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Meaningless Legs

Frank Kermode: John Gielgud, 21 June 2001

Gielgud: A Theatrical Life 1904-2000 
by Jonathan Croall.
Methuen, 579 pp., £20, November 2000, 0 413 74560 0
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John G.: The Authorised Biography of John Gielgud 
by Sheridan Morley.
Hodder, 510 pp., £20, May 2001, 0 340 36803 9
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John Gielgud: An Actor’s Life 
by Gyles Brandreth.
Sutton, 196 pp., £6.99, April 2001, 0 7509 2752 6
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... These biographies of John Gielgud by Jonathan Croall and Sheridan Morley are quite hard to tell apart. They are of much the same size, bear handsome pictures of the actor in old age on the front of their dust-jackets, and are, inevitably, affectionate and indulgent towards their subject. As Dirk Bogarde remarked when Croall consulted him about the work in hand, ‘everybody adored him, so the book might make rather flat reading ...

Undecidability

Alastair Fowler, 2 March 1989

Shakespeare’s Scepticism 
by Graham Bradshaw.
Harvester, 269 pp., £32.50, June 1987, 0 7108 0604 3
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The Elizabethan Hamlet 
by Arthur McGee.
Yale, 211 pp., £14.95, November 1987, 0 300 03988 3
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... side or another of the quarrel – such as Bradshaw variously detects in both E M W. Tillyard and Jonathan Dollimore. ‘The “Tragedy” is located in that radically sceptical perspectivism, and the play’s thinking about man and Nature is irreducibly experiential, a process we live through.’ It is an attractive approach: yet not all will like the idea ...

Bardbiz

Terence Hawkes, 22 February 1990

Rebuilding Shakespeare’s Globe 
by Andrew Gurr and John Orrell.
Weidenfeld, 197 pp., £15.95, April 1989, 0 297 79346 2
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Shakespeare and the Popular Voice 
by Annabel Patterson.
Blackwell, 195 pp., £27.50, November 1989, 0 631 16873 7
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Re-Inventing Shakespeare: A Cultural History from the Restoration to the Present 
by Gary Taylor.
Hogarth, 461 pp., £18, January 1990, 0 7012 0888 0
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Shakespeare’s America, America’s Shakespeare 
by Michael Bristol.
Routledge, 237 pp., £30, January 1990, 0 415 01538 3
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... and, in the playwright’s name, deploy a considered programme of anti-Jacobin propaganda. As Jonathan Bate has pointed out in an incisive study of the cultural politics of the period,* Hazlitt stands as the Radical to Coleridge’s Conservative in terms of a struggle for possession of Shakespeare that was a feature of British ideology between Waterloo ...

Olivier Rex

Ronald Bryden, 1 September 1988

Olivier 
by Anthony Holden.
Weidenfeld, 504 pp., £16, May 1988, 0 297 79089 7
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... nose and goatee modelled on George Arliss’s Disraeli and had to be persuaded by his director, Jonathan Miller, to evolve in the succeeding weeks a characterisation based on his own face. No one seems to have told Holden that dress rehearsals normally complete, not commence, the rehearsal process. He will surprise many who worked with Tyrone Guthrie by ...

When the beam of light has gone

Peter Wollen: Godard Turns Over, 17 September 1998

The Films of Jean-Luc Godard 
by Wheeler Winston Dixon.
SUNY, 290 pp., £17.99, March 1997, 0 7914 3285 8
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Speaking about Godard 
by Kaja Silverman and Harun Farocki.
New York, 256 pp., $55, July 1998, 0 8147 8066 0
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... Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, then the heads of Cannon Films, to make a film version of King Lear, with a script (!) by Norman Mailer, in which Mailer and his daughter would star as Lear and Cordelia. After half a day’s shooting, Mailer and his daughter walked off the set and Godard tore up the script, beginning ...

Let him be Caesar!

Michael Dobson: The Astor Place Riot, 2 August 2007

The Shakespeare Riots: Revenge, Drama and Death in 19th-Century America 
by Nigel Cliff.
Random House, 312 pp., $26.95, April 2007, 978 0 345 48694 3
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... the play and then to finish on a spectacular death: roles like Richard III, Hamlet, Othello, King Lear and, above all, Macbeth. Given his long-nourished Anglophobia and the seemingly inevitable collision with Macready which remains the most celebrated event of his career, it may seem odd that Forrest was prepared to stake so much of his reputation on the ...

Talk about doing

Frank Kermode, 26 October 1989

Against Deconstruction 
by John Ellis.
Princeton, 168 pp., £13.70, February 1989, 0 691 06754 6
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The New Historicism 
by H. Aram Veeser.
Routledge, 318 pp., £30, July 1989, 0 415 90070 0
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Rethinking Historicism: Critical Essays in Romantic History 
by Marjorie Levinson, Marilyn Butler, Jerome McGann and Paul Hamilton.
Blackwell, 149 pp., £22.50, August 1989, 0 631 16591 6
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Towards a Literature of Knowledge 
by Jerome McGann.
Oxford, 138 pp., £16.50, May 1989, 9780198117407
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The Stoic in Love: Selected Essays on Literature and Ideas 
by A.D. Nuttall.
Harvester, 209 pp., £25, July 1989, 0 7450 0614 0
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... that all interpretation is necessarily misinterpretation (reduced by calmer exponents such as Jonathan Culler to the uncontentious assertion that no interpretation can ever be final), and the dashing new formulation of the old problem of intention – Ellis argues with force and clarity. Moreover he happens to believe that some writings are more complex ...

