Every year or two, I make a concerted effort to dig back into Shakespeare, whether out of an imagined obligation to my college thesis adviser, a Shakespearean scholar, or simply because the work is timeless. I recently reread both King Lear and Henry V, as well as a few scholarly articles on the plays and my Henry V–themed thesis (the less said about it, the better). Ultimately, Shakespeare is for everyone, and three recent books reveal intriguing facets of his work and his world.

When I think of the Bard on the stage, one of the first names that come to mind is Judi Dench, who has played memorable roles in Hamlet, Macbeth, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Much Ado About Nothing, and many other plays. In her latest book, Shakespeare: The Man Who Pays the Rent (St. Martin’s, April 23), Dench recalls her Shakespearean experiences via conversations with one of her close friends, actor Brendan O’Hea. As our starred review notes, the author’s “memory is razor-sharp and her knowledge of Shakespeare’s plays is encyclopedic. Even at the age of 89, Dench retains an impish sense of humor, and she has plenty of stories about mischief and mayhem behind the scenes. Impressively, she quotes large chunks of various plays from memory. She insists that none of her performances are definitive, and she believes that there are as many interpretations of Shakespearean roles as there are actors.” That last part is a delightful observation that any fan of Shakespeare will applaud.

Another acclaimed Shakespearean actor is Patrick Stewart, who, like Dench, progressed to global stardom on TV and in film. His memoir, Making It So (Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster, 2023), is illuminating and amiable. “Before he was an acclaimed Shakespearean actor,” writes our critic, “he was a struggling drama student, and before that a working-class child of Yorkshire. He became a voracious reader to escape an unhappy childhood.” Stewart found solace in Shakespeare and countless other works of literature, and theater fans will always cherish his roles in King Lear, Hamlet, The Merchant of Venice, and other plays. As our reviewer writes, “Stewart is gracious as he describes the talented players—Vivien Leigh, Helen Mirren, Malcolm McDowell, and yes, the cast of Star Trek—he’s worked with.…A pleasure through and through—and you don’t even have to be a Trekkie.”

Another pleasurable read is Shakespeare’s Sisters: How Women Wrote the Renaissance (Knopf, March 12) by Ramie Targoff. This study of four pioneering Englishwomen brings the contribution of women writers to the fore, delivering unique viewpoints on Shakespeare’s milieu. Writing with verve and passion, Targoff delves into the fascinating lives of what she calls a “small but not insignificant group of Shakespeare’s contemporaries who did what [Virginia] Woolf deemed impossible: they wrote works of poetry, history, religion and drama.” Though the narrative jumps around too frequently among her subjects, our reviewer points out what makes the book special: “Targoff provides extensive, insightful historical material along with in-depth biographies, including information about families, money, education, and marriages.” It’s a welcome addition to the library of any die-hard Shakespearean.

Eric Liebetrau is the nonfiction editor.