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Conflationism

Colin Burrow: ‘Hamlet’ as you like it, 21 June 2007

Hamlet 
edited by Ann Thompson and Neil Taylor.
Arden, 613 pp., £8.99, March 2006, 1 904271 33 2
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Hamlet: The Texts of 1603 and 1623 
edited by Ann Thompson and Neil Taylor.
Arden, 368 pp., £12.99, January 2007, 978 1 904271 80 2
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‘Hamlet’ without Hamlet 
by Margreta de Grazia.
Cambridge, 267 pp., £17.99, January 2007, 978 0 521 69036 2
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... It was probably bloody and Senecan, and probably written by Thomas Kyd. Another one (probably Shakespeare’s) was performed on board a ship anchored off the coast of Sierra Leone in 1607 at the request of the captain, William Keeling: ‘I invited Captain Hawkins to a ffishe dinner, and had Hamlet acted abord me: which ...

Saint Shakespeare

Barbara Everett, 19 August 2010

... Lear can haunt the mind in a way that eclipses even the magnificent faces of Dürer and Titian. Shakespeare in fact embodies in his work a great change in 16th-century culture. During the late 15th and early 16th centuries, major European artists came to work in England. In these decades, King’s College chapel was completed, Holbein achieved his great ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘The Tempest’, 31 March 2011

The Tempest 
directed by Julie Taymor.
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... separating from its bound pages. Beth Gibbons sings the play’s last lines – ‘lyrics by William Shakespeare’, the acknowledgment reads – with their plea for mercy and indulgence: And my ending is despair Unless I be relieved by prayer, Which pierces so that it assaults Mercy itself, and frees all faults. As you from crimes would pardoned ...

What his father gets up to

Patrick Parrinder, 13 September 1990

My Son’s Story 
by Nadine Gordimer.
Bloomsbury, 277 pp., £13.99, September 1990, 0 7475 0764 3
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Age of Iron 
by J.M. Coetzee.
Secker, 181 pp., £12.99, September 1990, 0 436 20012 0
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... he finds his society’. In her new novel, Will, the son named by his book-loving father after William Shakespeare, describes the secret lives led by his parents. He cannot publish what he has written, partly because every other member of his Coloured family is deeply involved in revolutionary politics, and partly because – where prying and direct ...
A Midsummer Night’s Dream 
edited for the Arden Shakespeare series by Harold Brooks.
Methuen, 164 pp., £8, September 1979, 1 903436 60 5
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... rased between the two neighbours.’ Professor Brooks admits that this is bad, and agrees that Shakespeare may have agreed to have it changed on the prompt-book, but is certain he wrote it at first, because of the rules invented by Dover Wilson for the misinterpretation of his handwriting. Surely anyone used to correcting proofs knows that all kinds of ...

Visible Woman

James Shapiro: Sticking up for Shakespeare, 4 October 2007

Shakespeare’s Wife 
by Germaine Greer.
Bloomsbury, 406 pp., £20, September 2007, 978 0 7475 9019 4
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... We know little for sure about Shakespeare’s wife and what she was like, and even less about their marriage, other than that Ann Hathaway gave birth to three children: Susanna in 1583 and twins, Judith and Hamnet, two years later. The few surviving scraps of evidence raise as many questions as they answer, especially the will in which Shakespeare bequeathed Ann their ‘second best bed ...

Glimpsed in the Glare

Michael Neill: Shakespeare in 1606, 17 December 2015

1606: William Shakespeare and the Year of Lear 
by James Shapiro.
Faber, 423 pp., £20, October 2015, 978 0 571 23578 0
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... whose gilded cover proclaimed ‘The greatest discovery in 400 years’ – nothing less than ‘Shakespeare: His true likeness revealed at last’. The detective who had ‘cracked the Tudor code’ was the botanist, horticulturalist and historian of gardening Mark Griffiths: his elaborately illustrated essay, ‘Face to Face with ...

Shakespeare and the Literary Police

Jonathan Bate, 29 September 1988

The Collected Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Vol. V: Lectures 1808-1819 On Literature 
edited by R.A. Foakes.
Princeton/Routledge, 604 pp., £55, December 1987, 0 691 09872 7
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... Henry Crabb Robinson had a busy evening on 27 January 1818: having attended William Hazlitt’s lecture on Shakespeare and Milton at the Surrey Institution, he hurried over the river to the London Philosophical Society to hear the first lecture in a new course by Coleridge. He was gratified to find there ‘a large and respectable audience – generally of very superior looking persons ...

Mr Who He?

