It comes well blurbed. Here is Harold Bloom, perhaps the best known introducer of Shakespeare currently working: "This superb commentary upon all of Shakespeare's plays has been an inspiration for me for half a century, and I never tire of recommending it passionately to my own students." Grant that Bloom is by nature a great enthuser; still there is nothing in my experience so far (I've had a copy in hand only a few days) to suggest that he overdoes it. Everything about the book--everything I've read so far--suggests somebody who offers a lifetime of sympathetic engagement with the text.
Goddard perhaps counts as Fraser in mirror: Fraser writes introductions via a life. Goddard sees the life in the plays. This isn't to accuse either of vulgar point-to-point associations: "Shakespeare writes about Italians; therefore, Shakespeare must have been Italian." No" we are working here with the insight of Keats (Goddard at v. 1, p. 15)" "Shakespeare led a life of allegory: his works are the comments on it." Goddard expands upon the point:
That sentence of Keats's is by general consent one of the profoundest ever uttered about Shakespeare. But there is no such general consent as to what it means. What did Keats have in mind? Something very close, I imagine, to what Sir Thomas Browne did when he exclaimed: "Now for my life, it is a miracle of thirty years, which to relate were not a History, but a piece of Poetry, and would sound to common ears like a Fable." If there is anything in this conjecture, Keats's sentence implies two things: first, that Shakespeare's life had the organic character of a work of art; and, second, that his works are less ends in themselves than a by-product of his living and hence a kind of unconscious record of his life. If so, they should be then not separately but as parts of a whole.In the same vein, commenting on Henry IV:
There is something like critical agreement that Shakespeare's three greatest achievements in character portrayal are Falstaff, Hamlet, and Cleopatra, to whom Iago is sometimes added as a diabolical fourth. Now Falstaff, Hamlet, and Cleopatra, different as they re in a hundred ways, have this in common: they are all endowed with imagination, and especially with dramatic and histrionic power, to something like the highest degree. Each is a genius of play. (Even Iago is in his perverted way.) In a word, they all are in this respect like their creator, a kind of proof that even Shakespeare could draw people better who resembled himself than he could others. Who would not like to have had Shakespeare as a teacher?Vol. I, 210. Who indeed. Or, failing that, Harold C. Goddard.