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I have not completed the book yet but was really amazed with the MND chapter where our Professor of Shakespeare Studies states "Hermia wishes to marry Demetrius; Egeus favours Lysander as her suitor." What a blunder! It is compounded a few sentences later when we are informed that "Hermia maintains that she will not accept the 'the unwished yoke' (1.1.81) of marriage to Lysander." If a mistake of this proportion can get through, goodness knows what other bloopers lie in store.
3.0 out of 5 starsMelvyn Braggish Shakespeare Commentary
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 25 February 2019
The blurb on the back of this book describes as 'electrifying', I'm not sure about that.
I didn't study English to degree level but I've got a good knowledge of the canon. Emma Smith has written 20 chapters, each one a short essay on a play. She's offering contemporary criticism with references to #MeToo, the sitcom Friends, Homer Simpson and anecdotes, like the story about the school party that left Midsummer Night's Dream early because of its explicit sexual references. The style is not overly academic, but it's not journalistic either. It's pitched at Melvyn Bragg level.
I imagine it might be enjoyed by 'A' level students wishing to prepare for their Oxbridge interview with a few derivative ideas. It's engaging, but for my money it falls between two stools, it's not written in a way that will make it compelling to the layman, and it's too hip to be worthy of the attention of academics.
Well this book was on a book review program on R4, since I love Shakespeare and I thought I could always learn more I bought it. Sadly it taught me nothing about the Bard that I didn't already know, I was especially disappointed that Henry IV Parts 1 and 2, plus Henry V were lumped together, I have seen all the other plays reviewed on stage too. The one thing about Shakeseare was that he was a man of his times and living in Tudor times it was good to admire the Tudor kings, all Henry by name, while Plantagenate kings, Richard by name get a poor review. This was not in the book, althogh I might have given up too soon
So far I've only dipped into a couple of chapters but despite rave reviews I'm not immediately inspired to continue. Anyone who's read James Shapiro's "1599; a year in the life of William Shakespeare" or "The year of Lear: 1606" will know quite a lot about how his plays were performed and these books are written in a more compelling style.
I enjoyed this book, and would highly recommend it for the general public. It had had such wonderful reviews that I felt I could learn from it, even though I have a First class degree in English. I didn't learn anything new, but I should have realised that I wasn't among the target readers.
Analysis different from what I'm used to but good to hear differing views. It seems Shakespeare was never affected by ideas of sexual prejudices or racism etc. from those times since that is not given any expression here.