo and Juliet but a concise history of performance practices and social history in Shakespeare's time.' Bruce R. Smith, University of Southern California