"The Mayor of Casterbridge" is conventionally understood as being indebted to the forms of tragedy. Following the intertwined fates of its various protagonists, Thomas Hardy's narrative weaves its various strands together as these lead inexorably to the ultimate downfall of Michael Henchard. The essays in this casebook showcase balanced evaluations of Hardy, from a variety of theoretically informed positions such as Marxism, feminism, phenomenology and psychoanalysis, as well as providing reassessments of the novel's structures and concerns. The introduction situates the novel in relation to the history of critical reception, of both Hardy's work in general and the novel in particular. In addition, it addresses the ways in which critical work on Hardy since the 1970s has sought to reassess the novelist, while complicating the reader's understanding and appreciation of Hardy.