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3.8 out of 5 stars11
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
In this academic monograph, van Es traces a history of Shakespeare's writing as being conditioned by the material circumstances of his evolving economic relationship with The Chamberlain's Men. It should be stated upfront that this is not a book aimed at a popular or general audience. That doesn't mean that it is inaccessible but that, unlike e.g. Shakespeare's Restless World or 1599 this is a scholarly study complete with all the requisite critical apparatus including the expansive footnotes which another reviewer here decries.

This centres on a sophisticated thesis which breaks Shakespeare's writerly career into four phases: in the first (1592-1594) and last (1608-1614) he is demonstrated to be following the conventions of fellow writers including co-authorship and an adherence to what we might loosely call literary trends. In the middle two phases (1594-1599, 1599-1608) van Es argues that Shakespeare's unique relationship with a theatrical company, as `sharer' and investor, shapes developments in his dramatic writing based on his close relationships with the acting company and, to a lesser extent, his stable economic status.

The two chapters on Robert Armin (the `clown' for whom the later fool parts such as in King Lear were written) and Richard Burbage (the great tragic actor) are especially revealing, creating fascinating links between Shakespeare's actorly `resources' and how these translate into creative innovations in his plays. I did feel that the conclusion was perhaps mis-placed and that the history of Shakespearean studies would have been better in the introduction, but this is a small niggle.

So this is a well-argued project which continues to locate Shakespeare as a man of his times, and which frames his `particularity' not in terms of psychological 'genius' but in his material conditions and institutional relationships.

Recommended for older undergraduates and anyone working in the fields of Shakespeare studies, and early modern theatre.
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VINE VOICEon 27 June 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
There are so many books available about William Shakespeare that it becomes difficult to believe that every aspect of the world's greatest playwright has not by now been covered. This book seems to displace this viewpoint. In this fascinating book Bart Van Es discusses the role of the acting companies who performed his plays and the influences they had on his work. Familar names such as Richard Burbage appear as well as other lesser known performers. This book is perhaps more geared to people studying Shakespeare but it would also appeal to the more casual reader.
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VINE VOICEon 25 May 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is good stuff. Well researched,presenting fascinating insights into Shakespeare's actors, like Burbage and Kemp,historical context, and Shakespeare as practical man of business and theatre. It's a bit too academic for a general audience,with masses of footnotes, and perhaps not academic enough for a true treatise,but this is a minor flaw and only loses one star.I found the book engaging and lively,and discovered new information,particularly around Shakespeare's contemporaries,both actors and playwrights. Worth the price of admission. Buy it!
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VINE VOICEon 21 June 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Great book - fascinating and very well-written. Although it is in quite a dense style i am just about managing it and am still reading it due to the magical and inspirational topic.
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VINE VOICEon 18 July 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
There are probably more books on Shakespeare than there are words written by him. This leads to swathes of redundancy, especially when you take into account how little we know about the man.

This book, however, not only manages to be unique but it also sheds light on a little-lit area. That Shakespeare was an actor himself is all too often forgotten and his acting troupes were a major influence on both him and his work.

Although it's written with a strong academic bent, the book is engaging and easy to read. There's no dry text to wade through, so I'd recommend it to anyone with an interest in Shakespeare. That it's written with academic interest also means that you have a certainty that what you're reading is written by someone who knows about the subject.

If you're looking for a new facet to Shakespeare, you can't go far wrong with this book.
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on 5 May 2014
A refreshing consideration of a selected area of Shakespeare studies concentrating on the symbiosis arising from his relationship with his acting company and the milieu of the time. This is no lightweight production although there are parts that will be accessible to casual readers. There is some fascinating and credible commentary on how the texts were probably shaped by these relationships. Full appreciation of the book will perhaps only be possible by those with a deep knowledge of Early Modern English Drama although there are rigorous and copious footnotes throughout to assist those wishing to follow up the points being discussed. A central hypothesis is that Shakespeare's achievements were in harness to his association with a brilliant and stable acting company.
Given the number of books being churned out by the Shakespeare industry that effectively regurgitate knowledge already in the common domain this is a welcome new approach, diligently researched and effectively presented.
I agree that its rigour may place it outwith the more popular texts that regularly appear but I also think that it provides a high diving point for those who might wish to explore the depths of Shakespeare studies.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Getting a fresh perspective on Shakespeare is always a challenge. Nearly 450 years after his birth, we assume we know as much as there is to know about the man and his works (even if a lot of what we 'know' is based on guesswork due to the lack of contemporary written documentation about his life)

This very well-researched and surprisingly engaging work looks at Shakespeare as being part of a company of writers and actors and the influences that had on his work. And it is genuinely fascinating with plenty of new things to consider.

As ever with such things, I could disagree with certain points - but the general thrust of the argument is strong and very persuasive.

The presentation is, perhaps, overly academic - with some huge footnotes - which can somewhat hamper the reading experience. I prefer small footnotes and a large section of additional material at the end of the book that I can dip into as and when I choose. It might seem a minor point - but could put off some readers which would be a shame.

I am very pleased to have this as part of my collection of books on Shakespeare. It may not be the last word - but it is certainly a noteworthy one.
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VINE VOICEon 20 May 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
A stimulating and intriguing account of the theatre world of Shakespeare's day, full of background information and snippets of information about other playwrights and the actors of the day. This book requires only a limited knowledge of Shakespeare's plays and will reward anyone who has wondered why Shakespeare became and continues to be our greatest playwright.
The short section focusing on rhetorical devices deployed by Shakespeare is fascinating. If only rhetoric were still part of the grammar-school syllabus - Van Es seems to think it is.
The portraits of Will Kemp, Richard Burbage and other contemporary actors are very useful, set in the context of plays by Shakespeare and others.
So many areas for further study are implied. All references are amply documented in footnotes, but essential material for the argument is all in the main text. This makes it a smooth read.
I'm finding it much easier now to understand Shakespeare as a businessman, making his way in the world of commercial theatre. For me, that makes his artistic achievement all the more remarkable.
A thorough analysis, well worth reading.
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VINE VOICEon 20 May 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Although this book is published by an academic press, and the layout and design is much more suited to an academic book than one for the general reader, the book itself is an interesting and engaging read. The idea of the artist as a businessman seems to be at odds with our modern ideal of artistic endeavour but in the absence of state funded theatre or corporate donors that's what the reality was. It's a study to Shakespeare one doesn't often see and I found it very interesting.
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VINE VOICEon 15 September 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I have a long standing interest in 16-17th Century social history, and must confess that my interest in Shakespeare is limited to viewing his plays on occasion, so my main reason for being attracted to this was that it purports to include the works of other playwrights of the period. Which technically it does, and it could perhaps have been more honestly titled 'Shakespeare in Context'. But be warned, this is a fully referenced scholarly or academic work, which comprehensively unpicks the details of the texts of the play and compares and contrasts them with the texts of other previous or contemporary works by other playwrights of the period. Which is fine as a textbook for someone studying the subject, at undergraduate or masters level perhaps, or even for those with an exhaustive knowledge of the plays, for whom the exposition of the possible derivation of the many and varied historical or allegorical symbolism of the allusions may be fascinating, and the proper citing of original sources valuable.
But I am not in that category ,and regrettably I found the resulting book dry and tedious in the extreme. Unusually for me, despite several attempts I simply could not force myself to read more than a very small part of it. In general I applaud the publication of dissertations that have their origins in academic researches by various university publishers, and already own several on a variety of historical topics, but the scope of this is very narrow and specialized indeed. Be very sure you need this level of detail before buying
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