Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human is the culmination of Harold Bloom's life's work in reading, writing about, and teaching Shakespeare. It is his passionate and convincing analysis of the way in which Shakespeare not merely represented human nature as we know it today, but actually created it: before Shakespeare, there was characterization; after Shakespeare, there was character, men and women with highly individual personalities -- Hamlet, Falstaff, Iago, Cleopatra, Macbeth, Rosalind, and Lear, among them. In making his argument, Bloom leads us through a brilliant and comprehensive reading of every one of Shakespeare's plays.According to a New York Times report on Shakespeare last year, "more people are watching him, reading him, and studying him than ever before". Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human is a landmark contribution, a book that will be celebrated and read for many years to come. It explains why Shakespeare has remained our most popular playwright for more than four hundred years, and in helping us to understand ourselves through literature, it restores the role of critic to one of central importance to our culture.
But he, along with Jacob Neusner and Norman Cantor (all of them Jewish, coincidentally?--and Richard Posner), are the most genuinely educated writers we have in America. Anything Bloom writes has been well thought through. It doesn't matter if you agree with him on everything. It's merely enough that he gets one to think!
Live long, Harold Bloom, and prosper. And keep writing!
Just to give one example, please look at the description on pages 252-253, when he describes the poetic utterances of Richard II in the play of which he is the central character: "When Richard, in Act V, begins to sound a little like a proleptic parody of Hamlet, we distrust the king as much as ever, and yet we also come to realize that he has been dazzling us since Act III, Scene ii, though with a purely verbal brilliance."
This should give you an idea of the flavour of the prose in the book. At first glance it seems a bit on the heavy side, but I think this would be unfair, because the sentiments expressed are fairly complex, and there are no extraneous words. I have no complaints. After reading or attending a performance of a Shakespeare play, I am just overwhelmed with the drama, and I think I can benefit from the reasoning and insights that Bloom brings. I feel like I'm not as smart as him, and his wisdom can rub off on me.
As for Shakespeare criticism, Shapiro's 1599 is much better written and more insightful, though on fewer plays, of course. Bloom runs through each play in a separate brief chapter, like 100 Famous Novels. I never thought of novel plot books as real books. Q.E.D. Is this?
At times it is heavy going, but the parts about Falstaff, Hamlet and Macbeth are really enjoyable, of course much depends also from which plays you like most.
It definitely sits between a reading book and a reference volume, it's for you to decide.