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Hamlet (The RSC Shakespeare) Paperback – 5 Sep 2008

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan (5 Sept. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0230217877
  • ISBN-13: 978-0230217874
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.6 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 57,534 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's preeminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon". His surviving works, including some collaborations, consist of 38 plays, 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems, and several other poems. His plays have been translated into every major living language and are performed more often than those of any other playwright.

Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon in Warwickshire and was baptised on 26 April 1564. Thought to have been educated at the local grammar school, he married Anne Hathaway, with whom he went on to have three children, at the age of eighteen, before moving to London to work in the theatre. Two erotic poems, Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece were published in 1593 and 1594 and records of his plays begin to appear in 1594 for Richard III and the three parts of Henry VI. Shakespeare's tragic period lasted from around 1600 to 1608, during which period he wrote plays including Hamlet and Othello. The first editions of the sonnets were published in 1609 but evidence suggests that Shakespeare had been writing them for years for a private readership.

Shakespeare spent the last five years of his life in Stratford, by now a wealthy man. He died on 23 April 1616 and was buried in Holy Trinity Church in Stratford. The first collected edition of his works was published in 1623.

(The portrait details: The Chandos portrait, artist and authenticity unconfirmed. NPG1, © National Portrait Gallery, London)

Product Description

Review

'Jonathan Bate is a passionate advocate of Shakespeare and his introductions are full of striking and convincing observations ... footnotes at the bottom of each page gloss unfamiliar items of vocabulary, paraphrase tricky meanings and uncover bawdy puns. There is a universe to be found in these annotations: the Renaissance world of power and fate, sex and death, language and philosophy.' - Times Educational Supplement

Book Description

The first edition of Hamlet developed by and for the RSC, with unique material including a brand new introduction from Jonathan Bate and interviews with important RSC directors.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Asphodelia TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 10 Mar. 2011
Format: Paperback
I'm one of those people afraid of Shakespeare - partly because English is not my first language and partly because my English teacher at high school had us skip most of it. However in recent months, references to 'Hamlet' have been cropping up all around me - from David Foster Wallace's novel 'Infinite Jest' to TV show 'Sons of Anarchy' - so I decided to bite the bullet and read Hamlet.

I agonised over what edition to pick because I wanted something 'idiot proof', with notes, explanations and summaries so that I could actually understand what I was reading. I eventually settled on the RSC edition and I'm really glad that I did. It's very well laid out, without being specifically targeted at A Level students (which for some reason I tend to find offputting).

Main features:

- It has a great overall introduction which goes into some detail about the various versions of the play;
- List of characters;
- The play itself has footnotes throughout;
- Summary for each scene
- Chapter about Shakespeare and Elizabethan theatre
- History of the many 'Hamlets' who played the lead character over the centuries;
- Q&A with major theatre directors.

I thought I'd struggle with the play, but I actually found myself not needing to read all the footnotes - although it was great to know that they were there.
One small tip: keep some post-it notes handy so that you can easily flick back and forth to the characters list, scene summary and main body of the play.

I'll definitely buy an RSC edition of a Shakespeare play again - maybe the next one will be Macbeth!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Ripple TOP 500 REVIEWER on 17 July 2009
Format: Paperback
The RSC Complete works is an impressive tome, but it is inevitably a bulky item - not something you want to carry around with you! The individual plays are being gradually issued and these are far more user friendly. For me the most insightful part - and the bit that really adds value to this edition - is the directors' comments on various productions. It is fascinating to hear the different views and interpretations and reveals why these great plays continue to have a life after all these years.

The layout of the book is clear and the notes on the text are on the same page - thereby overcoming the problem of having to keep turning to the notes elsewhere. The notes tend to also be quite brief - unlike say the Arden series - which is usually all you need. Some of the notes are very useful, although some make you think "why didn't the editor think I wouldn't understand that word?".

Other editions do contain more depth, but this series puts the plays into context and feel like a more modern approach than some of the other series.

I am replacing all my versions with this series.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By William Shardlow on 19 Jan. 2009
Format: Paperback
This play is extracted from Bate's complete RSC Shakespeare, with some additional material. The short notes are by far the most important, and these are also in the "complete" Shakespeare. If all you want is to 'read all the plays with minimum pain' then, on this evidence, the RSC Complete Shakespeare should be considered. If you want a bit more background with your Hamlet, but not technical overkill, then get this.

Many versions of Hamlet are rather formidable for the general reader. My "Arden playgoers edition" has 159 pages of introduction, 150 pages of appended long notes, and the 'short notes' take up more space than the actual text of the play! Useful, no doubt, for PhD students specialising in the technicalities and alternative versions of Hamlet, but this general reader will not be reading the Arden introduction again any time soon! ('Playgoers' version indeed!)

Anyway, back to this edition, edited by Jonathan Bate. It has a superb 20 page introduction (that I will be re-reading) and some nice short articles at the back of the book. But it has no 'long notes' at the back. All the (very short) notes are on the page you are reading, leading to a much better reading experience.

The very short notes never disrupt the reading, and only ever enhance it. Any archaic words are translated, and complicated phrases are *briefly* re-phrased for 'adequate' understanding. These notes are a remarkable exercise in concise explanation. Jonathan Bate has a great reputation as an approachable Shakespeare scholar, and these notes prove that this is deserved.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By William Shardlow on 19 Jan. 2009
Format: Paperback
I'll use one line to show the problem with this text. Many other lines have a similar problem. Shakespeare has:

"Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to you,
trippingly on the tongue."

'No Fear' has:

"Perform the speech just as I taught you, musically and smoothly."

Do you really have to translate "Speak the speech" as "Perform the speech"? If you can't understand "Speak the speech" then you need more help than any book can give (e.g., a very good teacher!)

Also, Shakespeare is being more exact than "no fear" here. "Perform" is too vague. Shakespeare is talking precisely about speech and pronunciation. Note how 'no fear' translates 'as I pronounced it to you' as 'as I taught you', again losing Shakespeare's stress on vocalisation, and again wrongly translating something that should be left as obvious.

'Musically and smoothly' is an even graver error. Trippingly is used in a sense that might trip up students here, so they certainly need help. But all 'no fear' does is confuse them. Does trippingly literally mean musically and smoothly? No it doesn't. If you look 'trip' up in a good concise dictionary you are given the main literal meaning that Shakespeare is using as a metaphor. That is: 'walk or dance with quick light steps'(concise OED).

Then again, although this is the main meaning, Hamlet might be joking with the player. That is, using both (or all 10!) meanings of 'trip' in a multiple metaphor. But I digress, one meaning will do for the first run through in a 'non-honours' class.

But 'no fear' will do for no one.

Shakespeare is hard. Students need help. But not this kind of help.

Check out the "Oxford School Shakespeare" series to see a better approach.
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