It would be impossible to write a systematic or otherwise useful overview of four centuries of Shakespeare criticism within the con­ fines of a single chapter. Rather than producing a series of general reflections, or attempting to summarize the principal insights of a tiny selection of critics, I propose to focus here on the criticism of a single play and use it as a case-study. I hope thereby to suggest some ways in which students of Shakespeare can find their bear­ ings in the vast and diverse body of secondary material he has inspired. My aim is to show how criticism on Shakespeare can be used to inform, rather than swamp, our own responses to him.