Shakespeare wrote plays that were to be seen only as performances before live audiences, running around two and a half hours, on a rather small stage. And he probably wrote pretty fast. Are the numerous inconsistencies (or apparent inconsistencies) one finds in the plays genuine errors of oversight, deliberate toying with the audience, unavoidable given the physical limitations of actors and stage, or part of some grand artistic design? For any given play, the answer can be any or all of the above.
The authors discuss about 30 such "glitches," and seem to derive most of their fun from summarizing how various Shakespearian commentators (few distinguished for intellect) have dealt with the glitches over the past 350 years. Sometimes, the authors appear to me to be deliberately obtuse about an issue, perhaps because they had some trouble finding as many as 30 genuinely puzzling glitches to comment upon.
One comment I have about the whole matter, which the authors do not make: Shakespeare's intellectual and artistic depths seem virtually boundless, and every seeming inconsistency might well have a reason for being other than carelessness or a schedule that didn't allow complete revision. The authors are aware of this, even when they don't state it explicitly.
Among the questions discussed: Why does Shakespeare's Henry V during the battle of Agincourt twice order all French prisoners to be slaughtered in cold blood, yet have "full fifteen hundred" prisoners "of good sort" left after the battle, not to mention a like number of "common men"?
Why does Juliet say, "Oh, Romeo, Romeo, wherefore (why) art thou Romeo," when the problem is that he is a Montague? Why do so many of the plays end with nothing resolved, everything hanging in suspension? [Notorious examples are Troilus and Cressida, and Love's Labour's Lost. The answer here is probably, oh say can you see, a sequel being demanded by audiences.] How is Desdemona able to deliver several lines of dialogue after being strangled or smothered by Othello? How can King Lear be more than 80 and Juliet only 13? And so on.
Some of the answers were fairly obvious to me, although apparently not so to the authors. Juliet falls in love with Romeo when they are both in disguise, and it is the revelation that he is who he is that is upsetting. He could be referred to as Romeo, Romeo Montague, or Montague, and the sense would be the same. The action of Richard II would cover 30 years or so in real time, yet the performers would have looked the same and worn the same costumes throughout the play, so Shakespeare has the characters proclaim themselves as "lusty, young" in the early scenes, and having "worn so many winters out" in the last scenes. Further tipoff to this necessary compression is that where ever the dialogue would naturally refer to "years," it instead refers to "minutes" and "hours." As the authors put it, Shakespeare has invented "Warp Time."
The book is a great pleasure to read, and will greatly deepen your knowledge of Shakespearean drama, and your viewing of any Shakespearean film. Highly recommended.