Cultivating Cultivation

John Mullan: English culture, 18 June 1998

The Pleasures of the Imagination: English Culture in the 18th Century 
by John Brewer.
HarperCollins, 448 pp., £19.99, January 1997, 0 00 255537 9
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... excitement). In a career whose contours provide another of Brewer’s telling case-studies, Jonathan Tyers, proprietor of Vauxhall Gardens, made it a place of music and art, as well as parade and flirtation. Those who paid their shilling might be serenaded not only by love songs and patriotic airs, but also by the music of Corelli, J.C. Bach and ...

Lord Have Mercy

James Shapiro: Plague Writing, 31 March 2011

Plague Writing in Early Modern England 
by Ernest Gilman.
Chicago, 295 pp., £24, June 2009, 978 0 226 29409 4
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... were probably closed two-thirds of the time. Biographers, notably Katherine Duncan-Jones and Jonathan Bate, have struggled to determine the impact plague had on Shakespeare’s life and work. Did Shakespeare flee London during extended outbreaks, and so spend much of the first decade of the 17th century with his family in Stratford? Did he continue ...

Shakespeares

David Norbrook, 18 July 1985

Political Shakespeare: New Essays in Cultural Materialism 
edited by Jonathan Dollimore and Alan Sinfield.
Manchester, 244 pp., £19.50, April 1985, 0 7190 1752 1
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Alternative Shakespeares 
edited by John Drakakis.
Methuen, 252 pp., £10.50, July 1985, 0 416 36850 6
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Shakespeare and Others 
by S. Schoenbaum.
Scolar, 285 pp., £25, May 1985, 0 85967 691 9
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Illustrations of the English Stage 1580-1642 
by R.A. Foakes.
Scolar, 180 pp., £35, February 1985, 0 85967 684 6
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Shakespeare: The ‘Lost Years’ 
by E.A.J. Honigmann.
Manchester, 172 pp., £17.50, April 1985, 0 7190 1743 2
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... more suspicious of ‘high culture’. In his introduction to Political Shakespeare, Jonathan Dollimore analyses a tripartite pattern in ideological conflicts of consolidation, subversion and containment. In certain circumstances, drama may subvert the ruling ideology, but the probability is that these challenges will eventually serve to ...

Chianti in Khartoum

Nick Laird: Louis MacNeice, 3 March 2011

Letters of Louis MacNeice 
edited by Jonathan Allison.
Faber, 768 pp., £35, May 2010, 978 0 571 22441 8
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... culminating in the appearance of his letters, weighing in at a substantial 768 pages, edited by Jonathan Allison of the University of Kentucky, who notes, a little ominously, that ‘this volume represents only a fraction of the extant letters … and there is certainly enough material for a further volume.’ MacNeice was born in Belfast, ‘between the ...

Gentlemen and ladies came to see the poet’s cottage

Tom Paulin: Clare’s anti-pastoral, 19 February 2004

John Clare: A Biography 
by Jonathan Bate.
Picador, 650 pp., £25, October 2003, 0 330 37106 1
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‘I Am’: The Selected Poetry of John Clare 
edited by Jonathan Bate.
Farrar, Straus, 318 pp., $17, November 2003, 0 374 52869 1
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John Clare, Politics and Poetry 
by Alan Vardy.
Palgrave, 221 pp., £45, October 2003, 0 333 96617 1
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John Clare Vol. V: Poems of the Middle Period 1822-37 
edited by Eric Robinson, David Powell and P.M.S. Dawson.
Oxford, 822 pp., £105, January 2003, 0 19 812386 8
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... Thomas Carlyle, published the first biography of the ‘peasant poet’. It laid the foundations, Jonathan Bate says in his new Life, ‘for both the enduring myths and some of the key truths about Clare’. Though there have been other biographies since Martin’s, Bate’s should finally disprove Dickens’s dismissal of it as a ‘preposterous exaggeration ...

On the imagining of conspiracy

Christopher Hitchens, 7 November 1991

Harlot’s Ghost 
by Norman Mailer.
Joseph, 1122 pp., £15.99, October 1991, 0 7181 2934 2
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A Very Thin Line: The Iran-Contra Affairs 
by Theodore Draper.
Hill and Wang, 690 pp., $27.95, June 1991, 0 8090 9613 7
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... is why it should always be conjoined to cock-up rather than counterposed to it). Jonathan Marshall of the San Francisco Chronicle, who is in my view the most sober and smart of those who study conspiracy theory, has an elegant and minimal guess about CIA reaction to this disaster. ‘Richard Helms asked himself: “Is my Agency responsible ...

Make Something Happen!

Julian Bell: Paint Serious, Paint Big, 2 December 2010

Salvator Rosa: Bandits, Wilderness and Magic 
by Helen Langdon, Xavier Salomon and Caterina Volpi.
Paul Holberton, 240 pp., £40, September 2010, 978 1 907372 01 8
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Painting for Profit: The Economic Lives of 17th-Century Italian Painters 
by Richard Spear and Philip Sohm et al.
Yale, 384 pp., £45, 0 300 15456 9
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Caravaggio: A Life Sacred and Profane 
by Andrew Graham-Dixon.
Allen Lane, 514 pp., £30, July 2010, 978 0 7139 9674 6
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The Moment of Caravaggio 
by Michael Fried.
Princeton, 304 pp., £34.95, 0 691 14701 9
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... is entertaining. The man described in Helen Langdon’s catalogue essay – and, more fully, in Jonathan Scott’s 1995 biography – is loud, deplorable, disarming. Before settling in Rome in 1649 at the age of 34, Rosa had trained in his native Naples and had passed a charmed nine years in and around Florence. That one-time hub of artistic innovation ...

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