When we read Shakespeare’s Complete Works we are primarily, of course, reading Shakespeare. But as a bonus we also get, in the same volume, an excellent anthology of most of the important playwrights who were his collaborators. Shakespeare collaborated for the same reason that most people do: different members of the team are especially good at different tasks.
Just as there were no real women on Shakespeare’s stage, there were no Jews, Africans, Muslims, or Hispanics either. Even Harold Bloom, who praises Shakespeare as ‘the greatest Western poet’ in The Western Canon, and who rages against academic political correctness, regards The Merchant of Venice as antisemitic. In 2014 the satirist Jon Stewart responded to Shakespeare’s ‘stereotypically, grotesquely greedy Jewish money lender’ more bluntly.