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Another little piece from young Shakesperean Prof Emma Smith esconced in one of those brainy fortifications not a pub's throw from The High. In between raiding Scotland for it's singular F1 while ignoring the real heavy duty Burns stuff, she's produced a neat little refresher with some acute angles of erudition and a sprinkling of in the groove constructions. A jolly readable little gem which was much welcome having recently mined and toiled for a month in the dense labrynths of the "New Oxford Shakespeare Authorship Companion" and "The Struggle for Shakespeare's Text" latest heavy duty duty stuff this was a nice little sparkling jewel that revived the remaining aged associational neurones. I read it on my Kindle at the Westgate cafe/restaurant outside balcony of a sunny spring day in a couple of hours and found it fascinatingly hypnotic. Some interesting right-on prose and unexpected left-hook facts mingled with decent punchy style. It wears its gravity lightly which makes a refreshing interlude from casting an eye over the screaming squires big-thick-but-necessary books about his Bardness. Enjoyable....and inexpensive.
I actually bought this for a friend who I know knows his Shakespeare. I heard it reviewed on the Book Programme on R4 and all were enthusiastic about it. Val McDiarmid was on the panel and I would respect her opinion. So I was inspired to order it as a gift for a friend. It arrived on time I believe and he's very pleased with it. He finds her views stimulating and I think would recommend it. I gather it's not heavy going scholarship but very readable.
It is eminently clear that the author knows her Shakespeare. There were a number of insights that I found intriguing and that will inform my re-reading of certain plays. However, I found the author’s style at times to be irritatingly over-familiar. This could be a personal thing and I wouldn’t want this to put people off buying the book.
4.0 out of 5 starsPop Shakespeare read, neither academic nor too light a read
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 17 June 2019
This is a good book for a general reader or a fan of Shakespeare's plays who fancy some literary criticism/review with contemporary references, it may not please academics, teachers or serious students but it is not a "light read" or equivocal to magazine articles or pieces either.
There is a clear contents page, chapters each relate to plays and are in an essay format, there are also endnotes/references and further reading (which look good to me as a general reader with an interest in Shakespeare) and an index (which I can not really comment upon as it is an advanced reading copy I have been supplied with for review and it has been omitted). I like the style and pace of the writing, the contemporary references, ie Simpsons, Friends etc. are useful but I guess could date the book quickly, perhaps, although some of those shows have demonstrated a certain longevity too. For more encyclopedic descriptions of Shakespeares plays I could recommend the DK books (either the "big book" or the smaller paper back) as they are shorter/quicker read but this is a good, enjoyable read.
This could be a great book for anyone reading a play for GCSE, A-Level or further education, perhaps universities are going to rely on a more academic text, in any case I would recommend this as a good read and ancillary text to a student. For a general, interested reader, I would say its a great read and anyone reading it, even just a chapter on their favourite play, will not regret it and will find it rewarding. Recommended.
An engaging and enjoyable (re-) introduction to 20 of Shakespeare's plays in an approachable yet insightful manner. I've listened to a few of the author's podcasts on the same subject and can recommend them if you enjoyed this book or vice versa.
This is a highly readable analysis of Shakespeare's dramas, focussing on questions raised, rather than on providing answers. The play-by-play study only includes about half of the canon, but most of the major works are examined. The style is light and entertaining, though the editing seems a little sloppy on occasion. The analysis is interesting, and in some cases gave me new insights. She doesn't give a character-by-character, act-by-act synopsis, so if you are looking for something to read to bring you up to speed before you see one of the plays, look elsewhere. But if you want clever analysis, this book provides it.