Stephen Orgel: Shakespeare’s Poems, 8 August 2002

The Complete Sonnets and Poems 
by William Shakespeare, edited by Colin Burrow.
Oxford, 750 pp., £65, February 2002, 9780198184317
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... In his own time, Shakespeare was much better known to the reading public as a poet than as a playwright. Venus and Adonis went through ten editions before his death in 1616, and another six before 1640. His other long narrative poem, The Rape of Lucrece, was less popular, but it, too, circulated far more widely than any of the plays, appearing in six editions during his life, and in two more by 1640 ...

Father-Daughter Problems

Michael Dobson: Shakespeare’s Bad Daughters, 8 May 2008

The Lodger: Shakespeare in Silver Street 
by Charles Nicholl.
Allen Lane, 378 pp., £20, November 2007, 978 0 7139 9890 0
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... tragedies – Julius Caesar, Old Hamlet, Banquo – you never get very far from paternity in the Shakespeare canon. Nor is fatherhood presented solely as a matter between father and son, in the manner highlighted to the point of overdetermination in the battle scene near York in Act II of Henry VI Part 2, when the stage is simultaneously occupied by a ...

Bastard Foreigners

Michael Dobson: Shakespeare v. the English, 2 July 2020

Shakespeare’s Englishes: Against Englishness 
by Margaret Tudeau-Clayton.
Cambridge, 245 pp., £75, October 2019, 978 1 108 49373 4
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... decades, has usually been remembered as an idyllic apogee of national self-definition. By the time Shakespeare and his apprentice John Fletcher co-wrote All Is True (printed as Henry VIII) in 1613, wistfulness for the previous reign was already growing, despite what the playwrights and others may have recalled about Tudor rule: agricultural ...

Grandfather Emerson

Harold Bloom, 7 April 1994

Poetry and Pragmatism 
by Richard Poirier.
Faber, 228 pp., £20, November 1992, 0 571 16617 2
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... assertion: Emerson in Poetry and Pragmatism is the strongest American writer, indeed the American Shakespeare or Montaigne. It fascinates me to see how Emerson came to possess Poirier, a possession partly caused by the critic’s participation in the ferment of 1967-70, the background to the embattled essays of The Performing Self, for me the most problematic ...

Return to the Totem

Frank Kermode, 21 April 1988

William ShakespeareA Textual Companion 
by Stanley Wells, Gary Taylor, John Jowett and William Montgomery.
Oxford, 671 pp., £60, February 1988, 0 19 812914 9
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Disowning Knowledge in Six Plays of Shakespeare 
by Stanley Cavell.
Cambridge, 226 pp., £25, January 1988, 0 521 33032 7
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A History of English Literature 
by Alastair Fowler.
Blackwell, 395 pp., £17.50, November 1987, 0 631 12731 3
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... Companion is described by the publisher as ‘an indispensable companion to The Complete Oxford Shakespeare’, which indeed it is, and it was reasonable to complain, when The Complete Works and The Complete Works: Original Spelling Edition appeared in 1986 and 1987, that they were badly in need of this third to walk beside them. The Companion is a very ...

Writing about Shakespeare

Frank Kermode, 9 December 1999

... Fifty-odd years ago I was asked to review a book about Shakespeare by an aged professor who claimed that a career spent largely in teaching Shakespeare gave him a right to have his final say on the subject. This notion I thought grossly self-indulgent. There seemed to be little reason to believe that at his age he could suddenly have found anything interesting to say ...

Dwarf-Basher

Michael Dobson, 8 June 1995

Edmond Malone, Shakespearean Scholar: A Literary Biography 
by Peter Martin.
Cambridge, 298 pp., £40, April 1995, 0 521 46030 1
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... Anyone who has ever taken the slightest interest in Shakespeare and his times owes a great deal to Edmond Malone. It was Malone who in a single month, June 1789, discovered not only the papers of the theatrical entrepreneur Philip Henslowe, on which most of our knowledge of the working practices of the Elizabethan theatre is based, but the records of Sir Henry Herbert, Master of the Revels from 1622 to 1642, a complementary treasure-trove on Jacobean and Caroline court entertainments and dramatic censorship; Malone who first trawled systematically through the parish and corporation records of Stratford for the surviving documentary traces of Shakespeare’s family, and in the process found the only extant item of his personal correspondence, a letter to him from his neighbour Richard Quiney; Malone who found what remains the only known copy of the 1594 first quarto of Venus and Adonis (and later bequeathed it, along with most of his remarkable library, to the Bodleian); Malone whose path-breaking edition of 1790, with its insistence on the paramount authority of the early quartos and the First Folio, was the first to include reliable biographical information about Shakespeare, a chronology of the plays and a properly-edited text of the Sonnets ...

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